baking a tasty startup scene in Scotland

Have You Spoken to Your Customers Yet?

By Jamie McHale · Advice Startup Talk

Two questions that are key for any startup are: who will my paying customers be? Will they even like what I have to offer? As Michael has covered previously on Rookie Oven – it’s the hard questions that need to be tackled in order to succeed.

I spoke to Jim Duffy at Entrepreneurial Spark about my plans for – a ‘pre-checkin’ service for arranging to meet your friends. Jim asked me how many people I had spoken to who were potential paying customers. Not just users of the front-end service, but businesses that would pay to partner with us. I had been sharing the idea with other developers and users – but not with businesses that would be the source of income.

I needed to speak to people who will be paying customers before I rushed further into product development.

“If you can’t find ten people who say they’ll buy it, your company is bullshit”
- Jason Cohen, Yes, but who said they’d BUY the damn thing, Smart Bear

An obvious point, but you have to get out there and actually do it!

So I did. I called up a few local businesses who I thought might be potential customers and I asked them about how they run their businesses.

I didn’t pitch them my idea. I listened to what they had to say, then I asked them questions.

This approach helped me define the problems that they were facing – and then I could explain my idea in those terms.

So what are the key advantages that I have found of getting out there and speaking to your potential customers?

  • It helps you define your offering clearly in your mind. You have to be able to explain clearly what your business is, and how it could help the customer.
  • It forces you to look at the issues from a real customer perspective. You can hear about their problems, the language they use to describe the problems, and how they are currently trying to tackle them. It also helps you clearly identify your customers. Some businesses were keener than others. Now I have an improved understanding of the types of business that may be interested in becoming customers.
  • It helps generate interest in your product, making progress towards business objectives rather than ‘product development’ objectives. Without a business product development is just a hobby.

So what are you doing to help you identify and speak with your customers?