SAVVY MARKETING

Are you inadvertantly sabotaging your customer development? Here are some anti-patterns to watch out for and defeat.

Steve Blank always liked to say, “In a startup, no facts exist inside the building, only opinions.” The lean startup movement encourages that you get out of the building with a mixture of experiments and qualitative research. Doing qualitative work gives you several benefits. It helps you learn how others experience and think about your problem space. It helps you uncover evidence about your assumptions, or lack thereof.

My post “12 tips for customer development” tries to help entrepreneurs and product designers understand how to do qualitative work more effectively. But people struggle with this area. Here are some anti-patterns to watch out for and defeat.

1. You treat speculation as confirmation

Here are some question types that I don’t like — and if you ask them, you should heavily discount the answer: “would you use this?” “would you pay for this?” “would you like this?”

I can’t say that I *never* ask these questions, but I always prefer behavioral questions over speculation.

As contrast, here is a behavior-focused interaction: “Tell me about a time when you bought airline tickets online.” “What did you enjoy about the process? What frustrated you about the process?” “What different systems or methods have you tried in past to book tickets?”

2. You lead the witness

Leading the witness is putting the answer in the interviewee’s mouth in the way you ask the question. For example: “We don’t think most people really want to book tickets online, but what do you think?” Examine both how you phrase your questions and your tone of voice. Are you steering the answer? Ask open-ended, neutral questions before you drill down: “what was that experience of buying online tickets like?”

Continue Reading..

At Buffer, we have always taken a lot of pride in thinking that we were following the Lean Startup methodologies very closely. However we were not connecting with our customers enought throughout development. Twitter helps us quickly get customer feedback so we can continue to build products people love.

At Buffer, we’ve recently made a big change to how we build products and use the Lean Startup methodologies much more closely.

It followed what I’d call a phenomenon that Hiten Shah, one of our closest advisors mentioned to us in a mentoring session:

“There’s a strange thing I see. Startups do customer development once then don’t make it part of the product process.” – Hiten Shah

At Buffer, we have always taken a lot of pride in thinking that we were following the Lean Startup methodologies very closely. That’s why this line from Hiten hit me like a brick. We weren’t really being lean and avoiding waste if we weren’t doing extensive customer development.

From that day a few months ago, we started to double down and put almost every single assumption or hypothesis of our business through customer development interviews first. And I believe it’s been one of the best changes we’ve made recently.

I’ve personally never felt closer to our customers and their problems.

Continue Reading..

So you’ve done a bunch of interviews. How do you know when to stop, and then start building? Use this article to learn a couple of different methods.

Robert Graham of WhiteTail Software, and this awesome guest post on cold calling asks:

@whitetailsoft https://twitter.com/#!/whitetailsoft When do you stop #custdev efforts and build the product? I’ve been wrestling with the details of #leanstartup.

I talked to 30 people before I realized that a certain idea of mine was a crappy idea, and about 40 people before starting WP Engine. Here are the details of both of those customer development experiences. 

But there’s no one “number.” Food on the Table — a now-famous lean juggernaut in Austin run by IMVU alum Manuel Rosso — talked to 120. Capital Factory 2011 alum GroupCharger talked to 50 before building and another 50 after that. At AppSumo, another Austin startup with startling growth, Noah Kagan talked to 0 people initially, but maintains ruthless pressure on a tight and measurable product.

There’s two ways to decide when you should stop talking and start building.

Way #1: Go until boredom.

Recently at WP Engine I did some brand new customer development for a new project that we think will revolutionize WordPress blog management. I spent 30 hours talking to WordPress consultants, but I didn’t have “30” preset in my head. I knew to stop when the process got boring.

The first dozen calls were a blizzard of activity — my note-taking fingers furiously trying to keep up with new information being revealed, theories getting alternately validated and blown away, unexpected customer segments arising, and new ideas recombining from the primordial soup generated by introspective, honest, provocative conversation with thoughtful people who were “living the pain” we’re trying to solve.

Continue Reading..

Want to know the wrong way to approach customer interviews? This article explains the top three ways to fail at customer development.

Fail #1 – You Don’t Listen

The customer confirmed all of our hypotheses! We’re awesome! I mean really, who wouldn’t want a square disco ball? Let’s go build it!

Bullshit.

In the unlikely event that your revolutionary new product, the square disco ball, is actually a customer need, the customer will still challenge your expectations of what the product should be with either:

1) Pricing discrepancies – “I would’ve paid more than $2000 for that.”
2) Unexpected use cases – “This will make a great piñata!”
3) Marketing material miscommunication – “What is this disco thing of which you speak?”
4) Ridiculous feature requests that no one else will want – “Why doesn’t this disco ball come in a nice plaid?”

If you take the time to talk to customers and learn absolutely nothing new about your product, even if only a few random brainstorm ideas, then you probably were talking to not with the customer.

So congratulations, you made a sales call. You were probably leading the witness the entire time. You did not do a customer development.

Shut up and learn to listen.Continue Reading..