We've been so heads-down in the early days of my new startup, Performable, that we may have given the appearance of being in stealth mode. The truth is, we've actually been working closely with early customers, behind the scenes.
I do not like stealth mode. It usually means that a startup is off working in a bubble, receiving no customer feedback on their new product or service. This almost always ends poorly, with the startup finding out (too late) that no one cares about the product they've been spending (wasting) lots of time and money on.
What I've learned: If you're starting a company you should spend every possible minute working with early customers and developing your product based on real customer feedback.
The best book I've read on this topic is Steve Blank's Four Steps to the Epiphany. Steve calls the process Customer Development and it's his process we've been using at Performable. Steve's book is required reading for every member of our team at Performable -- including our Board of Directors, investors, and advisors.
Last week we launched our beta website, which describes what we're building: A closed-loop marketing service.
Closed-loop marketing is built on the simple premise that you should listen to the feedback of customers who spend their valuable time learning about your company. Not only should you listen, but you should then adapt the way you communicate, and build your products based on that collective feedback. It's very similar to to the Customer Development process that Steve Blank created; in some ways you could say we're building a Customer Development Platform.
For the last few years, I have amassed a large list of services that I used at my previous companies, services such as: Website Analytics (Google Analytics, Clicky, Yahoo Web Analytics), Feedback Analytics (Uservoice, GetSatisfaction, etc), Email Newsletters (Constant Contact, MailChimp), Blogs (Wordpress, Tumblr), Social Networks (Twitter, Facebook), Sharing Services (Shareaholic, Flickr, Delicious), CRM (SalesForce, HighRise), Advertising (Google AdWords, StumbleUpon, Facebook Ads), A/B Testing (Website Optimizer, Offermatica, Genetify), and so on.
While each one of the above services is a great point solution, each also left me and my colleagues spending more time juggling tools and less time listening to and communicating with our customers. Even when we became agile users of these tools they never gave us a holistic view of our customers or activities.
This is the problem we're trying to solve at Performable. We're building a service that allows you to spend your time making sure your customers have great experiences with your company, and that you can simply and effectively measure and monitor those interactions.
Please let us know if you'd like to beta test our service.