As I was checking out some of my new Twitter followers, I ran across Keith William's blog. It's new and so pretty sparse, but his post on finding your customers stood out. As you may be able to tell from my blogging, getting customers has been top of my priority list recently, and it's something I'm a novice at, so I'm hungry for any advice I can get.
He lays out some practical steps to test any startup idea against the real world by trying to win customers. It reminds me of Mike Maple's Customer Development talk, but with a very concrete 9 stage program that will hone your startup ideas at the same time as you build a base of influential customers. It's obviously hard-won wisdom from his time in the trenches, and even if I don't follow the exact recipe it's got me thinking about what I can steal from it. Read the full post, but here's the steps:
1) Figure out what you think your product or technology is, who
would be your actual customer, and generally how you think your
business model would work.
2) Envision a complete start to finish incarnation of this ‘thing’
and find some general supporting evidence that there is a market.
Don’t get married to this, it’s only a starting point.
3) Find a Trade Show, presentation, or gathering where you can find
many of the target customers. This can also just mean going out and
talking with individuals.
4) Go there and talk to as many people as possible. Pitch
everyone. If you’re getting funny looks keep adjusting your pitch
until they ‘get it’ or you ‘get theirs’ instead.
5) Find at least one champion at an organization that would be a
target customer, but also has clout within your industry to sway
others. If you’ve polished your pitch quickly enough, you most likely
will find one at what gathering you’re at.
6) Keep pitching to your champion and honing your message until it
begins to generate traction both with your champion and also thorughout
the rest of your audience.
7) Start submitting abstract proposals to present at other industry
gatherings, create a corporate blog, generate supporting data to show
your position as valid and publish it as a whitepaper.
Wash, rinse, repeat. Keep going around and around steps 3 through 7.
This will create the market churn and you’ll find one contact feeding
off of any small bit of positive news from the other…..soon this growth
becomes somewhat organic.
9) Now, step back and look what you have: A cogent message for your
market, a pitch that has turned into to definition of your product or
service, and real customers to reach out, touch, AND QUANTIFY for your
business planning pleasure.