Friday Q & A: Is It Worth Going to Conferences and Trade Shows, How to Get Your First Customers to Trust You, and How to Gather Customer Feedback

Friday Q & A: Is It Worth Going to Conferences and Trade Shows
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Every Friday, we’re answering your questions about business, startups, customer success and more.

Happy Friday!

In our new Groove Friday Q & A segment, we’re answering any questions that you have about, well, anything.

A huge thank you to Szymon Ozimek, Marius and Rachel Beck for this week’s questions.

Check out this week’s answers below, and jump in with your own thoughts in the comments!

Is Going to Conferences and Trade Shows Worth It?

Attending conferences and trade shows can have benefits for your startup, but not always.

If you’re trying to raise money and get in front of investors, having your name and logo on display at conferences could be decent validation.

If you want to do public speaking for “personal brand” reasons, then certainly getting speaking slots at conferences is a good way to do that.

If you hardware product that you need to get into people’s hands, trade shows give you a high concentration of physical foot traffic that might be valuable for you.

If there’s a particular partnership you’re trying to pursue, and you know that key players from that company will be attending the conference, then going to the conference can help you forge that relationship.

But if you’re a SaaS company and you think that going to conferences is a good use of your marketing resources because it’ll get you customers… well, I haven’t really seen anything that supports that.

For exposure to potential SaaS or service customers, you can almost always do better with a solid content marketing strategy or other online acquisition approach.

It’s harder to do the work and put together a strong marketing strategy and then execute on it than it is to write a check and show up at a trade show, but it’s still, from my perspective, a far better investment of your time that will pay off for a lot longer.

Personally, I tend to avoid conferences myself, as the time and productivity cost of the travel, time spent at the show, return travel and recovery is far too high for me to justify the trip.

So, yes, conferences can have value. But you need to be honest with yourself about why you want to attend, so that you can spend your time there working on actually achieving those goals, rather than walking around aimlessly and “being seen.”

How Do You Get Your First Customers to Trust You?

This is a tough challenge for any startup, and trying to win customers in a language that’s not your first language adds another layer of difficulty.

But to me, the approach is the same.

The first people you reach out to by phone won’t trust you. And they shouldn’t. Because they have no reason to. You haven’t proven anything to them.

That’s why I’m a big fan of going above and beyond and doing really unscalable things to win those first customers.

You could do free work for them without being asked, before you introduce yourself. For example, I’d frequently offer to manually set everything up in Groove for our very first customers. I had to learn a lot about their businesses and workflows to get things right, but it was worth it, because it made them happy and overcame the biggest obstacle to getting them to sign up.

Beyond that, the personal level of service made them a lot more forgiving of the bugs and issues that are unavoidable in the early days of a tech startup.

It’s not unlike trying to meet a mentor or other person that has no reason to trust you (yet). I’ve written about some other ways to add value and build those relationships.

Rather than focusing on your first ten customers, focus on your first customer. Make concessions, do free work and overdeliver.

And then grow from there.

How Do You Gather Customer Feedback?

There are a number of ways we gather and organize feedback, both structured and not:

  • Welcome email: our welcome email for new customers asks the customer what made them sign up. I’ve written many times about the value of this, and we really do read every single email response that comes in.
  • Support tickets: we get a lot of customer feedback in our support inbox, and we use labels to track trends when feedback starts to repeat itself more than once or twice.
  • Proactive outreach: We still send personal emails to a handful of customers each week as part of our continuous customer development efforts. We log all of the feedback we compile in a spreadsheet that’s shared with the entire team.
  • Surveys: We send out an annual customer survey (more on this in a future blog post) to learn more about our customers, and how people’s needs and goals are changing on a macro level. (This is how we get more people to participate in our surveys).
  • NPS Surveys: We do a quarterly NPS survey to track sentiment about the product and business. This is also shared with the entire team, and often the world.

There are endless opportunities to listen and learn from your customers, both through organized, scheduled efforts and simply in the day-to-day routine of doing business with people.

We’ve found that the more we take advantage of those opportunities, the more we grow.

Alex Turnbull
Alex Turnbull Alex is the CEO & Founder of Groove. He loves to help other entrepreneurs build startups by sharing his own experiences from the trenches.