Most importantly, you can get to know those few customers in a way that people with zillions of customers can't. You can talk to them on the phone. You can provide personalized support. You can find out what it would take for them to adopt your product, and then follow up a week later and see if they did. Same with finding out what it would take to get them to recommend your product to a friend. You can even meet the friend.
For companies in the early-adopter phase, you can play "the earlyvangelist game" whenever a customer turns out to be too mainstream for your product. Pick a similar product that they do use, and ask them "who was the first person you know who started using [social networking, mobile phones, plasma TV, instant messaging...]? can I talk to them?" If your subject is willing to answer, you can keep going, following the chain of early-adoption back to someone who is likely to want to early-adopt you.
That level of depth can help you build a strong mental picture of the people behind the numbers. It's enourmously helpful when you need to generate new ideas about what to do, or when you face a product problem you don't know how to solve.
(For example, we used to be baffled at IMVU by the significant minority of people who would download the software but never chat with anyone. It wasn't until we met a few of them in person that we realized that they were having plenty of fun dressing up their avatar and modeling clothes. They wanted to get their look just right before they showed it to anyone else - they would even pay money to do it. But all of our messaging and "helpful tutorials" were pushing them to chat way before they were ready. How annoying!)
And since I have a blog, I have a way to ask questions directly to you. If you have a minute, post your answers in a comment, or email me. Here's what I want to know:
- First of all, the NPS question: On a scale of 1-10 (where 10 is most likely), how likely is it that you you would recommend this blog to a friend or colleague?
- How did you hear about it?
- What led you to become a subscriber, versus just reading an article and leaving like everybody else? (or, if you're not a subscriber, what would it take to convince you?)
- What do you hope to see here in the future?