The most important part of any business is the customer. As cliché as this may sound, it’s something that entrepreneurs have to remind themselves of constantly. It doesn’t matter how good your technology, service, and/or product may be; at the end of the day, it’s worthless unless it adds meaningful value to your customers’ lives.
Similarly, you can’t ever do it on your own. Whether you’re selling gluten free baked goods or a web app, you need to connect meaningfully with others in your field to engage your audience. In the process, you build a narrative of cooperation and co-creation that, at the end of the day, is your most potent asset.
From the day we decided to take a product we had developed internally and spin it out as a standalone product, we worked to understand the needs of creative professionals and other small design agencies. Not just what we perceive as their needs, but rather what they state as their actual needs. We also strived to understand how our product could fit into larger systems around us, and become part of the bigger picture.
In other words, we left the silo before it was even built.
We started by reaching out to different individuals working in creative professions to learn more about these spaces. In the process of learning more about these fields, we also built rapport with key decision makers at these companies we would later (over a year later, to be ambiguously precise) approach as potential customers. However, our objective when reaching out to these folks was purely to gain as many relevant perspectives as we could, and to get ideas about what problems we could solve. By asking the right questions and formulating unique solutions, we solidified our reputation as thought leaders and subject area experts in topics such as product development, data visualization, and collaboration. While establishing this identity had the added benefit of helping us when we began our sales efforts, we would not have been able to build such a reputation had we first approached these individuals with an ulterior motive.
There are many strategies and “how-to” guides on “effective” networking and how to “work” a room. These tactics never appealed to us.
Rather, we believe in striking up meaningful conversations with as many different people as we can. More often than not, there’s something that they’re passionate about which will also resonate with us. Value can only be created when passion, skill, and needs intersect. The easiest way to find needs that your skills can address is to collide meaningfully and honestly with as many people as possible, and let them tell you about their passion.