Fully understanding your customers and the challenges they face might just be the number one key to success as far as product development goes. In the end, customers are the ones who will decide whether to buy a product or not. Here’s how to focus on them first.
If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” – Henry Ford
Henry Ford famously said that he invented the Ford T without asking for any feedback from his potential customers. According to him, people were not capable of thinking about radical innovation.
Since then, his words have sunk into the minds of many product teams that now deeply believe they should never listen to their customers. They’re afraid it might slow their innovative thinking.
However, we might be misunderstanding his words. There is a difference between deeply understanding your customers by asking them what they want and doing exactly what they say. It’s true that you shouldn’t always give your customers what they ask you for.
But, fully understanding your customers and the challenges they face might just be the number one key to success as far as product development goes. In the end, customers are the ones who will decide whether to buy a product or not, so it’s always a good idea to focus on them first.
But, how do you get to really understand your customers without quickly losing yourself in assumptions? This is where customer development comes in.
What Is Customer Development All About?
We are not trained to think about customers in a disciplined way. We have processes for product development, for sales, and for marketing. But, when it comes to our very own customers, we usually hide behind assumptions and guesses about what they need and want.
Customer development tries to fix that by pushing producers to understand customers as much as they understand the market they are in and the technologies they are using.
The idea being that you need to build your product or service for people who are or will be truly passionate about it. To do that, you need to get out of your office and check all the theories you have about your product against reality. It’s all about focusing on your customers.
The methodology is quite simple. Pick one customer that is or will be truly passionate about your product, build that product, and then iterate to improve it.