As we count down the days to a shiny new 2012, here’s another New Year’s Resolution to consider for your startup:

Resolution #2: I am going to engage more with my customers.

Enterprise companies are scrambling to engage more with their perspective and actual customers on multiple social media platforms, via relevant email, and realtime conversations on their sites. What are you doing to do the same? Here’s three specific ways that play to a startup’s strengths for your consideration:
Go realtime on your site. Customer questions lead to customer sales. If I have to submit a ticket, fill in a form, beg you for an answer to a question that’s roadblocking my purchase decision, how does that work to your benefit? Questions mean they’ve giving you the increasingly valuable gift of their attention: you want to make it as easy as possible for them to engage with you when, where and how they want. Increasingly, the when and where is your startup’s site, and the how is some form of live chat.
Two such services are SnapEngage (which I use) and Olark (which I’ve heard good things about). A snippet of JavaScript, a few settings and your are ready, willing and able to answer questions, engage with customers, and be there for your market. While there are other, enterprisey/corporate services that do the same thing, they are at best stuffy and at worse imitation customer support. Let your customer talk with the real you.
I use SnapEngage at 47hats to answer any self-funded startup founder’s questions I can. Most of my MicroConsults in 2011 started that way. In 2012, I’m going I want to be a lot more consistant with this form of engagement by being constantly available here from 4pm to 6pm Monday through Friday Pacific Time. Stop by and give it a try.
Send your customers email they want. It’s pretty simple: we are all drowning in marketing/sales email and starved for relevant/useful email. Here we startups have a huge advantage over all those clueless corporate idiots who do “email blasts” of marketing spam: we actually know what we’re talking about. Software solves problems and because you started your own software company, you became (I hope!) a authority on the problems facing your customers. Help them! Help them get more out of your product or service. Help them by sharing interesting posts, stories, videos, whatever. – with its plethora of ebooks, videos, online classes, easy website integration, and a free plan for up to 2,000 subscribers/12,000 emails/month is what you want to use. Integrate their double opt-in form (tip: use foobar, hellobar, wp-subscribers to build your subscriber list faster) with your site, pick a template and do a short, useful mailing once a month. Need content? How about a 30 second YouTube video on one nifty feature of your software and 3 really good posts relevant to your customers? Keep the marketing to a minimum, respect their time and good things will happen.
Go Social. Whether it’s Twitter and Facebook, Stack Overflow and Quora, LinkedIn and Google+, connect and engage with your current and future customers. I do not mean sell to them. I do not mean market to them. I mean engage with them, share with them, laugh with them, commensurate with them, be a person with them.
In case you missed the revolution, a significant percentage of the human race now uses social media to connect with other people. It’s time to intelligently get connected, if you haven’t already. The particulars of what is the best way for you and your startup to Go Social is a bit beyond this post; all I can recommend is resolve to show up, contribute, help other people and go very light on the marketing. It works.


  1. Hey Bob, really like your live engagement and support initiative (would this be nano-consult?). And I’m sure many European startups would appreciate if you did it in the morning at least one day a week, because 4pm Pacific time is midnight in London, 1AM in mainland Europe and 2AM in Estonia/Finland. Happy to help sprad the word if you want to give this a shot, even as a one-off.

    • Bob Walsh Reply

      Good point Andrus! – what would you think of adding an hour at 6am PST and an hour at Noon PST? Will do this as experiment wednesday, thursday, friday of this week – please do post about it!

  2. Pingback: Danger! Experiment ahead | 47 Hats

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