Startup Monday: Customer Development 101

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Startup Monday! This year I have been talking a lot about the lean startup methodology which puts a strong focus on customer development. If you don’t now much about lean startup’s yet make sure to read these this post to get the basics under your belt – Lean Startup 101

If you’re already a lean startup buff or you just read Lean Startup 101 – then keep on reading!

Customer development is at the core of the lean startup process because getting customer feedback is critical to turning your MVP into a fully developed product. When it comes to customer development it is very important to make sure you are actually talking to your customer. Every business should know who your customer is, remember, that’s the person who is paying you! Customer development should be done with that exact potential customer, or as close as you can get to provide useful results.

When it comes to actually doing customer development, many companies don’t know where to get started, or they take the easy route conducting a broad-based survey rather than asking talking to their customer (or potential customer). The key to good customer development is targeting – making sure you get feedback from customers, not competitors, friends, or family members. If your Mom thinks you solution is the best in the world, she may be the smartest woman in the world, but she’s your Mom, which means she has a bias. How about your best friend? Well, he/she is also wildly biased, they’re your friend, generally they’ll be pretty positive about anything you want to do.

Customer development involves a lot more than just asking people that are easy to access like friends, family members, and co-workers. It’s all about reaching your customer and thanks to the wonders of the web, this is getting easier everyday, if you have the right tools.

So how do you get started with customer development?

  1. Make sure you have clearly defined who your customer is
  2. Pick a tool to collect survey results (I highly recommend Survey Monkey)
  3. Now think like your customer – how would you best reach them? Facebook? Twitter? Direct mail? At a conference?
  4. Once you find-out how to reach your customers, begin sending-out your survey. Remember, response rate could be very low so you’ll want to make sure you are targeting a good-sized group.
  5. Don’t stop – keep surveying your customer, testing your assumptions, and staying in touch with your market

This is the basic process behind customer development, finding your customer (or potential customers) and really testing your assumptions, finding if there is a need where you thought their was one. The earlier you can invalidate any assumptions the sooner you can pivot or iterate to make something that people truly want, rather than something you “think” they want!

Morgan Linton

Morgan Linton