Understanding and Engaging Your Customer

By Emma Montag

Today, innovation and entrepreneurship are everywhere. It’s how we are going to thrive in the future. Entrepreneurship is even a major at some undergraduate business schools (although you don’t need a college degree to be considered an innovator or entrepreneur). People have remarkable ideas, they just need the resources and support to learn about applying and growing them. I was recently thinking about the Simon-Ehrlich wager, and can draw parallels to how naysayers interact with entrepreneurs. They often take the Ehrlich approach, not believing in the human potential. I, however, believe that entrepreneurs prevail! They are resourceful, creative, and always finding ways to innovate.

Discovering the Customer

Now, how does this relate to understand and engaging you customer? When starting a company, entrepreneurs have to diligently find new ways to uncover their ideal customer profile. Customer discovery is when you identify those first customers. This is done by taking the main assumptions about who your customer is, the exact problem you are solving for the customer, and how the customer will buy or use the service/product from you. Check out this helpful read on The Four Steps to Customer Discovery.

Understand the Customer

In order to create something new, you need to understand what’s missing. You need to understand your audience, your customers, and the market. If you create a brilliant product that nobody wants to buy, it would be hard for anyone to call it a success. As an early entrepreneur, the best move you can make is talk to your customers, and uncover what they are missing in their lives—you need to curate your product pitch to them. In the beginning to ask them lots of questions and think about hosting focus groups. You can start with family members and friends, then open up the search and questions outside your circle, even those people who love to sit on message boards and answer Yahoo or Quora questions. It’s important to understand the needs of all the stakeholders in your equation. If you don’t ask them questions first, and keep in touch with them along the way, then who are you making the product for in the first place? Here is a helpful piece with questions to ask your customer so they stay engaged.

There are many ways that companies refocus in order to make their customers happy and stay current. For example, we saw this with SalesLoft. In the beginning they were really good at talking about, selling, and marketing their product. Since founding it in 2011, the CEO, Kyle Porter, was gung-ho and ready pitch SalesLoft an any moment. In early 2013, Porter decided to burn the whole thing down and start over. They needed to rethink the strategy, build a product that customers actually wanted (instead of just selling the idea of it), and ended up doing a full pivot. Since that product reboot, they’ve been listening to customers and have become the leading Sales Engagement Platform on the market.

Engage the Customer

One of the best things about starting a company today, is that it’s often easier for an entrepreneur to adjust to customers, because they’re at the very beginning stages, and can react quickly. They can easily understand the needs and wants of their customers, and all they need to do is research and ask their customers what they need.