From The Startup Equation: A Visual Guidebook for Building Your Startup, by Steven Fisher and Ja-Nae Duane

When you begin building relationships between your business and customers, understand that there are really two ways to create that relationship.

Staying Casual: You have something a potential customer may need. You make the sell and an exchange or two may follow, but that’s it. They may adore your product or service, which you appreciate, but the connection stays casual, leaving room for competitors to sweep in at any time.

Building a Partnership: Instead of settling for an amicable relationship without much expected from either side, build a real partnership with your customers. How can you foster a partnership? Here are three building blocks to help you build a partnership with your customers:

  • Solve Real Problems: Customers must deal with an overwhelming number of choices. Don’t provide only another choice. Provide a solution. Listen to your customers so you can understand what they truly need. Ask more questions if needed because your customers’ problems aren’t likely to be your problems. Prioritize small changes that could solve your customer’s problem.
  • Be Transparent: People buy from companies they trust. Building that trust starts with you. Commit to being as transparent as possible with your customers. Share your story and allow people to know why you started your business. If something goes wrong, admit it and let them know how you’ll fix the issue.
  • Run Beta Tests: Who better to help with the beta test of your product or service than real customers? Many customers appreciate the invitation to provide this kind of help. Beta testers often end up investing a ton of time in you and your business. Bring your customers into your inner circle and reward them for their efforts and support.

A company that’s built its customer experience through partnerships is Behance. Behance is a company dedicated to organizing the creative world. We had a chance to chat with co-founder and Head of Design, Matias Corea to see how they did it:

SEQ: When you were doing Behance with Scott, as you were going along, did the original idea change a lot?

Corea: At the beginning, I think ideas are always blurred. Even if you think they’re sharp, they’re not, because I have yet to see something that was identical at the moment of conception and when it becomes successful.

Think about the biggest platforms, Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Behance. Products themselves always transform, and evolve, and improve, and some of them completely change into other businesses. For us, I think something that never changed was empowering creative, but we found a way to do it more efficiently by trial and error.

SEQ: Was there a tough decision required to change the direction?

Corea: I think the hard decisions we had to make are around focus and resources. We threw all those lines into the sea to see which ones pulled and slowly, the hard decision was to sell products and parts of our business. Why? Because every time you have one of those lines, you’re putting attention, you’re putting energy, and you’re putting resources in them. The hardest part of building a business is actually knowing and the hard decision is knowing what you have to keep and what you have to let go.