05 Aug '11
Posted in Startuping by Evy
I’ve found myself explaining Customer Development to a lot of people these days. Funny enough, I’m fairly new to the formal process myself… Although I’ve been asking questions for a long time, which is at the heart of CD. To jump start the process, I read Steve Blank’s book. It’s dense. I’ve read some pages over 10 times trying to wrap my head around it. So despite my newbie status to the customer development process, I’d like to suggest a new name for Customer Discovery. One that helps me get to the heart of what this is all about… Informational Customer Reflexology.
Remember when you started looking for your first job? I do. And what worked for me was the informational interview. There is something about asking people for their opinion and showing interest in their experience that opens the door to tremendous opportunity. Same goes for customer development. As long as you avoid sales-y speak, most people will give you 20 minutes of their time. I tried this and it works: “Saygent is an early-stage startup with a platform for automating voice conservations and analysis. We are currently in a research phase to determine how our technology may be used for market research. I would welcome the opportunity to learn more about market research and the challenges associated. Do you have 20 minutes to share?”
Steve Blank lists out a number of excellent questions that you need to answer before claiming to understand your customers. A personal favorite is, “What would you change if you had a magic wand that would make your job/life easier?” I love this question as it usually gets folks to stop for a second and really think about their workflow. That said, I don’t often get the best insight in response to this question. The good stuff comes randomly in the conversation. I never know where it’s going to come from, but I know it comes from probing as much as I can for as long as they will give me.
Along the same lines, it’s absolutely essential to remember that there is as much value in finding someone that sees no point in your technology as finding a champion. No doubt finding champions is amazingly fulfilling, but the wisdom in the “no thank you” is as beneficial. These people, while unlikely first customers (perhaps they never will be at all), are providing invaluable insight that contributes to the end goal. Even if you can’t see where it’s taking you at first.
There are a number of steps you can take to make this process as scientific as possible. For example, create a worksheet for interviewing your potential customers and do your best to ask everyone the same questions. At the end of the day though, Customer Discovery, or if the name sticks, Informational Customer Reflexology, is more of an art that involves applying pressure in one direction, while being aware of the effects that can come from any direction.
Image courtesy Expedient InfoMedia/Creative Commons