Greet every new customer at the door
When you launch a new product, almost everything will be wrong. Your code will be buggy, the design will be rough, and you’ll still be figuring out how to explain your product to customers. But there’s one thing that you can do really well from day one: customer service.
Start talking to your customers as soon as possible
As you get your first trickle of customers, take the time to greet each of them at the door. Email your new customers and introduce yourself. Ask them to explain what problem they’re hoping your product can solve. Open up the lines of communication as they begin to use your product. Have them tell you what they love, what sucks, what’s confusing, and what’s delightful.
Your first batch of customers will be bitten by all the bugs you haven’t fixed yet. They’re going to long for all the features you haven’t implemented. They’re going to be frustrated by your young, incomplete product. But rather than venting on Twitter, they’ll already have an open channel of communication with you where they can turn their frustration into useful feedback.
Let your customers guide product development
Your first customers can save you the trouble of building features that no one needs. When you launch, you’ll have a vision of how the product should grow. You’ll be anxious to implement feature A, allow integration with product Z, make the design super slick, refactor all the code, and on and on. But those are just your guesses about what matters. Once customers start using your product, you’ll likely find that they don’t care at all about the features you were excited to build (they definitely won’t care if you refactor your code), but will instead ask for things that you missed entirely. Again, with an open line of communication, your first customers can provide you the insights that will let you find what pain point your product can and should solve.
I’ve found it extremely gratifying to email the first customers of HackerEngine. I want to know our first hundred customers by name. I want to understand what problem our product is helping them solve. I want to treat them as partners in building a product that can deliver extremely high value for every customer who comes after them.