Seems like a simple mantra, but it is amazing how often it doesn’t happen. Here’s a quick test. How many people on your leadership team, say director level and above, have communicated with a customer or prospect this week? If your answer is zero then you ought to be worried.
Customers are like high paid consultants with specialized knowledge and connections in the industry you sell into, deep familiarity with your own and likely your competitor’s products, and hands on experience with the problem you are trying to solve. To top it all off, they won’t charge you anything to help you make your product better. Why wouldn’t you talk to them?
Too often startups start to look inward to solve their problems, set their vision, and plan their product when their best resources are outside the company. Executives ought to regularly engage with their customers and prospects through interviews, blogs, twitter, phone calls and paying a personal visit. The knowledge you will get will be invaluable.
Here is my take at the top five benefits from talking to customers:
- Clearly understand your customer’s problems – Startups should spend more time thinking about their customers problems and ways to solve them than they think about their own technology.
- Identify product and market weaknesses – Customers will let you know where you are weak, but you will get even more information from doing regular loss analysis. One of the best ways for startup leaders to understand where they need to improve is by talking to people who didn’t select their solution.
- Help prioritize product features – Many companies are engaging their customers in a ranking process for new features and allowing them to vote on what feature ought to be developed next. This has the added benefit of getting your customers invested in your success and product.
- Build relationships and references – Relationships still play a major roll in business. This is true in the sales process, but also can be true for inexpensive web applications. People like connecting to the leaders of companies of the products they love. Whether it’s through a blog, twitter, facebook or more regular communications people are more likely to buy from and refer people to businesses where they have a personal connection.
- Communicate with a foundation of knowledge – Whether you are engaging with analysts, press, speaking at a conference or simply writing an article for your blog, the more you talk to customers, the more credible you will be. You will understand their problems, validate your approach to solving their problems and understand your value in the market.
There are many more benefits from communicating regularly with customers and prospects. Don’t let your company be one of the ones that misses out.