For any startup looking to gain a strong foothold in the market, customer traction is the name of the game. All too often though, many Web 2.0 startups focus instead on pushing a product or service to market that they built without involving beta customers beforehand.
Innovative ideas need to incorporate early user feedback and testing and that shouldn’t mean just before the product or service is “baked.” Working with beta customers should start at the onset in order to really understand what customers’ needs are and reiterating the product or service to win their nod of approval. Since early stage, tech startups have such limited resources, the startups early version of their product/service should focus on solving the most critical customer pain points: the product/service has to be “a must have” and not — “a nice to have.” This can be best achieved by focusing on beta customers — early and often. Happy customers will become referenceable customers and your biggest champions. In their words, they can best articulate why the product/service solved their problems and why it was of value. Other prospective customers will self-select by identifiying with the same problem/pain points and move to seek out the solution.
Being on the PR side of things, we still see far too many Web 2.0 companies, as well as established companies, not involving their customers soon enough or often enough before they roll out some “beta” offering (or even worse launch a new product). From the PR side, the best advice we can offer is not to push out new whiz bang features early and often but instead to work closely with customers, early and often, in order to build that better mousetrap.