Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Marta Wadsworth who is part of the Marketing Team at Userlike
Your relations with your early customers are the foundation for sustainable startup growth. Early customers are the ones who proof or disproof your product market fit, or guide you to the direction of reaching one. They have (or should have) a high impact on your product development, which is why staying close to them during the early stages of your company is so important.
Sadly, many startups neglect the importance of actively maintaining their interaction channels.
These startups take a huge risk: after a couple of months/years of working hard in their basement they come out with a product for which they have no idea whether a market exists (besides their own feelings and perceptions). This is explained by Eric Ries in The Lean Startup, which stresses the importance of a feedback loop of customer input for the development of a product towards market fit.
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So it should be clear that staying in close contact with your early users is essential, but how do you do that? Take a look at these four tools and tips.
1. Feedback Calls
One simple way of gathering feedback that is often overlooked is by calling your users to ask for their opinion in person. Founders either feel they are too busy to engage in this activity, or they are afraid to ‘bother’ their customers.
To the first group I would say this: It’s better to dig slowly than to dig in the wrong direction. In-depth conversations with your users allow you to uncover the deeper needs you should be solving.
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And those who are afraid to bother their customers: people love to feel important, so make use of that. The fact that they signed up for your product/service means that they are interested. Being called by the founder of this product/service is more likely to make them feel flattered than bothered.
2. Implement Live Help
When running a startup you will most certainly run into the issue of website communication. The problem with selling an innovative product/service is that no one has really used it before, so how to tell what sort of troubles your users will run into? You can’t. People will experience difficulties and confusion in handling your product, I guarantee it.
The best thing you can do is set up your product and website in the most logical way you can think of, to then get feedback from your early users. Implementing live chat is the best way to understand what sort of issues your users are experiencing on your website.
With live chat your website visitors can connect with you directly through an on-site chat window. It breaks down the barriers of communication for your users. If there is one thing we all appreciate in this fast-paced world it is to see our problems solved or questions answered as quickly as possible. Doing so will not only improve the visitor’s satisfaction, but also enhance the odds of him/her becoming a loyal customer.
Many software-as-a-service (SaaS) businesses have live chat implemented in their backend area, so that users can receive direct help in the navigation and use of this area of the product. When something is not clear to you, you don’t have to take the effort of sending an email and wait for a response. You simply click the chat button and ask away.
By collecting frequently asked questions your team should get an idea of the issues your target group is running into, allowing you to adjust accordingly.
3. Organise local events to be present
Networking is still a key piece for startup growth. Not only it is important to network with new partners, investors, other startups or suppliers, but also with new customers, be it companies or end users. Participating in events, whether trade shows, industry fairs or startup/incubator gatherings is an important way of meeting new people and maybe establish new deals.
It is time for you to get out of the office and find where your customers are, which events do they attend, what parties they go to, which conferences they participate in. Be present where your target market is.
Another way to be local is to invite your closer customers to meet you at an Open-Door day. Having such kind of events is a good strategy to deepen your customer relations, by getting to know them face-to-face but also have a solid conversation about your future goals and collect more valuable feedback. People tend to be more honest during personal conversations, in this sort of informal contexts than elsewhere.
4. Organise, monitor and develop your social channels
For many businesses, especially when talking about B2B, social channels such as Facebook are seen as a secondary communication platform where their presence is overlooked due to the inexistence of direct customers. Even though you might be right on this one, it is important to understand that social pages are increasingly a credibility checker element, for any type of customer.
The first step, if you haven’t done so is to create a social presence on the key platforms: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+. The relevance of each depends on your business type and location and on the places where your target market is more active. With the amount of tools out there to help you automate your social media campaigns there is no excuse for not having updated information and regular publications.
We also recommend that you use some kind of social media tracking solution to monitor when, where and what people say about you in these channels. At Userlike we use Mention, a tool which shows you all the “mentions” of your brand or links to your website (or other social media channels) in a timeline. Monitoring your interactions is very important and is the only way you can make sure you respond timely and efficiently to your online customers.
Author: Marta Wadsworth is part of the Marketing Team at Userlike, with a strong passion for e-commerce and Customer Service.