A buddy just got done with an interview, and after him talking all about how to build community with their product, the interviewer told him that the correct answer was focus groups.
What? Why would you go backwards?
If you can build a community of your fanatics, vs. a small group of people, why would you not put your money into building community?
There is a good answer, from the book Naked Conversations I believe, where if you are trying to jump from niche product to mass market, you have to start ignoring your core and start attracting the masses.
But this company is still a startup. They don’t have their market down. They don’t recognize their community. Fools!
Recognizing and building community, besides being fun, is a long-term asset. Focus groups are a very limited tool, with significant methodological issues. (I once ran one for a friend, so I understand what the value can be.) When you have the opportunity to choose, build a community instead. I would rather have all of our clients able to tell us and each other what they think about our company and our services than ask a few of them pre-determined questions in a once-off deal.
Okay, end of rant.