I've been working with a variety of start-ups over the course of the last few months, and have been surprised to find that the majority of them spend 99% of their energy and time designing, developing and defining their product(s). This is important - products need to be great to survive the marketplace, but having prospective customers before you have even launched is critical. You can have a great product, but if nobody knows about it, you don't have a business.
The most successful start-ups I have worked with are the ones who launched half-finished products, or even non-existent products to the market. These startups simply started talking and engaging with consumers right from the start. As a result, these are the startups who are able to involve customers into their product design and development to determine whether their ideas are feasible, and can then create superior solutions and products. These are the start-ups who get to understand who their customers are and what their messaging needs to be, enabling them to build a better, bigger and more engaged following.
With my own start-up, I started engaging with customers at the design stage before we even reached production, this meant that by the time we had a product to sell, we had well over 1,000 engaged users to speak to. You don't even have to speak about your product - just start speaking about and sharing topics that your target market are interested in. Then, you can sell your product.
The key to success is to start before you are ready - Marie Forleo
1. Start engaging with potential customers (e.g. on Social Media) with behind the scenes shots as you are getting ready for launch - this is a great time to show off your team or personal brand.
2. Release product updates requesting feedback from customers and industry experts.
3. Start targeting influencers and journalists to share your story - there is often a few months between contact and results.
4. Carry out Market Research - start learning about your customer and their needs, so you can embed the results in your product development and design, as well as your branding efforts.
5. Build your database - having prospective customers signed up to your newsletter will prove to be invaluable for when you launch. It's a direct way to reach and engage with them from the start.