Talk to Your Customers, Face to Face
The lost art of talking to people in person
In an era when I can talk to (almost) anyone from anywhere in the world, where I can post a question on social media and (potentially) receive hundreds of replies — the notion that you should go out and talk to people in person seems lost. However, talking to your future customers when building a new business is a crucial part of a new startup.
Your assumptions or fears (related to your business) will be validated once you encounter other individuals who either understand the need for your product or don't.
Don't get me wrong - doing online surveys, using social media, and emailing friends, are all handy and useful and could be great tools in helping you launch your next endeavor. There are so many great SAAS tools that could help you understand your demographic, do questioners, and look at the market and your competition!
But, all the technology in the world can't replace a 10-minute face-to-face with someone on the street.
When I ran my first company, a CPG (consumer packaged goods) company with a mission to make people healthier by improving their inner PH balance, we thought everyone would be on board. I mean who wouldn't want to be healthier, have more energy, and improve their PH balance? It turns out — a lot of people.
We were hustling as hard as any startup with 2 founders, no money, and a passionate vision for what we believed the company could become. We went out on the streets of NYC, did big health food events, and weekend markets, went to gyms, health supermarkets, yoga studios, etc. Anywhere we could go and talk to people to show them the product, we went. Sometimes we did 3 events in one day - it was long hours but worth it.
Firstly we were able to explain to consumers what the product and its benefits were, which at the time was very difficult. Second, we were able to get honest, real-time feedback on what they loved, hated, and/or would improve or remove from the product. We learned A LOT of lessons during those first months which ultimately created the realization for us that we need a pivot, which we did.
Once we pivoted we saw a completely different, increasingly positive reaction to our new brand. Talking to people who were our target market paid dividends — and we were starting to see returns.
In addition to the crucial feedback we received, some of the people we interacted with face-to-face became our biggest consumers and staunchest supporters. We really felt like they believed in the mission as well.
Fast forward to today, I’m currently working on an exciting new venture ( you can sign up for early access here) so I decided (along with my new cofounder) to go do the same thing. We spent the whole morning walking around Denver and talking to people we believe are our target market. It was wildly successful!
We were able to spark new ideas that we just would not have been able to if it was just the two of us at a coffee shop. We also got confirmation that this idea actually has merit and that the people we thought would use it actually would use it, which was a massive boost in confidence for us.
So don't be afraid to go out there and talk to people, be nice, be polite, and most importantly respect their time. The first few people you approach, it might feel a bit daunting, but once you get over that hurdle you'll get into the flow of things in no time. It's a great confidence builder to be able to speak about your product/service face-to-face, so get out there — you might learn a few things and spark new ideas that never crossed your mind.