Join me in February of 2012 [that’s last year]. The clock shows 7:45pm and it’s cold & dark outside. Inside we are sitting in incredibly uncomfortable chairs at NCSU, the fluorescent lights cast their sickly glow upon us all, and our HiTEC Entrepreneurship graduate school professors are verbally abusing us once again [in a good way].
“You will call hundreds of potential customers. You will log every call. You will take detailed notes for every call. You will share the notes with us. The teams and businesses that succeed make no less than 1,000,000 calls to know the “Voice of the Customer”. Every colleague in the classroom felt the impact [my memory might be foggy on the 1M number]. Cold calling new, strange, and probably really scary people about your startup is hard work.
Regardless of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles, we put our heads down and made hundreds of calls. In total we recorded detailed conversations with 45 leaders across the state and the country. We gained incredible insight into our future customers. We built trust because we never pitched the business. We asked thoughtful questions. Secret bonus tip: we used our .edu email addresses to initiate contact, which works WAYYYY better than a corporate email address. We built an 8 month pipeline of customers. We forged a relationship with the statewide organization.
For the “I-don’t-want-to-go-back-to-school-to-learn-more-about-this” version, Steve Blank and Bob Dorf provide an authoritative overview in “The Startup Owner’s Manual“.
Eventually, we had to stop the research, get off our arses, and make the sales. The fancy startup word for that is “executing”, just FYI.
The gist: the more information we gathered, the better we did. Better product, better sales, better marketing, better network, better relationships. But we needed more…more on that later.