Customer Discovery & Validation Jason @Evanish AKA - The First Two Steps to the Epiphany: Getting to Product-Market Fit
Today’s Topics <ul><li>Customer Discovery Overview </li></ul><ul><li>Customer Development Interview Process </li></ul><ul><li>Customer Validation Overview </li></ul>
Why Customer Development <ul><li>Move faster </li></ul><ul><li>Reduce risk </li></ul><ul><li>Bring process to chaos </li></ul><ul><li>Stay in tune with customers </li></ul><ul><li>Replace HiPPO & opinions with data </li></ul><ul><li>Discover the best market opportunities </li></ul>
The Core: Learn-Build-Measure
Who is Your Customer? Phase 1 – State Hypothesis Phase 4 – Verify Phase 3 – Test Product Concept Phase 2 – Test Problem Hypothesis
Map Your Ecosystem <ul><li>Who are the entities in your business? </li></ul><ul><li>Connect the entities based on the flow of $$ </li></ul><ul><li>How does the product move through channels to meet users? </li></ul>
The Hypothesis : C-P-S <ul><li>C ustomer </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Who is using your product? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>P roblem </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What problem do they have? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>S olution </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How will you solve the problem? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Be Specific. It’s better to be wrong than vague. </li></ul>
The Intermediate MVP <ul><li>Map out the basics of your MVP based on the solutions from C-P-S </li></ul><ul><li>Identify the riskiest parts & test them </li></ul><ul><li>This is before you build anything…just map out what you think is the solution </li></ul>BUILD
Helping you map it: The Lean Canvas
Why all this work? <ul><li>Save Time and Money by discovering early on if something won’t work. </li></ul><ul><li>Make course adjustments before you build a large product. </li></ul>
Exit Goals for Customer Discovery <ul><li>You’ve identified a problem a customer wants solved. </li></ul><ul><li>Your product solve the customer’s needs. </li></ul><ul><li>You believe you have a viable and profitable business model. </li></ul><ul><li>You feel you’ve learned enough to go out and sell. </li></ul>
The Customer Development Interview <ul><li>Learn in detail here: http://greenhornconnect.com/blog/how-structure-and-get-most-out-customer-development-interviews </li></ul>
The Structure – 1. Person <ul><li>Who are they? What’s their role? </li></ul><ul><li>How is your budget handled? </li></ul><ul><li>How do you find new products for work? </li></ul><ul><li>How much time do you spend on [Task X]? </li></ul>Goal: Get a baseline background of the person you’re talking to. Be broad. Learn about them and their role in your industry.
The Structure – 2. Problems <ul><li>NOT about the problems you think they have. </li></ul><ul><li>What are your top 3 challenges you face in your job related to [industry X]? </li></ul><ul><li>If you could wave a magic wand…what would the solution be? </li></ul>Goal: Get them to say the problem you want to solve is a problem they have (prefer unprompted) Learn about the problems they recognize first.
The Structure – 3. Solution <ul><li>“ That’s interesting” = Kiss of Death. </li></ul><ul><li>If they’re not anxious to use right away, they’re not a key target. </li></ul><ul><li>Read body language, voice inflection and energy level for signals of interest. </li></ul><ul><li>Best reaction is actually following through after the meeting or calls. </li></ul>Now you tell them about your product concept. Goal: Discover if they’re interested in your solution and gather feedback.
Tips for making the most of Interviews <ul><li>Take good notes. </li></ul><ul><li>Involve other team members. </li></ul><ul><li>Be Conversational. </li></ul><ul><li>Go off script. </li></ul><ul><li>Ask to see any MVPs they’ve made/use. </li></ul><ul><li>If they’re excited about something, ask if they’ll pay for it. </li></ul><ul><li>Show them mockups or early concepts if you have them and pay attention to their reactions/feedback. </li></ul><ul><li>Always Follow up. </li></ul><ul><li>End with an ask. </li></ul><ul><li>Be open to new problems and opportunities! </li></ul><ul><li>Summarize and review your notes with your team. </li></ul>
Where do you find people to interview? 10 – 20% Response Rate
The Best Place to Find Candidates: 30-40% Response Rate
Help not Sales
Manage Expectations <ul><li>Only 10-20% of those you reach out to will respond. </li></ul><ul><li>Getting started is the hardest, then you can find the channels. </li></ul><ul><li>Different target customers often are found in different channels. </li></ul>
Now what? <ul><li>Interview in groups of 8-10 people per customer type. </li></ul><ul><li>Summarize notes and review with others. </li></ul><ul><li>Look for common patterns matching C-P-S (Customer – Problem – Solution). </li></ul><ul><li>Compare to your high level metrics to see if anecdotes match data. </li></ul><ul><li>Iterate if there’s no match. </li></ul>
Can You Sell It? Phase 1 – Get Ready to Sell Phase 4 – Verify Phase 3 – Develop Positioning Phase 2 – Sell to Visionary Customers
Not time for Glengarry Yet… You’re still in learning mode. … about what customers will buy and how!
Break Down Your Sales Road Map <ul><li>Who influences a sale? </li></ul><ul><li>Who recommends a sale? </li></ul><ul><li>Who is the decision maker? </li></ul><ul><li>Who is the economic buyer? </li></ul><ul><li>Who is the saboteur? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the budget for purchasing your type of product? </li></ul><ul><li>How many calls does it take to make a sale </li></ul><ul><li>What is the profile of an early customer? </li></ul>
The Gospel According to Blank – Phase 1 : Get Ready to Sell Goal: Take what you learned from Customer Discovery and apply to development of Sales Process
Map out the Food Chain of your Sale
Exercise: Make Your Food Chain <ul><li>Who is the end user? </li></ul><ul><li>Who is the purchase decision maker? </li></ul><ul><li>Who seeks out a solution like Yours? </li></ul><ul><li>What are alternative channels? </li></ul>
Find out how to (reliably) get your foot in the door… <ul><li>At what level do you want to enter? </li></ul><ul><li>How many people on the organizational map need to say yes? </li></ul><ul><li>Does each department perceive the problem the same way? </li></ul><ul><li>In what order do you need to call on people? </li></ul><ul><li>Who can derail the sale? </li></ul>
The Gospel According to Blank – Phase 2: Sell to Visionary Customers Goal: Get someone to Pay for your product and learn how to repeat the process.
Free != Customer Customer =
Build Your Sales Roadmap What steps are involved in your sales process?
The Gospel According to Blank – Phase 3: Develop Positioning Goal: Based on problem and sales lessons, optimize positioning for your product & company.
Positioning <ul><li>Speak the language of your customer </li></ul><ul><li>Written by those that interact directly with the customer </li></ul><ul><li>Verify with Product team to ensure what’s built meets expectations set </li></ul>
The Gospel According to Blank – Phase 4: Verify Goal: Verify all the work you’ve put into Customer Validation to iterate or move onto Customer Creation.
Productive Paranoia Ask Yourself: Is your business *really* on track?
Questions to Ask… <ul><li>Product: </li></ul><ul><li>Are you repeatedly losing any deals? Why? </li></ul><ul><li>Are customers satisfied? What else do they expect? </li></ul><ul><li>Are you building the right features? </li></ul><ul><li>Were there any pricing issues? Did you lose customers on pricing? </li></ul><ul><li>Sales: </li></ul><ul><li>Can you verify the sales process and accurately project its success rate? </li></ul><ul><li>Can you realistically map your sales pipeline? </li></ul><ul><li>Are you closing deals? </li></ul>
More Questions to Ask… <ul><li>Channel: </li></ul><ul><li>Did you factor in the channel costs to the overall costs of your product? </li></ul><ul><li>How do various channels affect the sales time? </li></ul><ul><li>What does your sales force look like? </li></ul><ul><li>Business Model: </li></ul><ul><li>Based on known factors, how profitable is the business? </li></ul><ul><li>Will costs be the same as you grow? </li></ul><ul><li>How much funding do you need to reach profitability? </li></ul>
Customer Validation Wrap Up <ul><li>To Exit means you’ve </li></ul><ul><li>Proven you found a Customer Problem </li></ul><ul><li>Found earlyvangelists that will pay you </li></ul><ul><li>Found a repeatable and scalable sales process </li></ul><ul><li>Demonstrated a viable business model </li></ul>
Customer Development in a Nutshell <ul><li>Common Sense + Diligent Process + Thought = </li></ul>
Further Reading - Books The Lean Startup By Eric Ries Great high level overview of all the principles of a Lean Startup. The Entrepreneur ’ s Guide to Customer Development By Patrick Vlaskovits & Brant Cooper The Cliff Notes for Lean Startups; a must read for everyone on your team. The Four Steps to the Epiphany By Steve Blank The Bible of Lean Startups. Tough read, but excellent content. Running Lean By Ash Maurya A practical guide to build a great lean startup from the creator of the lean canvas. These books, especially 4 Steps, were key sources in creating this presentation & my learning of this methodology
Further Reading – Lean Related Blogs <ul><li>Steve Blank , Godfather of Lean Startups </li></ul><ul><li>Ash Maurya , Practitioner and action-oriented </li></ul><ul><li>Dave McClure , Investor, advisor, badass </li></ul><ul><li>Cindy Alvarez , Product manager at Kissmetrics </li></ul><ul><li>Andrew Chen , Metrics and Customer acquisition expert </li></ul>
Further Reading – Helpful Presentations <ul><li>The Customer Development Methodology </li></ul><ul><ul><li>by Steve Blank </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Startup Metrics are for Pirates </li></ul><ul><ul><li>by Dave McClure </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The Top 10 Reasons to not be a Lean Startup </li></ul><ul><ul><li>By Patrick Vlaskovits & Brant Cooper </li></ul></ul><ul><li>20 Ways not to build stuff </li></ul><ul><ul><li>by Cindy Alvarez </li></ul></ul><ul><li>How to recruit and interview potential customers </li></ul><ul><ul><li>by Elizabeth Yin </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Building Your Customer Development Plan </li></ul><ul><ul><li>by Cindy Alvarez </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Minimum Desirable Product: Customer Development for the “ Winner Take All ” Web </li></ul><ul><ul><li>by Andrew Chen </li></ul></ul>
Contact me…I’m happy to help <ul><ul><li>On Twitter: @Evanish </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Other sites: About.me /Evanish </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Email: [email_address] </li></ul></ul>… if I don’t have the answer, I’ll work with you to find it.
HiPPO = Highest Paid Person in the Organization “ In God we trust, all others bring data.” – W Edwards Deming
This is the core of lean startups. The entire goal of what you’re doing is to work through this loop as fast as possible or as Eric Ries says “Minimize the Total Time through this Loop” You start with learn. The more you can discover from the customer before building *anything* the better. This comes from talking to the customer, using landing pages and other communication directly with the customer. Then once some ideas crystallize as you match patterns across all your customer interactions (online and offline), you can build your MVP. You then measure the results of your MVP, and feed it back into your next round of learning. This learning leads to adding improvements and tweaks to your MVP and thus completing the loop. Again, you want to move through this cycle as fast as you can; that’s the Core of Lean.
This is the complete process for a Lean Startup. The first step is Customer Discovery which is all about iterating around customer problems. The next step, Customer Validation, which I’ll also talk about. The last two steps, Company Creation and Company Building won’t be covered as that’s really more conventional, MBA-Style scaling of a validated business. The true goal of lean is to take some of the mystery out of getting to the stage where you have Product-Market fit and can scale.
The core question of the first stage is verifying you’re solving a problem for a customer. You’re laying out what you think the Customer, Problem and Solution are and then testing it in the wild talking to customers. You exit this cycle when you feel you have a customer determined that wants the product as you’ve mapped it out.
Who are the entities in your business? Anyone who provides value or receives value from your product. Users, customers, channel partners, technical partners, strategic partners, advertisers, your customer’s customers, etc Connect the entities based on the flow of $$ How does the product move through channels to meet users?
Customer Who is using your product? Problem What problem do they have? Solution How will you solve the problem?
By mapping out exactly what you think you need, you crystallize your ideas and give you a basis for specifically invalidating your idea Map out the basics of your MVP based on the solutions from C-P-S Identify the riskiest parts & test them one by one This is before you build anything…just map out what you think is the solution
Early on, the core is all about C-P-S but you should still be thinking about the other segments to understand the big picture of what you’re doing. Is the market big enough? Who will pay money for this? Will they pay what we want them to? Can we acquire customers where we think they are? Are they actually there? Does our value prop resonate wi th our customer? 2 Places to get this tool: www.LeanCanvas.com www.LeanLaunchLab.com Both allow you to track evolution/iteration of the product
This is a trade of HOURS and DAYS for WEEKS AND MONTHS of building and pushing product. The goal of the Customer Development team during this time is to Validate the Product Spec.
Stages: Has a problem Is aware of having the problem Has been actively looking for a solution Has put together a solution of piece parts Has or can acquire a budget >>Dream is all of these
1) People - Aka - Who Are You? Before you get into anything about problems or your solution, you need to figure out who you're actually talking to. This both warms up your interviewee with some softball questions and gives you an opportunity to build some rapport with them. Some example questions you could ask: What is your name and role at your company? How do you fit into your company's department structure? Overall in the company? What is your budget like? Who has to approve your purchases? How do you discover new products for work? Do you need any approval to try them? Have you tried anything new recently? What is a typical day like on your job? How much time do you spend doing [task X]? (Task X being anything they mentioned in their typical day that stood out) Do not shortchange this opening section of questions! You don't need a novel on their daily life, but you *do need* enough to be able to understand their role within their company, who key players are and a general baseline of their sophistication. All of this will help you later pattern match who the user type that is most receptive to the problem you're solving and the solution you offer. -> The More prep you do to reseach the person, the more efficient and deeper you can probe on this; you’ll be pattern matching later. Goal: Get a baseline background of the person you’re talking to. Be broad.
2) Problems - Aka - What are your greatest pains? This section is where you try to find out whether the person has the problem you believe you're solving. Your goal is to not lead them to your problem. The less you lead them while still hearing your problem being mentioned the more validation you have! Some sample questions you could ask: What are your top 3 challenges you face in your job? What are your top 3 challenges you face in your job related to [industry X]? (Industry X being the one your startup is in) If you could wave a magic wand and instantly have a solution to any of those problems...what would the solution be? Dig deeper into their typical day on anything that sounds painful or expensive. (You can add some hyperbole here to get them to rant a bit by saying things like &quot;that sounds inefficient...&quot; or &quot;that sounds expensive...&quot;) How have you dealt with or solved [Problem X]? (You're looking to find out if they've hacked a solution together themselves. If they have...ask for a copy of it!) People love to talk about themselves, so let them go nuts here and really rant about their problems (i.e.- Shut up and listen!) . Generally, people are terrible at proposing solutions, but you want to hear generally what they envision as solutions or see what they've cobbled together themselves. Notice, you haven't mentioned your solution or problem yet. If they don't mention your problem specifically, then as you finish this section of questioning, you should directly ask them if what you think is a problem is a problem for them. Whether they agree it's a problem or not, you want to then probe why it wasn't one of their top problems.
3) Your Solution - Aka - See if your idea survives customer interaction If in your discussions in part 2 your problem you think you're solving comes up naturally from your interviewee you're on the right track! Bonus points if the way they describe solving it with their &quot;magic wand&quot; remotely resembles what you're doing. No matter what happens in part 2 you should discuss with them what you thought the problem was and what your solution is. Getting validation that they wouldn't be interested in the idea is just as helpful as finding out they love it; either they're not a customer or you are learning what your customers want instead of it. Some sample questions you could ask: Walk them through the problems you believe your solution solves. Do they agree? Does [your solution] solve any of their problems? Would you be willing to pay for our solution? How much? (Don't be afraid to probe for the pricing you know you want...&quot;Would [X] be reasonable?&quot;) If they're willing to pay your price and like the idea then...&quot;Would you be willing to start right away?&quot; If all goes well and you really are solving a pain, then your customer should want access to the product right away. More likely, you're going to learn a ton about what they do and do not want and your idea will begin evolving. This basic structure can carry you a long way towards some great validated learning about your idea and the market's desire for it.
1) Take Good Notes or Record Everything! - Once you've interviewed 8-10 people, you should be going back over all of your notes and look for patterns. This includes especially looking for patterns in the Part 1 section to see what all the people that agree you are solving their problem have in common. You should summarize your notes then and share with your team. 2) Have other team members sit in on some interviews - A good customer development focused company will have everyone involved in the process. Performable, pre-HubSpot acquisition, had their engineers spending 30% of their time on the phone with customers. Nothing helps someone do their job better like understanding who they're building/selling/marketing for. 3) Be conversational - It shouldn't feel like an interview! They should feel like they're just having a conversation with a friend about their problems at work. The more comfortable they feel with you, the more they will open up. 4) Go off script - The best stuff comes when you dig a little deeper on something that strikes a chord in the discussion. The script is there to be your roadmap, but there's no reason you can't return to it after a 5 minute digression about a specific pain or discovery about how the company operates. 5) If they've made an MVP...ask to see it! - Nothing gives you more insight to a customer than what they've hacked together themselves to solve a problem. The best thing you can do is ask to see it, which will give you an idea of what they're hoping a solution will provide. These people are also the strongest candidates to be great, helpful early adopters of your product. 6) Always follow up - It's just common courtesy to thank people for their time and help, but it also opens the door to follow up with them in the future if your product changes and is a fit for them or to invite them to your beta. 7) End with an ask - Always end your interviews by thanking them and asking them for something. It may be to get a copy of their MVP or even better, ask for an intro to someone they know that might be interested in what you're working on. In my experience, these intros have an 80-90% success rate in becoming new customer development interviews, whereas cold emails only have a 10% success rate. 8) Be open to new problems! That's how great products are born. - As Steve Blank has said, &quot;No idea survives first interaction with a customer.&quot; Don't be afraid to shift your focus from your first idea to what you're actually hearing customers want. If you probe in part 2 and find a burning problem...find out how they currently solve it and what they'd pay to solve it. ---
You have to think like your customer. Where are they already? What groups do they join? What events or locations do they go to? Also ask yourself: What might they tweet about related to your product/problem? Where else might they talk about it? Finally, don’t forget your own network; everyone has cousins, uncles, and old classmates in other industries. Use your social graph to get introductions.
Landing pages, existing customers, blog visitors, twitter followers, contacts from coworkers. All of them are instant, awesome sources for people to talk to. Yes, you need to be concerned about bias because they already know who you are, but they’re also a great source to test new ideas to ensure your existing base is interested. Your goal should be a balance between who knows your company and who you find randomly.
Emphasize that any outreach is about having a conversation, not that you’re trying to sell them anything. Everyone likes to help, especially when you’re only asking for 20 minutes of their time. Giving off the vibe you’re trying to sell something will always turn people off.
A CTO and CIO are not in the same place as a midlevel manager. Channels for each have to be cultivated, but then you can find the well to go to. Once you get to 1 or 2 people…ask them where/ how they gather and communicate with other people like them. That gives you a shortcut to finding more people to talk to.
Interview in groups of 8-10 people per customer type. Summarize notes and review with others. Look for common patterns matching C-P-S. This is why you ask so many questions before you get to your solution Compare to your high level metrics to see if anecdotes match data.
Now that we feel confident we have a fit between the problem a customer has and the solution you have, it’s time to figure out how to build a scalable sales process. The work is just beginning…
The Customer Validation is all about proving you can sell your product and refining it efficiently as a small team. It is NOT about building a huge sales team; you’re not ready for that yet. The idea is to try a lot of things and map out the process well before scaling up a team.
This needs to be done by a team of: Founder A closer sales guy (NOT A TEAM BUILDER) The rest of your customer development team …always syncing back with the product team to stay on the same team. And still focused on learning WHAT PEOPLE WILL PAY FOR.
The process is all about removing the guesswork of sales. You want to discover these at the executive level…not hiring a sales team to answer these questions. There are likely multiple people involved in any purchase. The goal of the roadmap is to understand all the players.
This is the Phase 1 process as Steve Blank’s Four Steps explains it. Each step is about gelling what you already learned and applying it to now trying to tailor to the customer you think you have. It’s like refining those raw ideas you learned about the problem and figuring out how they apply to people. What problems resonate with whom? It’s not the same for every player. Who are the gatekeepers and who are the early buyers? Probably need different angles for each.
Think about the people involved in the sales process: Who is the end user? Who is controls the budget? Who is the person who is initially looking for your solution? What other channels are they reachable by?
Who is the end user? Who is the purchase decision maker? Who seeks out a solution like Yours? What are alternative channels?
Once you know your food chain you have to think about how to prioritize access to those people to start to build that repeatable model for getting your foot in the door…then you’ll optimize for working through the process once inside.
This is the Phase 2 goals. Now you’re trying to get people to PAY MONEY for your product.
You can only truly learn from PAYING customers. When you don’t pay for something, it doesn’t enter your mind the same way. Talk about Followup.cc story. Until you are invested financially you aren’t motivated. You won’t commit to what really bothers you or you love about the product.
As you sell to your first customers, you’re not just adapting the pitch, but actually learning the process of making the sale…what steps are involved? What steps can you eliminate?
This is the Phase 3 goals. Pretty simple. Pretty damn important and much easier and accurate after all the work you’ve already put in. In each of these steps…you’re building on what you did in the step before. By this point, you should have talked to so many customers, the language they use is second nature to you. Speak it back to them in your marketing materials (aka- positioning)
Customer Discovery team should be writing this stuff because they know how the customers are thinking about the problem.
This is the Phase 4 is all about CYA: Making sure you’ve got it right before you pour the gasoline on the fire and try to scale the business up. Once you raise $10-$50M it’s REALLY hard to turn back and iterate…you need to be in execution only mode after this step.
At each step you’re thinking about the paranoia of your product: Are you repeatedly losing any deals? Why? Are customers satisfied? What else do they expect? Can you realistically map your sales pipeline? Are you closing deals?!
You haven’t finished Customer Validation until ALL of these are complete.
If you’ve read through all of this it probably sounds pretty easy and straightforward. Yes, none of this is hard from a brain power sense. What is hard is having the discipline and putting in the effort to stick to this. Lean Startups are harder than blind startups that go just on gut feel and winging it. Lean Startups just have a better chance of success.
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