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Let Your Customers Build Your Business

I read somewhere that Intuit, the makers of QuickBooks and Quicken, have a practice they call “follow me homes” that allow them to go into an actual customer’s home and watch them install their software and get it set-up. They find that often, the way they designed a screen or instruction may not be the way a user actually interacts with it.

It’s pretty easy to see how this kind of user testing could be applied to software, but what about your situation?

This kind of testing could be applied to many aspects of a small business but I’m going to coin the term “Build a Biz” for this approach.

    Here are some examples of how you might use this:

  • Getting a new logo? Let your best customers have a say
  • Writing a new brochure? Same thing
  • Web site? Watch over your customer’s shoulder as they surf around
  • Product/Service design? Before you role something new out get your client’s feedback
  • Customer service processes? Let your customer help design them

This could make for a very cool annual or semi-annual community building event. Bring a group of your most passionate customers together for an entire day of “build a biz” and have them rotate from workstation to workstation completing a series of tasks. You could build in networking, learning, and socializing throughout.

Every participant will go away feeling great about being a part of the game, you will have learned a tremendous amount about your business, and, if your best clients just happen to be business owners too, you just might want to take your new game of “build a biz” to them and show them how to get better too. Nothing adds value to your business relationships like this kind of community and value building tool.

How would you bring your clients into this game?

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  • http://www.pageonepr.com Mike

    John, great post. Reminded me of a post I saw at Jeffrey Walker’s blog along the same lines (he’s the president of enterprise wiki maker Atlassian).

    http://radiowalker.wordpress.com/2006/07/19/how-to-ruin-a-perfectly-fine-product-with-marketing/

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  • http://www.affordable-legal-documents.com/ Angie Hartford

    There is no better way to make your graphic designer or ad agency totally crazy, and get inferior work, than to let your friends and customers “help” with the design. You wouldn’t ask them to “help” with your accounting. I hope.

    OK, rant over. :)

  • John Jantsch

    Angie, Rants allowed but why not add accounting to the list – maybe your clients could help you discover what you should measure and track financially. I like that suggestion.

    I know designers don’t like “help” so I’m not suggesting they really help with the design as much as give input – that you may take to heart or not – about how it impacts them. Does it do what you need it to do?

  • http://pr.typepad.com John Cass

    great post, to me encouraging people to give you their ideas not only helps you to build a product people want, but those people who helped now know they helped build the product and company. That’s the best way to build loyal customers, those people who feel as if they are in part owners of the company.

    Have you seen the Dell idea storm website. A great concept, similar to Digg but for customer ideas.

  • http://emarketingvox.blogspot.com Leonardo Pallotta

    Fantastic point of view (customer´s point of view).

    I´d be great if all companies, once in a while, really listen to their customer to build their estrategies.

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