If you want to learn what not to do as a startup, watch Glengarry Glen Ross. Anyone who’s worked in sales or watched that famous scene with Alec Baldwin probably knows what “always be closing” means.
If you’re not familiar, the scene consists of Alec Baldwin’s character chewing out a room of down-on-their-luck real estate salesmen, ordering them to close a deal no matter what. His advice entails the exact opposite of what your company should be doing.
The Art of Talking with Customers
When it comes to building a successful business based on need, entrepreneurs must “always be talking” — not closing. In other words, you must always keep the customer looped into the conversations preceding a launch or new feature offering.
No matter the age of your business, talking with customers is one of the most important things you can do.
The operative word here is “with”. Talking with customers, rather than “at” them, means that you’re engaging in two-sided communication. You talk, but with the goal of listening to their reaction and engaging them.
Here are four reasons why talking with customers is invaluable to your company’s growth:
1. Communication ensures that your product is needed.
[pullquote align=”right”]Tip: Create a landing page that includes a form for customer feedback. Make sure it’s easy to use and that you keep an organized record of people’s opinions.[/pullquote]Before you put precious time and resources into launching a complete product, it’s important to make sure you’re building something that’s actually valuable. Who better to tell you than your customers? This isn’t a new idea, but it’s something that people have learned over and over again: the biggest waste is to build something in the dark, release it, then realize nobody wants it once it’s too late.
If you keep potential customers informed of your plans and give them the chance to provide feedback, you’ll have a better sense of how your product will be received. This allows you to continue with the project, tweak it to meet customers’ standards, or move on to something more productive.
2. Communication builds interest before launch.
You’ll get way more out of a launch if you already have a group of people excited about it beforehand. If you think you’re too busy building the product to reach out to people and spread the word, think again. Creating an established community of people who are hyped about your product makes all of your work and time go that much further.
[pullquote]Tip: Send an email to established contacts announcing your plans. Chat with anyone who you think would be interested, whether they’re friends, business contacts, or potential adopters.[/pullquote]Think about planning a party: if you send an invitation in advance about the awesome shindig you’re throwing, people have time to get excited. This doesn’t mean that you have to tell the whole world about your product—you don’t want overhype, but you do want to make sure you’re sparking interest among people you have a hunch might be good fits.
When spreading the word about your idea, it does open up the potential for someone to steal it. Though unlikely, there are people out there who create companies simply by cloning others. However, the benefits of publicizing your idea far outweigh this risk.
It’s important remember that an idea is only as good as its execution. Google wasn’t the first search engine, and Facebook wasn’t the first social network. Remember Friendster? What sets these companies apart from their peers is execution. If you make sure your execution is high-quality, you’re protecting yourself against copycats out there.
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