It has been proven by research that it takes 66 days to form a new habit (pdf version). That’s a long time. For entrepreneurs who are trying to do the first stage of customer development, the formation of the habit to keep talking to customers, hearing “no”, and breaking past the initial resistance to go back to product development instead of customer development is high.
Last week I had a chance to meet with 13 companies that were part of the new cohort at 9MileLabs, an accelerator program in Seattle, where I am an advisor.
The companies were meeting their mentors for a mixer and had a chance for the first time and each company had 1 minute to present what they did.
What I have observed is that thanks to the numerous demo days from accelerator programs and many “pitch sessions”, the overall quality of presentations has improved dramatically over the last 3-5 years.
Just listening and observing coached entrepreneurs is a great experience for those who are not part of any program, which gives them pointers on how they can refine their own pitch.
Over the course of the next few months, each of the startups will get a chance to pitch multiple times and refine their presentations, but I doubt the will really practice 66 times or do it 66 days in a row – not that it is possibly needed.
The thing that I think is the most interesting is the #1 question most of them had was
“How can we show positive traction with customer success when we are at the accelerator”?
The best way to do that I feel is a framework to make identifying, managing and acquiring customers a habit as much as coming in to work at the accelerator.
If that takes 66 days to do, then the best time to start is now, day 1.
If you have a ritual each morning, (similar to brushing your teeth on a personal basis), then I would start with the #1 research driven methodology to Growth Hacking for startups – review your metrics dashboard.
Then form a habit to break down your complex customer acquisition process into a simpler step first. If your sales process is multiple steps and you have to get customers over multiple weeks / months, I’d just start with the “fill the funnel for 66 days” first.
In my own example, it was closer 90 days, not 66 to blog daily.
Initially the bar was pretty high – I wanted to write at least 500 words, with one framework and build one tool that folks could use. It took me close to 45 minutes per post.
Now, 9 months later and after missing only < 5 days, it has become a habit. If I don’t exercise or write a blog post, it gnaws on me enough to feel guilty, that it has become a ritual.
The key is also to breakdown the habit of customer development into top of the funnel activities, moving along the funnel activities and closing activities.
Instead of doing them all together, I would focus on 1 week increments of moving a set of activities for repetition during that week to make the habit easier. Just focus on building the pipeline initially then nurturing, etc.
It would make more sense to do otherwise, but what I found is that becomes a “complex” habit and hard to repeat daily.
Similar to trying to lose weight, I would focus on one habit – eating less. Or more specifically eating less sugar first, and then working your way into other more complex habits.