Customer Feedback: How not to kill your startup in infancy

Entrepreneurs can never deny the importance of customer feedback. But still it is one of the most ignored aspects by startups. And this ignorance of the customer feedback is a key factor contributing to the high percentage of failures of startups in their early years.
What are the reasons that despite knowing its criticality, it is ignored or avoided by a number of startups and entrepreneurs. Let's try to understand those reasons and the ways to avoid them during the different stages of a startup in the early years.

Ideation:

The problem begins right from the ideation. A number of times we see people talking to their friends, family and peers about some idea they've got. Leave alone these people, even a Customer  feedback on ideahugely successful entrepreneur quoted that when people seek his opinion about their idea, he would ask them if they see him as a target user. Most of the times the answer is not, and then he would suggest them to go to their target users or customers instead of him.

The most critical judge of your idea is your potential customers. Reach out to them and get their feedback. Of course, these customers can come from your family or friends, but do make a point to include at least 6-8 target customers you didn't know before.

An additional benefit that you get by involving your customers is that even if they conclude that your idea is not worth, you get good pointers about modifying your idea or picking an altogether different idea could be a better choice to pursue.

Development:

I attended a meeting where somebody asked a senior mentor of an accelerator, that what are the top challenges they face while mentoring startups. The first one mentioned was, that startups are never ready to close their development and take their product to the customers. They always feel a need of adding one small feature here or tweaking another one there, before taking it to the users.
                                                
Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, said,
"If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late."
                                                                           
In a bid to avoid this embarrassment and make that very first version which would readily be accepted by Customer feedback on prototypethe customers (which in any case is not going to happen in most cases) we miss a lot of valuable early feedback from our target customers. This feedback can save us a lot of effort and money that goes waste when we discover the changes in later stages of the development.

The solution is to iterate more often, the same is taught in lean startup methodology also.

Sale and Customer Support:

Once any entrepreneur hits the market, all of his focus tends to narrow down to the sales figures, consequently all the effort and resources are used into acquiring new customers. This is the point where again we make the mistake of not taking or ignoring the feedback from our existing customers. It is not uncommon in case of startups that the sales go good for the first few months, then slowly start declining and finally halt completely. At times the startup is never able to recover from this halt and fails eventually.

After sale customer supportRemembers, as you keep on acquiring customers, the feedback of your product also gains numbers and strength. So, if you don't heed that feedback, your new customers will definitely not ignore it before buying your product. And in case of a startup there are many chances that the product would have some early flaws. Slowly this negative feedback or lack of customer support will kill all your sales.

Don't make the mistake of assuming that once you've developed the product and got into the market, you are out of the iterative cycle of customer feedback and improvements in your product.

So, right from the beginning cultivate this habit of taking feedback from your potential or existing customers and you will increase the chances of success for your startup by many folds.

Have you already tried or thought about using some techniques to take customer feedback? Did you face any problems or any issue that you think would not allow you to follow the above mentioned approach. Tell us in a comment below.

Comments:

Aayush Jha's picture
Of the biggest problem I have failed is in asking the right questions to the customers.
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