Customers are Slayers and Kingmakers – they’ll kill off your start-up before it’s even begun or help to accelerate you into a stratosphere never before envisaged.
Customers are logical – with numbers, revenues, challenges to solve and customers of their own to deal with – and yet equally irrational and frustrating, making decisions which baffle and seem to make no sense.
Connecting with these creatures of allure and mystery is a challenging and daunting process, especially for companies and individuals who have never engaged with customers as one key point standing between failure and success.
The greatest fact about customers is that – they’re people, they’re individuals, they have families, ambitions, failures, successes, read books, try to do their best – sometimes succeed at being awesome and generally want to make their worlds better.
So, connecting with customers – is really all about connecting with individuals. Yes, they operate within their own ecosystems, which are often driven by varying different motives – that doesn’t make them any less like you or me. Simply we have to understand the experience from their perspective, within their environments.
Follow me Home
While at Cisco and working with many seed funded start-ups, I’ve honed a technique developed from Follow Me Home – originally used by Disney, Intuit and Apple to develop their products – and I suspect many others – to get to the heart of connecting with customers on an individual level within their ecosystems – that brings value to all involved.
The concept is to understand your customers within their own environments. This particularly resonates for software companies – understanding how exactly the user will interact with the tool within their own territory is often very different from a sales process to get into the hands of the user. Watching in person the physical and emotional reaction to your software product, even to your proposition will provide different insights that will get you faster to product market fit.
Practically – how?
Achieving this on a practical level means:
- Identifying 5-10 individual customers
- Companies first, then roles or personas that you think are an ideal fit. Start with 5-10, you can always iterate and go deeper into segments, roles once you’ve mastered the technique.
- Contact them
- Explain that you are doing product development, would like to understand how they see a particular market, how that is considered within their company and industry, what pain points they currently have and how they overcome those.
- Explain that you would like to share your proposition and get their expert reaction to it. Most importantly – explain that you are not there to sell – you are there to learn.
- Ask for 1hour in their own environment – you’ll come to them. Video call as a second best.
- Have a list of questions that are focused on uncovering the pain points, testing your assumptions of the market and understanding the personas that you will work with.
- During the meeting
- Remember it’s a conversation between people – ask questions and listen.
- Probe to understand more detail and ask them to be honest – if they can’t answer a question for reasons of confidentiality or unknown to them – that’s ok.
- Resist the urge to ‘sell’ in a traditional sense. It’s a product development conversation.
- Have 2 people from your start-up in the meeting – especially for the early ones. This is true customer insight – one commercial person and one technical works very well – as both will uncover different insights from the same conversation.
- After the meeting
- Immediately afterwards – de-brief as a team – what did you learn? What assumptions have you confirmed or debunked? What implications are there for the sales process and/or for further customer interviews?
- Be human, send a follow up thank you. Ensure to follow up on any actions that resulted from the conversation
What makes this so valuable?
- Open conversation: When you’re not focused on selling – but focused on listening, on truly understanding customer pain points – then watch and absorb how the dynamics changes. The conversation is more open, consultative on both sides and about focusing on solving pain.
- People: We respond to each other, not abstract notions of a software tool. Often a relationship is formed where the potential customer is interested in your start-ups development and being part of a community of early users at the right time (assuming you do solve a high priority pain point for them)
- The learning process: All customer (and potential customer) conversations are highly valuable. Framing their insights for shaping product development, sales process and hiring will result in business success.
ABOUT GTM BLOG Series
Over a series of blogs, we’re focusing on the Seed to Series A step of GTM and share what it means to think through the customer experience:
INTRO Why we’re all in Sales
GTM I- The Detail: What are the individual areas we should think about?
GTM II – Playful Customer Dynamics: Connecting with Customers
GTM III – What doing it correctly actually looks and feels like?
GTM IV – What tools should we use and where can I access advice?
GTM V – Pitching to VCs – What to tell us about your customers.
We do more than just blogs – after all the writing of theory is easy. We work with our portfolio companies at a deeper level on an accelerated approach to crafting a properly and considered GTM that delivers results. Working with a wider ecosystem of expert partners and existing expertise within the Portfolio Companies, we’re embedding customer culture into the heart of success for start-ups.
We welcome input from you – expertise, areas to hear about more.
Comment below or tweet at the links.
#GTM #SalesDoneRight #CustomerExperience #startupsuccess