You got a crazy idea. You are ready to quit your job and invest all your time and money in it. You successfully pitched your idea to a friend. So you two are ready to change the world. Maybe you even got a small seed investment from an angel investor, who you pitched your lean canvas to while drinking coffee in Starbucks. Your life finally makes sense. You are starting your company!
You read the Lean Startup book and you follow Eric Ries on Twitter. The goal is clear - you should build something your future customers want. So why don't you ask them. You get out of the building as Steve Blank suggests and start asking people, if they like your idea. Your pitch has become perfect. Oh my god, everybody loves your idea! You are running back to the office shouting at your co-founder: “They want it, let's build it!”
Sorry to say that, but you will most likely build something nobody wants, because you still know NOTHING about your potential customers. The true is…
It’s not that they want to lie to you. Just look at this from their point of view. You approached them. Pitched them your idea. Mentioned that you've just set up your startup. Finally you asked them: “Would you pay for this?” Of course they said “YES”. They might have even suggested you some features. You feel like you just won the lottery… Okay, now think again! You actually told them that you quitted your day job for this crazy idea. What else they should say? They just want to be nice.
Future promise is no promise
If somebody said, he would buy your product, it still doesn’t mean anything. If you didn't get a check with that promise, you validated nothing. People like to promise into future. It doesn't hurt. It’s easy. You are leaving happy. Mission accomplished.
Email address ≠ commitment
You got 20 emails of the people you pitched your idea to. Woo-hoo! It feels like you got your first 20 customers! Oops, they didn’t respond to a single email you sent. They didn't join your beta. Finally they just unsubscribed. What in the world went wrong? They said they would pay for your product and gave you their email address, so they should be really interested, right?! Nope, again. It’s just very easy to give away the email address. Believe me, getting to the spam folder is even easier.
If you reached this point, you probably know that there is something wrong with the pitching approach. It’s so easy to fall into this trap. Honestly, I did too. Everybody does. But we can do much better! And we will! I will be unfolding my tips & tricks how can you get to know more about your (potential) customers, so you don't need to become a blogger yourself writing about your startup failure.☺ Here is the first tip:
Be a friend — Actively listen
Next time you are having a beer with your friend, just sip and do what you normally do. Ask about her/his life. How was the last week? Is the boss still an asshole? How did the job interview go? Just be a friend. Do what you do best — listen and ask follow up questions. You know more about your friend and your friend is thrilled talking to you about the tough week. Now think! What can you actually get to know about your potential customer, if you choose the same approach.
Believe me, active listening will be the new black for you. It will become the number one skill you want to be endorsed for on Linkedin. It will be your super power. And you will nail it!
To be continued ….
I would be happy to hear about your pitching experience! You can reach me on twitter @kpljaskovova or via email email@example.com