Keeping Customer Conversations Alive
Let me paint the picture: You’re an excited founder – and you’re following the recommended Lean formula: you’ve hatched an idea you think could be big: tick. You’ve validated your concept with some initial customer development interviews: tick. You’ve designed & coded up your initial MVP: tick. Now you’ve come back to those potential customers with whom you first validated your idea with a functioning prototype. Its time for them to actually start using the product. Great right? But suddenly some of these folks seem hesitant; there are nuances, nit-picks and issues which they didn’t voice before and it’s hindering their conversion from warm-lead into your first customers.
Sound familiar? Well don’t despair. This is entirely normal when hatching a fresh business and it doesn’t necessarily mean your idea is dead in the water. It means your product might need some more work and a little more gestation. If a customer development interview didn’t result in a flat “No, I’d really never be interested in such a product” – then its probably worth keeping that conversation alive.
“Keeping a conversation alive” doesn’t mean pestering them with daily updates. Rather: as major milestones are reached in the business and product (shipping of serious new features; investment; new hires etc) you can fire off a quick email to fan the flames. Think of your customer-leads as a newspaper audience – and only share what’s truly newsworthy.
This kind of light touch, but semi-regular contact, achieves two primary outcomes:
1: Demonstrates Product Here To Stay
Updates let the potential-customer know that you and your company are not just a gang of wantrepreneurs (o what a great and precise term); it says that you’re serious about the business, and you’re building something that will last. i.e. One of the major hesitations in an established company switching over to your new whiz-bang SaaS system is that they’re afraid that after going through the considerable time & energy cost of switching over their business systems, you might run out of money, or enthusiasm, shutdown the product and disappear – leaving them in the lurch. Hence: occasional updates, demonstrating your significant and on-going progress towards legitimacy and longevity as a business will help alleviate this “Flash In The Pan” fear.
2: Own The Problem Space
Updates also keep you and your solution front-of-mind in the problem space. If you had one half-hour meeting with a lead 3 months ago; they’re really quite likely to forget you. Not because you aren’t a brilliant person with a great idea, but because, as you know from being in a start-up yourself, running and building a business is a never-ending Everest of consuming busy-work. So the occasional email, containing updates on the progress of the product and new features that are better helping to solve their pain-point helps to lodge the product and its value proposition front-of-mind in the problem space.
Quick Tips On Crafting Effective Customer-Lead Updates.
- Personalise: – No one likes getting bulk emails. Tailor your emails enough to demonstrate that you are actually addressing the recipient and not just kludging in names from a CRM. While you’re user base is small (or non-existent!) you can afford to do totally un-scaleable things.
- Keep It Short: Just the headlines. These are busy people you are addressing. More than likely they’ll skim over your email if they read it all. So leave the Tolstoy-length passages on product design for the product blog.
- Importance = Longevity-Of-Campaign: Since you’re so carefully crafting personalised emails to each contact lead list every email on the list represents a time loss. So when should you give up? Its a simple calculation: the bigger the potential upside from converting a lead (i.e. social proof value, network effects, revenue potential etc) the longer you should persist.