How to Start a New Business Using the Lean Startup Method (part 4 – customer relationships)

Launched in tech university entrepreneur programs in California, the Lean Startup Method is expanding to other universities across the United States. After studying the failures of tech startups, the main goal of the Lean Startup Method is to eliminate all time, energy and money spent on creating products or services that nobody wants to buy. This method is intended for startup businesses, but it can also apply to existing businesses that want to grow.

The fourth step, after focusing on a target customer, choosing a value proposition, and evaluating channels, is to decide how you will create and maintain relationships with your customers.

The three elements of this decision are how will you get, keep and grow customers.

Get: what tools and tactics will you use to attract customers? The most common tools are public relations, traditional and web advertising, email, webinars, direct mail, and trade shows. Tactics are focused on getting attention from others using publications in journals, speeches at conferences, writing blogs and guest blogs, posting in social media, and using public relations to get articles and interviews in publications and news media. The best tools and tactics for you depend on the choices you have made about customers, value proposition, and channels.

Keep: Once a customer has made the first purchase, what can you do to keep them as a customer? We have all seen the reports that say it’s much easier and less expensive to sell to existing customers than to find new customers. How can you do this? Some companies use loyalty programs, and others hold contests or events for existing customers. You can maintain your relationship with existing customers through newsletters, blogs, and social media posts. Think about the different ways that you will reach out to existing customers in ways they will find helpful, not spammy.

Grow: Here’s where you work to maximize the “lifetime value of the customer”. The lifetime value will be different for customers in different industries or demographics. How can you repeat sell, upsell (a more expensive offer) or cross-sell (a related product, like an accessory for a smartphone) your existing customers? What else do you have that will meet an ongoing customer need?

The work you have done to choose a target customer, define a value proposition, pick channels to deliver your information and your product, and figure out how to get, keep and grow your target customers will make it possible to take the next step, creating your revenue model.

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