This one point deserves a few more words before covering Part III. (It deserves a LOT more words, but I’ll just touch on it.)
Talking to your customers is NOT walking in with a clipboard with a set of questions and jotting down their answers. Yes, you have a series of questions. Yes, you ask them. But this is not a quiz show where the customer gives a short answer and you ask the next question. This is a conversation with your customer, a two-way dialog where the question is really a topic that you explore. Yes, you want the answers to the questions, but if an answer contains something interesting, explore it further. Dive down that rabbit hole because there might be a nugget of information that will bust your market wide open.
You want more than raw answers, more than text on a page. You want their attitudes, their opinions, regarding not just your software or the competition, but their attitudes and opinions about the problems your software addresses.
You do want to guide the conversation. I use a set of questions but I don’t always follow them in sequence. I use the questions as topics for discussion. Ask questions and find out what makes your customers tick, what their needs are, what they really want. It may take a few questions to get them to explain it to you. You may get into territory you never expected, but that’s OK—it might just reveal an untapped market niche that you can take over and own completely.
Don’t be afraid to talk to customers. The truth is, they would love to tell someone! Nobody has asked them before! Has anyone ever asked you what you want Windows to do? I’ll bet you have some ideas that you’d love to tell, that you’re dying to tell! If someone sat down with you and sincerely asked you about how you used Windows, listened to what you had to say, I’ll bet you could talk for at least thirty minutes on what you like, what you hate and what you wish it did. And you’d just be getting warmed up. Talk to your customers and LISTEN to what they have to say. There’s gold in them thar answers! Those answers are the key to your viral growth.
Ask your customers what they need your software to do, how they like it, how it solves—or doesn’t solve—their problems. Ask about the problems and how it affects their computer usage. Ask what software they like, what software they hate, new technology trends they’re interested in.
Don’t put words in their mouth—don’t give them multiple choice questions! Let them tell you in their own words what they think. Listen, thank them for their answer, and ask another. Spend an hour, perhaps longer, and you’ll know what makes that one customer tick.
Do this with twenty-thirty customers, and you’ll have a pretty darn good idea of what your software needs to do and how it should do it. Do this with one hundred customers and you’ll know more about your market than any of your competitors, especially the big ones. (Unless they’re already doing exactly this–and it is extremely rare!)
Talk to your customers, LISTEN to your customers. Create and market the software they want and you can’t help but be successful