Our 3 Steps for Engaging Customers


This is the 2nd post in a 3 part series about how MovingWorlds is developing its customer base before product launch. Read post 1: How we Found Customers to Start Developing.


There is an old saying “I hear and I forget, I see and I understand, I do and I remember.”

People don’t like hearing you talk about your idea, and usually they don’t even like seeing it. They like doing… touching, feeling, brainstorming.

Just liked vested employees are better employees, vested partners are better partners (yes, we call our customers partners because they are the most important thing to us). Spending time with potential customers is also a vital part of the customer validation and creation steps outlined in Steven Blank’s customer development model. So how do we engage potential customers before we have product?

Ask.

We ask. We say things like “We’re new at this and we want to add value or get out of the way. If you can afford time to provide us advice to add more value to ecosystem, we would be grateful for your time”. People by far prefer to give advice then be sold to. Here is an example of a cold-call email and response using LinkedIn InMails:

Give.

We don’t have much, but we give what we have freely. This includes (but is not limited to), introductions to new connections (my linkedin network is your linkedin network), resource sharing (especially of new and relevant trends and articles), and our time (I was shocked by how many times I’ve been taken up on the offer and produced value by saying things like “I’m happy to jump on the phone or meet for coffee to brainstorm any of your challenges”).

Take.

We actually listen to the advice that we get, incorporate it, and then share it back with the people that gave it to us. People love to see their advice taken seriously, and a nice side – though unintended – benefit is that it makes them vested partners.

Examples here are just over email, but I do even more over the phone and in person.

Engaging customers is hard work that inevitably results in a lot of negative responses. But from every negative comes a valuable filtering affect: learning which potential customers are good, long-term partners, and which are sexy leads that do nothing more than distract you.

How do you engage potential customers?

In my next post on customer development, I’ll talk about how we’re making the ask: turning potential customers into paying customers and evangelists. Subscribe by email or RSS to get it directly to your inbox.

2 comments

  1. Hakon

    Great advice. I am currently doing similar outreach and have gotten some great responses, but find the challenge to be that it’s time consuming and that I often get ignored. FYI, I don’t have a website or landing page yet – I’m focused on validating the problem and learning more about the customers.

    Regarding time, I have the idea that I should just expect this kind of activity to take time. However, I’m thinking about whether it might make sense to use mechanical turk for lead generation. On the other hand, I try to understand each person I reach out to before contacting them (check linked in, read their blogs and other writing, scan twitter feeds and linked articles, etc.), so I might end up spending the same amount of time anyways. Do you have any tips in this area?

    Regarding being ignored, I wonder what your response rate has been? Does anything in particular stand out as being a key technique to increase response rate? Thanks for sharing your actual text, by the way! Great to see what some of the people you reach out to are responding to.

    • markhoroszowski

      Hi Hakon! Thanks for stopping by, and great questions.
      Q1. Should you use Mechanical Turk?
      A1. Sometimes :) It really depends on what you are testing, how many people you are testing too, etc., It can be a good tool, but it depends on lots of factors. Check out Dan’s talk on testing with it: http://fi.co/posts/608?target=Paris. At the end of the day, have a clear objective and understanding of what you are testing. The key is to better validate customer, better understand needs, and try and get a commitment for payment.

      Q2. Response rate and being ignored?
      A2. Yes, lots of being ignored. Check out previous post on customer discovery: http://customerdevlabs.com/2012/06/07/how-we-found-customers-to-start-developing/

      Q3. Key thing to increase response rate?
      A3. Humility, appreciation, and relevancy.

      Good luck and keep us posted!

Leave a Reply