Author: Savvy

Many entrepreneurs think they understand the Customer Discovery process, but fail in execution. Customer Discovery relies on the ability to recognize common themes and to possess the self control, objectivity, and realism to be honest about addressing them. Mastering this art is what makes or breaks a great entrepreneur.

Paul Graham of Y Combinator  writes, “In a sense there’s just one mistake that kills startups: not making something users want. If you make something users want, you’ll probably be fine, whatever else you do or don’t do. And if you don’t make something users want, then you’re dead, whatever else you do or don’t do.”

People are building products faster than ever due to the reduction in technology costs over the last few years, but they are building products no one cares about. Aspiring technology entrepreneurs are quick to forget the value of actually talking to potential customers before building something that no one ever uses.

One way to prevent this is by accurately conducting Customer Discovery. Many entrepreneurs these days think they understand the Customer Discovery process, but they fail at executing it properly. Customer Discovery simply begins with gaining empathy — that is, developing a deep understanding of a customer’s needs and motivations.

Often times, entrepreneurs are biased by their own envisioned solution, product, or ego, and end up searching for personal validation rather than remaining open to a real discovery process.

Below are a few actions you can take to make sure you don’t build something no one will use.

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There is no one-size-fits-all solution for customer discovery. This cycle of testing and verification is a continuous process with many iterations, and while it requires a lot of hands-on work, it is the first (and arguably most critical step) in achieving a sustainable business model at which point a startup officially crosses over to becoming a company.

 

There’s never a perfect time to start a startup but if you are planning on it, understanding the basics of the customer discovery process is crucial.

Startup gurus Eric Ries and Steve Blank are both proponents of getting customers involved in the product development process from the very beginning. The adoption of the customer development model in parallel to the product development process has had a seismic effect on startups and their evolution.

In the past, startups would begin coding and development based on their perception of market opportunity, blindly pumping money and time into developing a product that potentially had no market need. This is a path littered with failed startups.

Get Out of the Building

Today, “getting out of the building” and discovering customer wants and needs, a practice known as customer discovery, is aggressively being taught at accelerators nationwide. Startup accelerator Y Combinator puts it best with its mantra: “Make something that people want.”

The concept is deceptively simple: form hypotheses around the problem that your product solves, and around the product itself, test these hypotheses with those who could be your potential customers to verify, iterate or exit. This discovery process is part of the larger customer development model where the minimally viable product resulting from customer discovery undergoes validation testing among customers.

Customer validation testing verifies or refutes the product’s value proposition, its sales roadmap, business model, etc. This cohesive framework takes into account market factors to shape and form the revenue models while allowing customers to be kept in mind at all stages of business development and growth in a process that never ends even; after a product has been built. In short, the customer is along for the ride.

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Gone are the days of “if you build it, they will come.” It’s easy to build software products today, but very challenging to market them. While it is convenient to rely on friends and family to validate your market, it is a dangerous and ultimately useless way to test and validate your idea.

In short, market validation is the act of simply proving that people want what you plan to offer them. Gone are the days of “if you build it, they will come.” The danger of ideas are that we’re inherently biased regarding them – it’s simply human nature. Nine times out of ten, we’ve created a “revolutionary idea” to solve a problem we personally have experienced.

Although the solution you have created sounds like its worth a million bucks to you, and perhaps your friends and family* – you’re going to need a significant amount of others to agree in order for you to have validated your market. Market validation can and should be conducted using a variety of methods:

  • Reviewing the data available regarding your prospective market. Annual value, market size, projected growth, etc.
  • Validating the problem you aim to solve. If you’re developing a software to help people find, review and book barbers in the area, you need to first ensure people are dissatisfied with the current methods available.
  • Validating your proposed solution to said problem. Which you should have already validated. This is a fundamentally critical step in starting a company!

*Relying on friends and family for market validation is a dangerous and ultimately useless way to test and validate your idea. Friends and family know and love you, they’re wonderful for many things; however, they can’t be trusted when validating a business idea. They support you and want to see you succeed, causing them to be far less likely to poke holes in your idea. If that’s not enough to discourage you, no investor is interested in what Uncle Eric thinks of your idea (unless Uncle Eric is Eric Schmidt).


“What and How Important is Market Validation” was originally published Dec 10, 2014 on Quora.
By: Nicolas Nezhat, Hardware Connoisseur; Traveler; Foodie; Founder (Fynd)

Expect:  30-50 quality market validation/customer discovery meetings with target customers. 500 new quality connections and a robust LinkedIn profile and network that will enhance your career. Dramatic increase in social selling score.
Ideal for: 
Product marketers who require real-life input from potential customers in order to build successful products. Use for problem/product discovery and validation, positioning and continual product optimization.

Cost: $1,750/mo. plus $229/meeting.
Type: 6 month contract, 30 guaranteed meetings.
Required:  A LinkedIn Premium Plus membership  (approx. $45/month).
Includes: LinkedIn social selling optimization and management,  target list development, daily outreach for professional connections and engagement, thought leadership content, appointment setting, monthly reporting.
Ask us to do it all: No time to talk? An experienced product marketer will conduct your meetings for you and deliver a complete transcript of the interview. $159/meeting.
Ramp: Immediate LinkedIn activity, with first meeting in 9 weeks.

Savvy Customer Discovery Meetings

Every product marketer has received this advice — the conversation goes a bit like this:
Advisor: “Get out of the office and talk to customers!.”
Product marketer: “How many?”
Advisor: “100, or more, in person.”
Product marketer:!@#$%^&*?”

For a typical B2B software product marketer who juggles many demanding projects, this advice is absurd. Identifying, engaging, scheduling, meeting and reporting customer discovery results is a full-time job stretched over many, many months.

Yet, it is absolutely true that talking to customers early, and often, is the best investment you will ever make.

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Expect:  Quarter-after-quarter coverage of target market, predictable budget with guaranteed results, 3 or more weekly meetings with qualified prospects. No hassles.
Ideal for: Tech companies that need to fill pipeline fast with steady stream of business prospects. Sales departments with staff to focus on nurturing/closing. Companies that need to quickly test traction in a new market. Understaffed sales departments.

Cost: $500/appointment
Type: Pay-per-lead packages of 10 opportunities/$5,000
Includes: Prospecting strategy, contact research, email content creation, engagement, appointment setting, reporting.
Ramp: Three weeks

Savvy Outbound Customer Prospecting for B2B Tech Companies

Even the best job candidate usually doesn’t have the complete skill-set, mindset, process, methodology or the time management skills to do the job properly day-after-day.

Savvy keeps your sales pipeline full with a steady stream of C-level prospects. Our outbound prospecting experts act as an extension of your sales and marketing organization. Without the need for hiring, training, and managing inside sales development staff. In fact, we deliver better results than employees and we do it at a lower cost.

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Cost: $1,100/mo
Type: Month-to-month contract
Includes: 6 unique articles a month, 4 thought leadership, 2 repurposed promotional/product marketing content.
Ramp: Three weeks
Expect:  Increased website traffic, SEO, email list subscribers, be viewed as a thought leader, profitable customer action.
Ideal for: Tech companies that want to position themselves as thought leaders in a space and/or companies that want to build trusted relationships with prospects throughout the sales cycle.

Savvy Content Marketing for B2B Tech Companies

54% of B2B marketers report that producing engaging content is one of their top challenges. Although your company is filled with exceptionally bright people who have deep industry knowledge, they are simply too busy to write on a regular basis. Good writing takes time, a strong editor and a bit of design to help it stand out.

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About Savvy

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Our results are backed by decades of tech marketing success with Fortune 1000 companies (ADP and Oracle), startups, and mid-sized software firms. We’re fluent in SaaS, mobile, legacy, services, CRM, ERP, HRMS, EHR, EMR and BI across many industries, in many different countries.

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