Dating clients and customers

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The survey had nothing to do with the dating website per se; it was simply a way for the company to aggregate people who might have an interest in dating.

Crucially, it also gave these potential future customers immediate value through their survey results.“It would have failed if they had launched early and then said, ‘Hey, we have this fancy new website—please give us your email address.’ No one would have done that.”Chuck Templeton, founder of restaurant reservation website Open Table, took a similar, if more expensive, approach to getting buy-in from customers—in this case restaurants.

Razeghi says there is an obvious advantage to starting out as a services company and evolving into a product company.

“You can bill clients for value that you’re creating while you’re building the product.”Once the business is ready to launch, it is important for founders to focus internally to establish roles within the organization.

The real challenge for a business comes when it has to figure out how to attract customers.

For Andrew Razeghi, an adjunct lecturer of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management and advisor to several Fortune 500 companies, aggregating customers is where a lot of entrepreneurs find themselves stuck.

“They do all of this work to come up with an idea, but they don’t know what that next step is.”Efforts during this “day zero” phase—when the company has neither supply nor demand—can be daunting.

In order to launch, a company needs a plan for how to aggregate customers at scale.

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After all, they are the ones who developed the idea, wrote the venture plan, and secured the capital to launch the business.“A lot of times startup founders will wait too long to bring in a salesperson,” he says. If you’re trying to build a company and build a product and raise capital and attract people to join your team, who’s focused on the customer 365 days a year?”Another strategy for seeding the market is to begin with a service offering that has potential to become a product.37signals started in 1998 as a web-design firm, then became a software company with the release of its Basecamp product in 2004.“He had to put in Internet connections and terminals at customer sites, but it helped him aggregate concentrated demand early.” The point, Razeghi says, is to launch your business around the people who raise their hands and say, “I’m in your market.”“You’ve only got so many hours in the day.If you’re trying to build a company and build a product and raise capital and attract people to join your team, who’s focused on the customer 365 days a year?

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