I’ve been a big fan of T.A.’s since last summer when we met in Boulder. For those who don’t know, he was the founder of Gist (a sales and information tool that was successfully sold to RIM a few years back). T.A’s got a very intelligent and direct style. I think Atlanta responded responded well to his presentation.
Here are a handful of philosophies I’ve taken from T.A…some he shared today, and others from previous conversations:
#1 Strive to uncover the people who really want to solve the problem you’re attacking
Dig in deep with your early prospects, how big is the problem for them? Are they already striving to solve them? What are they trying? If they’re not trying hard, the pain is probably not big enough.
#2 Know your user profile
Figure it out and don’t waste a lot of time with bad fits. When you know specific personas, you can be way more productive exchanging value. This enables you to know the 2-3 questions to ask everyone you meet.
#3 Make people’s life better
With or without your specific product, you should always strive to help your community solve the problem. Don’t be afraid to share your competition’s tools and others ideas. You’ll earn market knowledge and become a trusted resource.
#4 Find out where your ideal customers uncover new stuff
It’s most likely not on TechCrunch, it’s way more niche. Find the mini-celebrities and experts. In the case of T.A.’s company Gist, it was communities around thought leaders like David Allen (of Getting Things Done) and Miles Austin.
#5 Connect with the connectors
Once you know of “connectors” (above), strive to help them and add value. Don’t shill and pimp your product…think value for them first.
#6 Treat your top advocates like royalty
Send them t-shirts, tweet about them, buy them lunch, let them test new features first. They are the hub of your network. Take care of them and they’ll take care of you.
#7 Provide regular updates to your stakeholders
This is the best way to raise money and work with mentors. Meet them, share your vision and then send them updates every two weeks and ask for help. This will keep them interested and excited about what you do.
#8 It’s unacceptable to not understand the behavior of your customer
One of my favorite stories of T.A. is how he scheduled weekly informal meetings (pizza and product) with his users. He’d set up the app and let them use it…and observe, ask questions and dive in deep to their behavior. Lesson here is that there’s no excuse for not knowing your customer.
There’s no question that T.A. McCann is on fire for start-ups and entrepreneurship. I’m really glad he came to ATL and grateful for Sanjay recruiting him to Startup Riot.