Staying close to your customer is practical advice. If you’ve heard this before I want you to look a layer deeper as you read this. There are many examples of how to “stay close” especially from the perspective of a the startup.
However, this concept becomes less obvious as the company grows. Why? How you see the customer must change as you grow. Getting stuck with one view of how a customer should look will hinder growth of your empire. We all desire empires. It’s worth noting that at no point does some magical business genie walk up to you and say “It’s that time of the journey again! Change how you see your customer!”
I’ve outlined below a map for how the customer changes over time from 4 stages that I have experienced startup, growth, enterprise, mergers and acquisitions. I will give these examples in the form of a real estate technology sass product so you can relate it back to whatever is relevant for you.
Let’s say your product is a real estate application that helps real estate agents, here is how the 4 types of customers would evolve over time. I’m also going to define customer as “A person you spend time with who has the potential to hand you money to directly grow your business”
At this point spending time with your customer will look like an agent. You may spend time with the agent, possibly in the agents office. You would do this in order to watch how they experience the problem your technology is solving. To see the pain point occurring first hand is critical to early stage success of a product.
During the growth stage you will likely disconnect from the startup customer out of necessity to focus on the product and managerial duties. From scaling the infrastructure, to scaling the human capital. Now here is the tricky part. I’ve seen CTOs decide they want to stay in product, and focus on this stage. This is perfectly fine, do what you want to in life. However, if you want to level up, read on.