One of the biggest differences between a start-up and an established enterprise is the audience they have. Enterprises have customers. Even when creating brand new products and services they are fortunate to have a customer base and audience. But, this can be a weakness unless time and energy is spent on continuing to build and nurture the audience.
In a start-up (at least the ones that are successful), a huge amount of time and energy is spent cultivating new relationships and developing an audience to speak to. This happens for two reasons. The first is that a start-up needs customers. They need someone to pay for their work (eventually) and they need to validate if their ideas will sell. The second is that they need a lot of feedback and insight from users who have a need. These two reasons creates an interesting dynamic for new product developers or people focused on making existing products and services better. It creates a constant dialogue between people who want and need something, and people who can do something about it. It’s this interaction that can fuel growth when a company develops a great new product or service. Start-ups use a myriad of tools to create a dialogue – blogs, podcasts, workshops, free trials, conferences and other opportunities to connect with users. Each tool potentially adds value to the customer and has the opportunity to develop a deeper relationship.
So why might an existing customer base and audience be a weakness for an Enterprise? It’s because established companies can often just launch things into an existing customer base rather than having a productive and creative dialogue with existing users. The conference circuit is more about telling customers about their new things rather than listening to what users really need. Their news is about describing features, rather than exploring how their ideas might be adapted to better fit. New products and services are not necessarily perfect for an existing audience. It’s only through discussion, dialogue, and relationship will a new idea be adopted – even in an existing customer base.
What activities do you have to connect with existing and new users of your ideas? Is the purpose to tell them about new things coming or to create a productive dialogue that helps build the audience?