Know your customer.

Jerry Neumann recently wrote a post titled, ’In Praise of the Business Plan’, that I think deserves even more attention than it’s gotten so far.

Though he’s talking about people pitching and trying to raise money, the point I think he’s really trying to make is that anyone working on a startup, really should get to know, and honestly understand, their customer from day one.

It’s easy to build product with nothing but an idea and time, but it’s hard to actually sell a product built like that.

I think a lot of this speaks to the core of why you are doing what you are doing. Why are you starting a company?

If you’re doing it to solve a specific problem, then you’ve likely already got a core customer defined. You should know a lot about them, and you should work hard to know even more about them (and especially what they are and are not willing to spend money on – how does *your* product fit into that reality).

The trouble is, so many people are starting companies these days for reasons outside of actually solving a specific customer need or problem.

I’m not saying that approach can’t work, but I do think it’s *much* *much* harder to find success this way…and that’s primarily because it makes it really really hard to define, know, and connect with your core customer.

That trickles down into everything including product and marketing decisions (how can you know what things are important to build or what is really going to speak to your customers if you don’t really know who your customers are going to be?).

One of the most successful companies I started on my own was Statsfeed - a business that I completely backed into out of my own needs. But the real reason it worked so well is because the core customer was someone I knew outside in, me (I really needed the service for supermug and draftwizard).

And all of the projects that I’ve done or been involved in where we didn’t have a deep and intimate knowledge of a core customer have not worked out – regardless of how great the actual idea, the product we built, or the team behind the project was.

So, ultimately I can sum all this up with a battle-tested mantra (and title to this post): Know your customer. Everything else can and should flow from that.

Disclaimer: Jerry, an ad-tech guru and wicked smart guy, is an advisor to PubGears (where I am currently the CTO and resident thorn-in-the-side). That connection and history played no direct part in this post or my personal opinions around this topic.

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This is the personal blog of Kevin Marshall (a.k.a Falicon) where he often digs into side projects he's working on for digdownlabs.com and other random thoughts he's got on his mind.

Kevin has a day job as CTO of Veritonic and is spending nights & weekends hacking on Share Game Tape. You can also check out some of his open source code on GitHub or connect with him on Twitter @falicon or via email at kevin at falicon.com.

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