We have spent most of this month mentoring, training and co-leading customer discovery workshops and I-Corps Programs around the state. What we see too often is the 'vacuum' business plan issues affecting most startups. People are creating their business model canvas, business plans and strategies without ever speaking to potential customers. You hear it from me all the time, you do not have a business until you have a paying customer so here are a few steps to get you thinking of the customer more and your business plan less.
This process will also make you more impactful with investors, partners and key resources since "voice of the customer" is a powerful aspect to any business when you own that knowledge, be it startup or existing company. Pivoting to the voice of the customer is the space you will live in throughout your business ownership life, if you are going to survive and grow.
BE PRESENT in all dealings with possible clients. The information you can collect (such as the words they use, how they actually use certain products...) can assist your marketing and help you understand THE WHY they buy something and for WHAT outcome.
LISTEN more than TALK. We do not learn anything when speaking so listen and let the customer or potential customer tell you stories about their experiences. It is good to have someone with you since communication is 90% nonverbal and you want differing perspectives on what was seen and heard. Just like detectives, ask open ended questions to get your target customers to tell you what they want, NOT you telling them.
HAVE A PROCESS FOR ALL ASPECTS OF YOUR BUSINESS
Try, test, learn, change activities until you have a system for the aspects of your business (start with the easier ones like: networking, pre-sales, post sales, customer service).. This creates repeatable and trainable functions where you can start building what your company means to the staff and to the customer. It also allows you to scale and delegate roles and responsibilities more efficiently especially with the formulaic tasks and allows a higher customer touchpoint environment.
BEHAVIOR trumps ATTITUDE when we are following and researching customer informatics. Patterns and recognizing trends of actual customer actions (not what they think) are very important to staying ahead of or with your key customers and target markets.
You sell results, not products and services. Your result benefits to your customer can exist on 3 levels: functional, emotional and social. Just like we counsel in leadership development training to focus on the 3 levels of leading (more on that topic in a later newsletter), you need to identify and understand the results you bring to your customers and targets on all 3 levels since that creates multiple opportunities for market and brand separation and build.
REMEMBER: No plan survives FIRST Customer Contact so know your customers well and the pivot will not be so dramatic or business stopping.
Until next month.
Here if you need us.