Why You Need Customer Development

Let’s be brutally honest: as a startup, you have no idea what your customers want if you don’t “get out of the building”:

  • You are extremely biased towards your own ideas.
  • 10 years of your industrial experience seem to be enough to skip validation of your idea.
  • You don’t know how to find customers before you have a product.
  • Even if you understand the importance of customer development, you don’t know where to start.

What’s that?

Customer development helps you answer the following questions:

  • Who are your customers?
  • What problem do they have?
  • How do they deal with the problem at the moment?
  • How do you find that main feature which solves the problem in most cases?
  • What is the solution your customer would pay for and how much?

Customer development is a set of pragmatic, approachable and fast techniques to invalidate your assumptions about your customers as soon as possible. You start creating the product that customers really wants.

In general, you follow the well-known feedback loop:

  • Form a hypothesis
  • Find potential customers to talk you
  • Ask the right questions
  • Make sense of the answers
  • Learn from your findings

Customer development is not for startups only. It can be equally useful for product-centric people in large companies.

Real-life case

KISSmetrics had spent months in development and wasn’t very successful with the first two versions of the product. They were solving some problem, but not the right one. Until designers at KISSmetrics started using customer development. Surprisingly, they discovered that many people are ready to talk to a complete stranger without any product at all. Thanks to customer development the startup managed to learn more about customers. As a result, they cut the product scope in half for the beta version by focusing on building the product that matters.

Do you have experience with customer development? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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