April 22, 2019

What prevents you from talking to customers?

"Talk to your customers" is the most common startup advice, yet I see that this is the one that needs reminding the most. What's the roadblock between you and talking to customers? Is it time constraint? Genuine question since I haven't launched my own thing yet, but would love to learn more from other Indie Hackers' experience!

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    Hey Jovian,

    That's a good question.

    I think that the #1 reason why people don't talk to their customers is the lack of time, knowledge and resources to do so.

    All of these parameters are usually manifested in spending too much time cold outreaching (via emails/calls), hence focusing on the completely wrong type of people/target audience.

    Also, people are usually strictly focused on 'the growth' of wrong things - revenue, number of page visits/sign-ups, or just whatever their goal/KPI is.

    I'm not saying those indicators are not important, but if you want to achieve these, you'll HAVE TO consider the following things first:

    • Investing time and money into researching the niche/market your product is in

    • Researching what type of customers are engaged in similar products

    • Researching competitors and their audience/community

    • Outreach their audience and try to convert competitor's leads

    • Network, network, network! Share your story, make friends, and ask them to be involved

    • Create a community forum (or telegram/discord/facebook group) (Here's a good example: https://community.startinfinity.com/)

    • Ask for feedback

    • Create regular newsletters/changelogs/updates of your product and ask for feedback

    • Focus on building the brand first

    • Be ready to pivot if your community says so (but also be careful and take notes of what people say - a 'voting system' on a community forum/group could be nice)

    Once you have your 'core community' that is suggesting new ideas, sharing the feedback with you and so on, think about marketing/growth strategies on reaching a massive amount of people (potential customers) and increasing your KPIs.

    Hope this was helpful

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      This is for sure true, though I would suggest to start engaging in actual conversations with your (potential) customers.

      Most people find that difficult as they see their product as part of them. When showing their product they are afraid to be turned down. This makes them think people will turn them down instead of their product/idea.

      You should see that your product is not part of you and people may turn it down because they dont see or dont get the value you think it will provide them.

      Now, when you have spoken to people and have customers, you want to reach out to them and get their input and ideas to see how you can improve. For something like this you can use https://useridea.io which allows you to create a community of fans.

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        That's 100% correct. Having deep (and also personal) conversations with your customers is a must in the beginning.

        Even though they might not see the value, or are disagreeing with you. Prove them wrong. Try showing them the value. Go on a call, explain your vision. And then listen to what they have to say. Take notes, learn from them. Make your product better!

        It's beneficial for your product, it's engaging, it's fun, and you get tons of experience and knowledge from somebody else. If someone says that it's a waste of time, or that it's too much effort for too little impact, don't listen to them.

        Also: having a core community (to whom you've been kind, you've listened to, you've tweaked your product according to their feedback), creates an automatic marketing stream/channel - perhaps the most important one: Referral.

        People will simply talk to each other, people will have nice words to say about both you and your product and you'll definitely grow your audience and approach more similar, like-minded people.

    2. 1

      Thanks so much for the thorough answer! Curious about what you think about existing customers that already use your product. Do you think one should talk to customers or do user interviews periodically?

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        Yes, absolutely.

        You should nurture your existing customers and talk to them frequently. Again, community forum or a group is very good that (don't forget to have your customer success/community manager being active in the discussions and taking notes of the feedback). But also, 15-30 minute calls every once in a while could be freakin' awesome.

        Also, think about rewarding your initial/first customers somehow.

        They are the 'core' of your community which provided you with such valuable feedback in the beginning.

        Think about offering them a discount for one of your (paid) plans. Or a lifetime deal. Or a branded shirt. Or dinner.

        Be creative and never stop talking to your customers. :)

  2. 2

    If your customers happen to be businesses, there's a good probability of them not replying to any of your emails or calls. I'm still trying to find all ways that I can to reach the necessary department and person in charge, one being tapping on my network of contacts.

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      I've absolutely the same experience! Most users don't like to provide a feedback - even if they are target audience and use the product (I know about that by telemetry/logs). You send them email and gently ask for a feedback, but in most cases and answer is silence.

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        I struggled with this too, and still do, but to a lesser extent. What worked for me is to make it really easy to give feedback:

        1. Assuming you use email to ask for feedback, don't link to to some external form or feedback tool. An extra click and page load will turn off many users.

        2. Be specific. Instead of asking "how would you improve the service" say something like, "I noticed you did XYZ but did not do ABC. Just curious - why is that?"

        3. Expanding on point 2, enumerate 3-4 common scenarios for what their answer could be. Do the thinking for them without but be careful not to bias. I get around two dozen one-line responses every week which read like "1 & 3" or "3 sums it up".

        As with all my suggestions, this worked for me for my target audience. YMMV.

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          Very good suggestions! However I found that I intuitively already use them. I've almost 5-years experience in technical support by email (of my own .NET components) and these items very precisely describe efficient communication with emails.

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          Great advice! Have you ever done a user interview?

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            Not in person, no.

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        Make sure you're focussing on the customer pain, not your product. Frame the request to make the "value" to the customer of giving feedback obvious.

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          my product plays in rather challenging niche, and most likely I'm far from ideal in its positioning (heh that's typical for engineers).

      3. 1

        Are you sure you're asking the right person? In most of the cases, the founder/the acquisitions representative/the technical lead that you're asking for feedback is just the one "paying" for your services that are going to be used by a team. You want the feedback of the latter.

      4. 1

        My first product which was targetted to end users ultimately had them using it for a bit but when asked for feedback, quite a lot of them just couldn't be bothered but it's alright. Focus on the ones that do.

  3. 1

    I have a specific community that I'm targeting and I am part of that community, so it's not tough necessarily finding my customers online. The difficult part is figuring out how to entice them to spend time talking on the phone or on skype, without biasing them.

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      I see. What approaches have you tried? Can you elaborate more on what you mean by "biasing" them? Genuinely curious

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        Great question by the way.

        So I’m targeting the dedicated fantasy football community, which has a decently sized online presence in various subreddits and other industry-specific forums. I’ve attempted posting in these threads (I’m in these threads anyway, because I’m part of this community), but mostly get a minimal response. I should try more or perhaps ask individuals in DMs rather than posting publicly.

        The “biasing” comment comes primarily from an excellent (short) book called “The Mom Test”. It’s whole purpose is to help you effectively interview customers to validate your ideas without biasing them with the ideas. He recommends not talking about your product at all to ensure that even your mom couldn’t lie to you and tell you it’s a good idea. I highly recommend it! But my point was how do I entice someone to talk to me remotely without the pretense of mentioning my product? I’m learning how to do that now, but it admittedly stops me from interviewing a lot of customers.

        I’m curious to hear your thoughts on all this.

        https://www.amazon.com/Mom-Test-customers-business-everyone/dp/1492180742

        1. 1

          This is the first time I've heard about The Mom Test. Thanks for introducing me to this! I'm particularly interested in customer development, so this is great. But I can see how hard it is to attract them to talk to you without mentioning your product.

          I would say you should test this out by mentioning your product first, and set the expectations right at the beginning. It's better than having no data at all.

          • Don't anonymously reach out to them. If it's on Reddit, send a link to your profile in other platforms when doing outreach via DMs, either social media profiles or your communities' profile where you are not anonymous

          • Make sure that you're on their side, that you are part of the community, and want honest feedbacks. From other community members.

          • Make it easy for them to say "Yes" for the interview. Ask for a 15 or 30 mins slot. You can use Calendly or similar services.

          • Remember that cold outreach is a numbers game. The more you reach out to people, the more your chance of success will be.

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    I'm afraid they just "wont get it" and distract me from long term goals.

    1. 1

      Can you elaborate more by "won't get it" ?

  5. 1

    What I typically struggle with is reaching "critical mass" in terms of people I could reach, so while I do talk to customers, the feedback I get is limited and harder to work with.

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      Can you elaborate more? Do you mean you don't have enough volume to create a meaningful survey?

  6. 1

    I don't have customers yet but I'm trying to talk to prospects. The hardest thing has been getting positive responses to cold emails. Nobody seems to want to talk. I've tried all sorts of emails and pitches for feedback with little luck.

    It's especially hard as I cannot meet these people in person (my target market is US, and I'm nowhere geographically close with huge time zone differences).

    1. 1

      How many emails are you sending out? How many follow ups? I'm also based in Asia (Taipei to be exact) and had to hop into calls with customers and leads for my current job.

      I have some experience with outbound email campaigns, and if you want to, I'm happy to help you review the email templates and share some strategy! hit me up at jovian dot gautama at gmail dot com