Relationship Building Around Product

Most people suck at intentional relationship building. I was not an exception.

Experienced entrepreneurs value intentional relationship building. It comes with many names: "build a relationship with your users", "stay close to your users", "build a community", "build an audience"... They all sound vague. But the reason why they are so vague is that really there are a million ways you can build relationships (just like making friends).

You can't build a killer product without a couple of good relationships with your most active users.

The logic goes like:

  1. To find your product-market fit, you need to rapidly iterate your product (need testing + feedback).
  2. You need to find a small amount (maybe 10) of ideal users to do that. Ideal users are users who have the problem that you are solving, who kept using your app even when it was bad, and they constantly gave great feedback.
  3. To get these users, you have to do relationship building. You have to be their friend!

I can't teach you HOW to build relationships with your users here, because there are too many ways and situations. But I can show you how I built relationships at Gumdrop (our users are college students who are looking for friends).


One of our most active users, let's call her Jennifer. She is a freshman, new to UT Austin. The first time I meet her, I was ordering food and she was taking my order. We exchanged numbers, and she downloaded Gumdrop (IMPORTANT: She downloaded it not because I was her friend, but because she doesn't have enough friends and she needed more. You can't turn friends into users, but you have to turn users into friends).

I invited her to my parties, and we became good friends. I introduced her to many of my friends. I make sure I hit her up on Snapchat when I see funny or cool stuff. I video her sometimes to catch up. I treat her the same way I treat my other friends.

Jennifer and I in a club

From my dev perspective:

  • Gumdrop's group chat was terrible, no one talked in the first couple of group chats. Jennifer kept using it anyway.
The first group she was in. She messaged everyone, but no one responded
  • The reason why she kept using is that I made her feel that we are building this for her, and we will make it better. I asked Jennifer how is her experience, and what is bad about the app. She told me everything that was wrong with it.
  • My team fixed some major problems in her feedback. She uses it again, and I ask for feedback again. The cycle goes on.
  • This week, she was in a very active group chat, and she was able to make 3 new friends on Gumdrop.
The latest group chat that she was in got 76 messages in a very short period of time

Users like Jennifer, power our product iteration cycle. If we don't have relationships with our users, we would not be able to constantly test our product and iterate.

You will probably have to build relationships with your users differently: Twitter, Linkedin, indie hacker, online/offline, wherever you can find them. There is no single formula that works on every product. You will have to find your way. Nevertheless, it is a must.

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