Listening to Users  


Every day new entrepreneurs try to embark in a startup journey following their dream and passions but only a small minority achieve success. There are many things that need to be addressed in an exceptional manner for a startup to take off the ground and be successful. Listening to users is a crucial part of a startup’s journey.   

The following are key steps on how to listen to users and what to avoid while doing so.  

1. Listen to the target demographic: It is very important to be as specific as possible when determining a demographic, the smaller demographic a founder starts with the more accurate will be the results and the more relevant the responses will be to the core idea. Responses outside the target demographic may be just noise that can negatively disrupt the final product or service. It is okay to listen outside the target demographic when launching a new product or service targeting a different kind of customer.

2. Quantify everything: Initially, a startup may be made of only founders or a very small team. The list of things to address can be daunting and often key actions can be neglected. It is important to give the correct priority to actions, and founders can help themselves by quantifying these actions. This way a founder can avoid recency biases. Recency biases would be actions that become priority only due to a more recent timeline in the receipt of certain information but are not necessarily what is most important for the business. 

3. Users will help if asked: People like to help people that are helping themselves. For example, if you are on the side of the road pushing your car someone might stop and help you push. If you are not taking actions people would be less inclined to help you. Most successful startups are built with the help of the community, angel investors, academic institutions, and users. A founder should not be afraid to look weak or vulnerable, it should instead try to use it as a strength. In a start-up stage a founder can make the user feel important and integrate part of the user’s journey by listening. This way a startup can increase loyalty in its user base going forward.

4. The goal is to be sticky: A Founder’s team needs to be selecting the right set of questions to receive accurate feedback that helps develop a product or service that will keep the customer base loyal with a high retention rate. 

5. Listen while building: A common mistake for founders is to listen at the beginning, develop the product and then presented to the target users. In many cases, founders would have developed a totally different product or service than it was imagined by the users. Instead, it is advised to listen to the users through the entire process so that the right product is developed, and users are kept engaged through the entire process resulting in higher loyalty.

6. Ways to get feedback:  

- Focus groups: get users in a room and ask them questions. Gift cards or ruffles are a good way to incentivize them  
- Qualtrics surveys: it is important to not send them to friends who will be biased and nice to the founders’ idea. It is best to send them to a friend of a friend.  
- Email or call users: Do not be afraid of negative responses and use vulnerability as a strength.  
- Tweet seeking feedback on beta testers: re-tweets will help the visibility of your startup. 
- Reddit and Facebook groups: This two have a very high response as many people like to express their opinions.   

7. Product/service is a living organism: A start-up is always evolving and if it’s not, the founders should in fact stop and ask themselves why. To have the change and the evolution going in the correct direction it is very important to have users involved through its entire life cycle.  

In conclusion, the steps discussed are crucial in the building of a successful start-up that can endure over time and face existing and incoming competition. This can be achieved by listening to users and developing a product or service that will increase loyalty among them.  

This post was written by Giuseppe Zagarella and Jeffrey Camp. Mr. Zagarella is a member of Cane Angel Network investment team and is pursuing his MBA from the University of Miami graduating in May 2022. Mr. Camp is the Managing Director of the Cane Angel Network.