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Speaking and listening

Speaking to customers is the most important thing you can do as a founder. Listening to what they say is critical.
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A common mistake that many people make when starting a business is that they don’t really understand their customers enough.

It’s vital that you do sufficient customer research BEFORE you launch your business/product/service. In practice, a lot of entrepreneurs jump straight to the launch phase because it’s so exciting. However, this could be setting themselves up to fail.

Some business owners feel that because they believe something to be true that it is reality (e.g. that ‘their product is amazing!’, ‘everyone has this problem’ or ‘the service is so good that it will market itself!’). This could all be true, although a pitfall here is launching a new offering that no-one wants (except your family and friends!). Conducting focused research will allow you to gather evidence on your own thoughts, hunches and assumptions. We’ll explore why this is so important when we talk about Prototyping later in the course.

The key part of knowing your customers is learning: their pain points, how much they would pay for your product/service, and if there is a large enough number of people willing to pay for your solution that would enable you to create a thriving business.

The good news is that you can discover this before you launch, so you don’t need to waste time, money and energy on launching a product/service that won’t work! All you have to do is put in some time to really understand your customers before you launch, listen to their feedback, act on it to improve your offering, and then go back to them and ask for more feedback.

This is a cyclical process that may be repeated many times over until a suitable business emerges. In essence, you are ‘co-creating’ your product/service with your customers. This makes sense, as ultimately they will be the ones paying for it (not your family and friends!).

This may be a repetitive process and you might get disheartened. However, much better to be disheartened by an idea not working out, than being crushed after launching a business that fails.

Remember what we said earlier, ‘not all ideas make for good businesses’.

This video explains how to ask good questions so that you don’t waste any time or end up misleading yourself with what customers say:

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

Over to you

Go out and speak to at least 10 people/businesses who you think are likely to buy your product or service.

You can do this via a phone call or a virtual call, however, the key point is to speak 1-2-1 with those who you believe may purchase your solution. This will give you validation on your idea*.

A word of caution here: we’ll cover protecting your idea later in this course. However, if you feel that your idea has some commercially-sensitive information (e.g. some intellectual property – such as a new invention), you can be vague about your product. In other words, you should focus on the BENEFITS of your solution without speaking about HOW it works when speaking with potential customers. Ultimately, they probably don’t need to know how it works, their main concern is that you solve their problems.

© University of York
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Enterprise: Everybody’s Business

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