There is no doubt that starting a company is hard. I get reminded how hard it is every time I meet a new prospective customer. The question about our legitimacy has many forms:
“How long have you been in business?”
“How many employees do you have?”
“How much money did you raise?”
“How many customers do you have?”
It is all the same question…why should I take a risk on you? It is a very fair and reasonable question for a prospective customer to ask. They wouldn’t be doing their job if they didn’t ask these questions. And this lack of innate credibility makes it very hard for a start-up to get early customers.
Turning a bug into a feature
I address this issue head on with prospects. I even use the phrase, “I view our start-up status as a feature not a bug.” This always gets a chuckle and breaks the ice. But there is a lot of truth to this statement. The most significant benefits of working with a start-up is:
- You have complete access to the CEO at any time.
- You have a strong ability to shape the product roadmap to the features you feel are important. To solve your pains.
Great customer service goes a LONG way
Think about your own experiences. Of course, we all want perfect products that solve all of our needs with easy to use interfaces. But the reality is that very few products work like the iPhone. And certainly a start-up’s early products do not work that smoothly. So absent that, what we want most is a company that values me, listens to me, quickly fixes the things that I complain about and builds the stuff that I need built but are missing. There is something really powerful about having a connection with an entrepreneur who listens to you. Customers LOVE it when they ask for something and you add it to the product in a short time period. This type of service makes the customer feel like they have extra resources dedicated to them. As a customer, that feels good. And it helps a start-up get through a lot of the early bumps that inevitably come up.