I have been following Asif Khan Mandozai (@asifmandozai) on twitter for several months now and thought I would curate a set of is best quotes on customer development for posterity. He is consistently practical and insightful.
If your customers just want to go from point A to point B. Build them a go-cart not a Ferrari.
Good idea for an initial offering, and an absolute requirement for any minimum viable product (MVP).
Design is NOT everything. Consider products in the market customers pay for which solve STRONG problems but lack good design.
Customers will forgive you on bad design if you are solving a strong enough problem.
There’s a difference between STRONG problems and BIG problems. One is around pain level and the other around market size.
I like his “strong problem” formulation where the gap or delta between current results and outcomes that your product or service can offer is large.
Always look out for problems on the periphery of the main problem you’re addressing where competition may be much lower.
If your prospects repeatedly show interest in something unrelated to what you are validating – swerve & follow what’s really bothering them.
Let your customers guide what your product must become by showing you the problems your product must address.
Be guided by where your prospects are telling you to focus your efforts.
Innovation is like fire – It’s magical until it’s understood. When understood, it becomes accessible to everyone. Value shifts to execution.
Be careful of “lighting the way for your competitors” by being unprepared for the need to continue to refine your offering and improve the quality and speed of your execution once you start to gain traction.
“The whole world” is NOT a good answer when you are asked “Who is your target customer?”
You find your thousandth customer only after your hundredth & your hundredth after your tenth. Your tenth after your first. Start there.
Even one customer is an achievement – go find out why they paid.
Find out the story behind why they selected you. That requires a conversation. Here are three related blog posts
- The Best Way To Get Feedback From Early Customers Is a Conversation
- The Best Feedback From Your Early Customers Is a Story
- Four Opportunities to Harvest: The Value of Informal Success Stories [Peter Cohan]
“It’s a great sign to see when your prospects get emotionally charged when talking about problems or solutions.”
Conversely a lukewarm response or little emotional involvement or energy around a problem probably means that either the problem isn’t very important or your proposed solution is not seen as providing much value.
“The calm before the storm is always riddled with assumptions.”
If you cannot think of a dozen things that might go wrong or that you need to understand better you probably aren’t thinking about your customer’s situation hard enough.
There’s a big difference between Users, Customers and Channel Partners. Who are you really validating with?
Customers pay you, they are the only ones who can validate an MVP.
Don’t be afraid to tell your customers you’re still in early stages and need their help: serve and learn.
I think this is better done with a “we are just getting started so we are going to try harder” rather than using it as an excuse for poor performance. Most startups that fail run out of trust before they run out of money. Social capital is more important than financial capital in the early market.
“Usually zero product adoption isn’t because that one feature wasn’t added but rather that the problem wasn’t properly understood.”
Zero product adoption often involves targeting the wrong customer or trying to engage with a poor message that obscures the value of your offering.