REAL business boils down to ONE thing at the end of the day. Serving peoples’ needs and getting paid for it in a way that you can operate profitably. The best way to do that is to know your customers.
At RegOnline we constantly listened to what our customers needed and wanted. It was an iterative process that started with my partner, Attila, building the first version of the software for one client based on what they said they wanted to make their event registration management easier for them. Then Attila turned to the next customer, and the next, and the next, until we were at about 5,000 customers.
As we began to expand our marketing to be more self-service (didn’t need a salesperson to learn about the product). We constantly looked for how we could make it easier for prospects to FIND what they WANTED in our product by listening to what they asked the salespeople on the phones and then repeated that in a simple way online.
Getting inside my prospects and customers’ minds was one of the most valuable activities I did at RegOnline. Getting face-to-face at trade shows helped me learn and play back what customers WANTED. Sitting in on our public online demos to hear the questions prospects asked helped me get in their heads and understand what they WANTED. And then eventually we got into doing usability testing to see where our prospects and customers would trip up and fall in trying to do business with us. And then we would iterate like hell to fix what confused people. To create a frictionless experience and make it super easy for people to fall in love with us.
We wanted our customers to know that we respected that basic exchange of “we are in business to serve you well and don’t want to get paid if we don’t.” We decided to put a message on our invoice “If you are not completely satisfied with your service, mark down this bill as you feel is appropriate and tell us where we can improve.”
It’s refreshing to see startups that focus their first priority on providing real value in their products and services to people who are willing to pay for it. There are SO many distractions that we face as entrepreneurs – building cool technology, getting funding, hiring, office space, partnerships, acquirers – that its easy to lose sight of THE reason we are in business. STAY FOCUSED. Listen to what people need and help them get it. Then do that again, and again, and again… and enjoy watching your CUSTOMERS make your business more successful.