MB on VC: Quiet Your Ego and Listen to the Market


As a founder, it's easy to get caught up in your own idea sand vision for your company. After all, you've poured countless hours and resources into building, launching, and scaling something you believe in.

Ultimately, your success relies on how well you satisfy your customers. It's crucial to listen to feedback from the market. Depending on where you are in the growth process, market feedback might mean taking information in from the broad marketplace, or it may be sourced from a specific target audience. In every case, expect that some market feedback will validate your ideas and vision. In those cases, you have every reason to lean into your approach. In other cases, the feedback will conflict with your early idea and vision. That's the time when you must quiet your ego. As you do, you'll learn where and how to adapt and evolve to move the company forward.

Collecting and Accepting Market Feedback

When you launch a new product or service, expect to receive immediate feedback from customers. And expect that this feedback will run the gamut from positive to negative, and somewhere in between. Sometimes, it will align perfectly with your vision for the product/service. At other times, the feedback will point out flaws or shortcomings that you hadn't considered.

It's tempting to dismiss the critical feedback and defend your idea. That's your right. But doing so could prevent your company from growing and thriving. Founders need to learn to set aside their egos and truly consider feedback from their customers. Those that are most committed to shaping their company, product, or service to appeal to a market (and learn from the wisdom of others) don't stop at accepting inbound (sometimes unsolicited) input. They actively seek it out.

Seven Steps for Proactive Market Feedback

  1. Define the objectives: Clearly outline your goals and the information you want to gather.
  2. Define your market: Specify and profile the segment(s) and demographic(s) most meaningful to your success.
  3. Select or build feedback methods: Select the most appropriate methods for collecting feedback (e.g., surveys, interviews, focus groups, or user testing sessions).
  4. Gather and record feedback: Recruit respondents for input sessions, and gather their input adhering to your feedback methods.
  5. Analyze the feedback: Look for patterns and trends that reveal insights about your company, product, or service – then rank those insights by their importance so you can put them to use.
  6. Use the feedback: This step may be the most crucial. Make the necessary changes. Then communicate them to the market so they are aware that you are adapting to satisfy their needs and desires.
  7. Rinse and repeat: Replacing ego with a continuous flow of data-driven insights will equip you to keep refining and improving so your business becomes ever more relevant and valuable.

Useful Ideas Can Come from Everywhere

Be open to listening carefully to what customers say and use their feedback to inform future decisions. In some cases, this may mean making significant changes to your product or service, or even pivoting entirely if the feedback warrants it. In other cases, it may mean making smaller tweaks or improvements to address specific concerns.

Your customers hold the keys to your long-term success.Failing or refusing to listen to them could lead to stagnation or failure. By embracing feedback and using it as a tool for growth and improvement, you'll be better positioned to build a successful and sustainable business. Of course, this isn't always easy.

Listening to feedback can be challenging, especially when it conflicts with your own preconceptions or beliefs. But by making a commitment to put your customers first and to prioritize their needs above your own ego, you'll be setting yourself up for success in the long run. The next time you receive feedback from a customer, take a deep breath, set aside your ego, and listen. You may be surprised by how much value it will offer.

What are your most useful tactics for tapping into customer insights?

Mark Buffington on VC Subscribe

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