Customers are your business. That’s it. Not the product, not the team, not the market.
Inherently, each startup works to find product market fit as it defines a milestone in the company’s lifetime: pre-PMF or post-PMF. This is a painful process of iteration that has no ready-made recipes however everyone knows one thing to be sure:
You have to talk to your customers
I think there are 2 ways startups talk to their customers:
Differentiating between these two is a non-trivial feeling that most startups cannot master right away.
This is the classic approach. You set up many conversations with your users or prospective users to understand their needs and set up scripts of questions to ask them.
The prospective customers tell you about their problems. They stop and think for a while when you ask the question:
What is the most difficult thing about your job right now?
Usually, they find what you are building very interesting and say that they are willing to try it out.
The product launch day comes and you send the email specifying their access is whitelisted to the app aaand…
- They either do not log in
- Or they log in and spend 10 seconds (you should know by now that you have to set up your analytics stack before you launch the product)
This is usually the result of a 2-3 hour cumulative conversation with a customer.
Here is an example that I went through:
- the audience size of all wallets (~50 MM) was still too small
- even if we add more audiences, they would just go to Facebook to advertise
Honestly, I was annoyed and frustrated. And being annoyed is the wrong approach. Conscious of that, I stepped back from the current subject to talk about their business and game in general.
- Yet, none of the challenges they got about marketing were still lighting the bulb for me nor giving me any actionable insight.
After a while, I started getting personal about my business and his business too; how entrepreneurship is challenging etc
All of a sudden, the customer asked me
What was your website again?
After starting talking about our website, I mentioned that I don’t really have an idea about the pricing as there are many ways to go to.
This unlocked another level.
The customer was now thinking with me and I was nodding as it was eye opening to listen to him talk about my business as if he was the owner.
He started saying
If I were you, I would charge us as a % of our expenditure and add more audiences. Also I would manage the whole process so that our studio was vendor locked-in and would never leave.
I was delighted. Somehow, I had gotten him (or he had gotten himself) to not only mention what would convince them to use the product but also the pricing model that would lead them to pay even more.
End of the Night
The end of the night was also something I had never experience before with a prospective customer. I had to head home so I went to say my farewells.
Normally you would shake hands and mutter some “Let’s talk again” stuff and then part ways.
This time, the customer said
Let me know about your progress. I will review it again once I am home. Let’s talk about the first iteration and I can use it to give you feedback.
In front of my eyes, he had turned into a shareholder that did not hold shares in my company. He was an advisor/big brother who was looking out for me.