Over the past week, our team has been proud to roll out some updates and additions to our business and its flagship online platform. These adaptations are thanks in large part to our experience in the StartupWeekend NEXT program at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Festival. The week we spent in Austin, TX earlier this month was much more challenging and way more rewarding than we had ever anticipated. It has made us stronger as a team and refined many of our ongoing projects, all of which we believe will help us better serve our users.
The experience drove home some key lessons that are actually applicable beyond our specific work:
1. Do your research. Producing a product or designing a service involves making some judgments about the needs and interests of your ideal consumer. However, relying on intuition isn’t good enough–effective development involves conducting the research necessary to support and validate any assumptions you’re making.
2. Visualize who you’re trying to reach. Sometimes the right product or service development decisions aren’t made because the business owner has an incorrect or incomplete idea of the target audience. We completed an exercise that prompted us to create a character profile of an ideal consumer. This really helped us internalize our market research by making it more realistic.
3. Always challenge how you’re serving customers. The best way to do this is by simply talking to people in your target audience! We did our legwork at the conference, interviewing over 75 companies and organizations in just a few days.
4. Sell! Regardless of your role in a startup, you are the best salesman. One of the shining moments for our team was having our programmer pitching and selling to random attendees.
5. Routinely self-evaluate. Some of these lessons may sound simple or obvious, but it can be easy to lose perspective on your work. Take time to get back to basics. Sometimes bringing in an independent voice can yield the constructive criticism that’s needed to keep your business on-track.
Another round of NEXT courses start on April 10. Find out if there’s one near you!