We started The Juice in July of 2020. Helluva time to start a business.
It will always be a part of our origin story. And I hope it’s the same story many technology companies get to share about being started right after the .com bubble or during the 2008 recession.
In the early days of my career, I recall how ExactTarget turned the recession into an opportunity. Marketers’ budgets were shrinking and this new channel of email marketing would help marketers dollars go further.
This is slightly different but I think we will feel the benefits (yes, the benefits) of launching a business during a global pandemic for years (yes, years).
During the summer of 2020...recruiting was hard. Selling was hard. Hell, getting out of bed and being motivated was hard.
So we prioritized the only thing we knew how -- listening.
There are so many benefits to launching out of the High Alpha Venture Studio. I’ll save that for another blog post. When I started, I was fortunate to have the support and encouragement of the High Alpha Partners to meet as many of our potential buyers as possible. Not to prospect. Not to sell. But to listen.
I’m competitive. I love a goal and a deadline. So, I set one for myself: 100 marketers in 100 days.
Me, setting goals.
It’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to my career.
At the end of this process, we had validated our vision, identified new opportunities, created a beta program (because people were asking for it), answered tough questions, and had more conviction than ever around our idea.
Oh, and I felt really, really, dumb.
Not because I had talked to 100 marketers who were much smarter than myself but because I hadn’t done a good enough job previously in my career of listening to prospects and customers. I thought I had all the answers. I did not.
So, I want to help you. If you’re wondering how you can spend more time with customers or prospects, just listening, I’ve shared our process below.
- Set a goal, share it, and report on it: This will vary depending on your business stage, size, and many other factors but set a goal. For us, it was 100 marketers in 100 days. I shared this with the High Alpha team and reported on it weekly.
- Create your list: People love to talk. Ask your network, and ask them who would be interested from their network. End. Every. Meeting. Asking. Who. Else. You. Should. Talk. To.
- Use your tools: Scheduling is probably the worst part of this entire process. I signed up for a free calendly account and used that in all of my reachout to set meetings.
- Take Notes (but not too many notes): I started this process by trying to transcribe every conversation. I found that I wasn’t actually listening but more worried about the notes. So, I switched to writing (yes, with real pen and paper) notes out during the conversation. Shockingly, that didn’t work.
The happy medium, I created a spreadsheet.
It allowed me to quickly plugin key quotes, takeaways, and quick notes without trying to get every last word. It’s then easy to see all of your notes in one place and keep them searchable (command + F is your friend).
- Make it painful: Not literally. But maybe a little. I was trying to understand content marketers’ biggest pain points. I wanted them to be really specific and have an emotional reaction. I made it a habit to ask at least two follow-up questions to their answer regarding the largest pain point in their content marketing program. These additional layers are where the conversations got really good.
- Be prepared to improvise: One of the rules in improv comedy is that no matter what your fellow actors say, you reply with “Yes, and…” I’m not saying you should say “yes” to every interaction with your interviewee but don’t be so consumed with the process that you’re afraid to improvise in real-time. If your interviewee brings up a point you really like, spend 10-15 minutes on that.
We were asked enough about a beta program that finally, we had to answer “Yes, and…we’ll get back to you with more details.” We built a beta program pre-product but had enough insight from our conversations we knew we could drive value. The business was better because of it.
- Have fun: This is a fun process. You’ll be better at the end of the process because of it. Having fun is one of our operating principles at The Juice (p.s. we’re hiring) and I truly enjoyed talking to all of these marketers. We turned a few of them into customers, a few of them into employees (whoops!), and leaned on others for feedback on a regular basis.
I truly hope this post doesn’t sound like me patting ourselves on our collective back. We want to build in public. We want to share the good and the bad. And this process has turned into the foundation for our business.
If this benefits one entrepreneur, or even someone at an established business, mission accomplished. If you want to learn more about this process or if you want to be one of the conversations numbered 101-200, let me know.
And finally, I’d like to thank all of the marketers that made these first 100 conversations so valuable. If you’re reading, thank you!
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