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Why Your Startup Will Die Without Customer Champions

championHi there!  This is my first blog post in a series of three posts discussing how customers can be champions for your company.  Topics covered will include why they are important, how to identify them, how to give them preferential treatment, and more.

Tentatively, the three posts will be as follows:

#1 Why Your Startup Will Die Without Customer Champions

#2 Identifying Your Customer Champions (and How to Treat Them Differently)

#3 Customer Satisfaction is Bull****, Customer Loyalty is Priceless

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#1 Why Your Startup Will Die Without Customer Champions

 

Who are your most important customers?  When you decide which are most important are you choosing based on deal size, how long they’ve been using your platform, or maybe their potential to increase spending?  How about whether their name rings a bell with consumers or whether they’re worthy of namedropping while doing press?

 

If those types of characteristics define your most important customers you aren’t necessarily wrong, but I suggest stepping back and looking at things from a different perspective.  I believe that in any startup your most important customers are those that are willing to be a champion for your cause.  When they go out of their way to spread your gospel these customers instantly become extremely important to your organization, regardless of traditional measures of importance.

 

If you aren’t yet sold, consider that a customer champion is the gift that keeps on giving.  A champion is a person or a whole company who is willing to go out of their way to be an advocate for your product or service.  These are the people you call when you need feedback on a new offering.  They are the ones you ask to give reviews for your landing page.  They are the ones who call friends in their industry and talk up your company.  Most importantly, in the earliest stages of your startup each of these benefits are exponentially more impactful.  That feedback helps you avoid iceberg-sized issues that would otherwise sink your drastically undermanned ship. Those reviews are the ones that catch eyes and lend credibility to your product.  These champions have the ability to spread your gospel to industry peers who would otherwise ignore you, and that word of mouth can take your network to critical mass.

 

Your startup will die without these  advocates for your brand.  Consider them a key to your success.

 

When I think of our customer champions during my recent role in a rental marketplace called Rentabilities I actually remember many of those client relationships were plagued with complications.  Many companies that were extremely enthusiastic about our startup had a series of issues with the marketplace that were embarrassing and regrettable.  Some of these companies caught our site when it was down for maintenance or were accidentally mass emailed.  The fact that we had those issues with our champions seemed like terrible luck at first.  At the time I would have preferred to burn a bridge with a company that was only mildly interested in our site over having any issues with a champion.

 

In hindsight I was able to see those experiences were part of what made those customers so special.  It’s not that they were people whose nature was to forgive and forget.  They dismissed our errors because they had enough faith in what we were doing to understand that anything disruptive is going to encounter setbacks.

 

I was racking my brain for the perfect example of a customer interaction that could explain how our company would have died without their support.  I realized the best example actually came shortly before I joined the company.  It came before any sales were made and before before the site was even live.  The champions were three local rental companies that allowed the founders to spend time in their stores, observing their operation.  They explained to the founders what was important to them as business owners, what their customers cared about, what their pain points were, and whether there was even any need for the process of renting to be brought online.  One company even cared enough to let the founders use space above his rental store as an office, becoming the ultimate champion for our cause.

 

Without that critical time of research Rentabilities would never have fully launched.  If we were forced to fine tune our marketplace over time based on complete trial and error we could not have created an experience that other companies wanted to be champions of.  We never would have even gotten off of the ground without those three initial champions.

Does your startup have champions?  Do you consider them to be your most important customers?  If not, why?  If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

 

  • Aldo Beqiraj

    “They explained to the founders what was important to them as business owners, ***what their customers cared about***, what their pain points were, and whether there was even any need for the process of renting to be brought online.”

    Absolutely agreed. Insight from your customer’s customers is essential. They know them best and will always point you in the right direction when you are in the developing stages of your business model.

  • Phil O'Connell

    Thanks for reading, Aldo! It’s always good to see that founders aren’t scared to take on the grunt work of collecting customer feedback.

    Good luck with Bringrr.

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