The Customer and the Startup- Making Startup Dreams Come True

So you finally started that business. Congratulations! You have breached a major hurdle, many never even get started. And now with a heart brimming with hope and a very firm idea of how the next 20 odd years will be, you are looking forward to some success, soon-ish.
Much like a Disney movie, at the beginning of a new venture, the theme song just won’t quit. Euphoria makes you say, ‘let the challenges come!’ But the problem with stories like Cinderella is they never tell you what happens afterwards. What if Prince Charming was a snorer and Cinderella had little interest in being a princess (transitioning from a chambermaid to the castle could not have been a breeze).
In many ways, a shiny, new untested startup is no different from a fairytale. There are so many questions to answer after the happy ending of a successful launch; is truly just a beginning of an unknown phase. There is a lot more to bringing the cash than optimism  (though that counts for a lot).
How do you grow your business from your immediate friends and family to a household name? How does happy ever after look like in the real world?

Say Yes to the Adventure
Embrace the Challenge

Before Happily Ever After, the first thing to accept is that customers (and princes) may not flock to your brand even if it is a really cool and innovative idea. With the level of competition in the business world, there’s no guarantee that someone else isn’t offering the very same product or service at a better rate or providing some other added perk. Every single customer will need to be convinced to choose you above everyone else. Give people a good enough reason to come to you, then make it your goal to make sure they never want to go to anyone else.
The Glass Slipper
Know your customers

Human-Centred Design is a concept which requires the designer to consult with the customer in the brainstorming phase, even before prototypes are made. This radical approach to design requires you to consult with the people you want to sell to before you even draw sketches of the product and eventually convince them to buy it. This demonstrates that it can be dangerous to assume that you have a great product or service by your assessment only. Brad Tuttle, in his Time Magazine article, Customer Service Hell, revealed that 80% of companies say they deliver superior customer service whilst 8% of people think the same. The important thing is to have a good fit between the business and the target users.

Villains & Villainesses
Know your competition

No Disney movie is complete without a villain, and in business, it’s a similarly high pressured and fraught world in terms of competition. There’s probably someone out there with a similar product, service or brand name, and you all want to be chosen by the highly discerning customer.  It’s important to develop a mindset to do what other business do, but better. More importantly, find out what they don’t do, and make it a unique selling point.
Imagine a radio station, City FM, suddenly finds itself facing stiff competition from other stations in a capital city. These stations have resources which City FM ordinarily cannot compete with. In order to survive, a new brand strategy has to be developed, and after some brainstorming, it’s decided to focus on a more niche area of the region. This will affect everything from editorial policy, to guest artistes and event planning. City FM was able to improve market share and eventually revenue. The moral of the story is this: Like every good Disney hero, sometimes your competition (or the villain) teaches you more than you could have ever learned on your own.
Throw in the Horse & Carriage
Keep your customers happy

Entrepreneur.com refers to word of mouth (or recommendations) as the most credible form of advertising because the person giving the recommendation puts his reputation on the line. This person basically does your advertising for you, and the best part is that it’s free!  So how do we turn our regular customers into brand ambassadors? Derek Sivers of CD Baby said “customer service is the new marketing.” The best way to ensure that your customers tell others about you is to do something they don’t expect. In other words, blow their minds! Everyone talks about that one taxi driver who keeps his air conditioning on, or the sachet water seller with the funny way of calling customers. People talk about those who stand out, and you can also become the talk of town if you add a little bonus to your product or service. Get creative and you’ll be surprised how far a simple gesture will go.

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