The idea is that customer relationship management begins BEFORE the product is developed.
1. Identifying the "problem".
Founders get an idea, for a "product / solution" that solves a "problem".
2. Ops: Finding people who experience the "problem".
Instead of immediately building a "product", the founders/ops look for people who have this "problem" - they collect their contact details. This is the "community".
This stage alone can involve planning an entire communications campaign (in ad agency-speak).
3. Ops: Building the community.
All the contacts from (2.) above are led to meet each other, this is can be done offline, the old-fashioned way, but it is very often done online, thanks to social media. The job of the community manager here is to create a conversation that never ends, about the "problem" and the latest available "solutions".
Because this conversation happens in real time, it uses "the power of the crowd," to keep the market's key concerns about the "problem" at the forefront of the founders'/op's radar. It also provides the founders/ops with direct access to a highly engaged community of people who care about solutions in this space.
4. Ops: Building the MVP
Based on preliminary feedback from the "community", the founders/ops finally develop a minimum viable "product", for minimum cost, and throw it back to the "community" for feedback.
5. Ops: Iterating the product
This just means, "repeat step 4., on a disciplined schedule", forever!
6. Ops: advertising the product
(Look to the Mad Men, they're very good at this... or perhaps, that's a different essay.)