Customers can make or break a business, no matter what stage or industry. One of the main downfalls of an unsuccessful business is not having the customer in mind when developing new products. Whether it’s focus groups, market research via landing pages or customer surveys — the list of ways to examine a customer/market fit is endless and can often be costly.
So how do you successfully stretch a dollar to develop that next “it” product? The answer is simple — focus on listening to your customer.
At LaunchHouse, we see it, preach it and utilize it time and time again when working with early-stage startups. The Lean Startup Customer Development process, popularized by Eric Ries and Steve Blank, is a way to make sense of relationships between customers and products, and the best part is that it can be applied to businesses at any level or industry. One of the key takeaways of this process is how to apply these principles to get, keep and grow your customer base.
Here’s an example of a big corporation not utilizing customer development when designing a new product.
Do you remember when BlackBerry launched the BlackBerry PlayBook? Only after launching the product did BlackBerry receive the negative reviews causing the company to dramatically cut prices. Needless to say BlackBerry lost its potential customers to the competition.
Start on day one
So, what steps can a business take in order to ensure successful product launch the first time around?
1. Get up, move around and leave your building. Not everything can be learned behind the comfort of a desk. Loyal customers are not created in a controlled office environment. They’re everywhere — malls, schools, restaurants, movie theaters, etc. Take an afternoon to hit the streets. Make contact with potential customers and conduct field interviews.
2. Communicate with your customers. Customer validation is key for every business. Focus on customer development and conduct interviews, building an understanding of customer’s needs. Utilize the feedback and established needs, build the minimally viable product, iterate. Do this until the product is complete and ready for launch.
3. Your customers are dynamic; their needs will change as well as the product trends and buying actions. Don’t communicate with customers only during customer interviews or only when launching new products. Implement a continual customer development method that works in harmony with your business to track changing trends.
4. Get to know your market. Whether it is a new market, a new segment or an existing market with a long line of supplementary products, build a knowledgeable team who is prepared to take on the competition.
5. Organize it. Implement it. Share the overall goal of generating customer satisfaction. Information collected during customer interviews, focus groups, surveys and other methods must be tracked, organized, focused and applicable for departments at any given time.
Now take charge! Next week commit yourself to talk with 10 new customers. Ask yourself: What methods are you using to ensure customer growth and retention? What have you done in the past? What was the result? What new strategies can be implemented in the future?
Try out these tried and true methods and by the time you’re ready to launch a new product, there will already be customers eager to purchase the product. ●
Todd Goldstein is the CEO and managing partner at LaunchHouse, a business accelerator and co-working community that fosters entrepreneurial success and job creation through seed capital, education and innovation. Since 2008, Goldstein has invested in a diverse portfolio of 51 startup companies, which have raised more than $10 million in funding. For more information, visit www.launchhouse.com.