JONI SALMINEN, 20.11.2014
1. What is customer development?
2. Steps of customer development
3. Principles of customer development
4. Barriers of customer development
5. Other ways of validation: landing pages, crowdfunding
WHAT IS CUSTOMER
A method of validating demand for a (software) product by
developing hypotheses (”guesses”) and then testing them
objectively ”outside the building”. The goal is to enable a
scalable startup by finding a repeatable sales model.
The method is developed by Steve Blank of Stanford
Takes usually the form of semi-structured interviews (=method).
You want to avoid both false positives - i.e., getting the
impression your idea is good although it sucks; and false
negatives which is to conclude the idea is bad although in reality
it's not (=objectivity).
You want to create pull instead of push. For that, you need to first
find the right product and market (=research purpose). (Market
risk is higher than technology risk.)
1. DON’T FOCUS ON
Don't ask about your product, ask about their problem. Wrong
question: "We have this product A - would you use it?". Right
question: "Do you ever have this problem B?" [that you think the
product A will solve]
“Abstract your problem by a level. For example, if you want to
know whether someone will use a healthy lunch delivery service,
ask about ‘lunch’” (Cindy Alvarez)
2. LISTEN, DON’T PITCH
Pitching is for other times - you DON'T need to sell your product
to this person, you only need to hear about his or her life.
“Shut up for 60 seconds. This is a LONG, LONG time and it feels
awkward. It also forces the person to go beyond the short (and
probably useless) answer and go into detail.” (Cindy Alvarez)
3. REPEAT, REPEAT
Repeat what he or she says - many times people think they
understand what the other person is saying, but they don't. Only
by repeating with your own words and getting them to nod "That's
right" you can make sure you got it.
4. MAKE NOTES
Make notes - obviously. You don't want to forget, but without notes
Don't ask "would you" questions, ask "did you" questions. People
are unable to predict their behavior, but they can fairly well tell
what they have done.
6. AVOID LOADED
Avoid loaded questions. False: "Is this design good?" Correct:
"What do you think of this design?"
7. AVOID ”YES OR NO”
Avoid yes/no questions. What would you learn from them?
Avoid yes/no questions. Whichever one the person chooses, it's
probably not useful for you. (Cindy Alvarez)
8. DON’T VALIDATE,
Focus more on disproving your idea rather than validating it. In
philosophy of science, this is called falsificationism. It means not
claim can be proved absolutely true, but every claim can be
proved wrong. Rather than wanting to prove yourself right (at the
risk of making a false positive), you want to prove yourself wrong
and avoid wasting time on a bad idea.
Remember: most startup ideas suck (it's true - I've seen
hundreds, and most will never amount to real business - be very,
very critical about your idea).
9. REACH FOR
Make many interviews.
Many = as long as you notice there are no more new insights. In
research, this is called saturation. You want to reach saturation
and make sure you've identified the major patterns.
10. WAIT FOR IT…
Only in the very end introduce your solution. Then ask openly
what he or she thinks about it: "What do you see problematic
about it?" Also ask if they know someone who would like this
“Avoid talking about your product or your ideas until the end - but
then DO give the person the opportunity to ask you some
questions. This is NOT a chance for you to sell your idea, it's just
an equalizer. You've been asking questions the whole time, now
it's their turn.” (Cindy Alvarez)
• How is your customer currently dealing with this task/problem?
(What solution/process are they using?)
• What do they like about their current solution/process?
• Is there some other solution/process you’ve tried in the past that was better or
• What do they wish they could do that currently isn’t possible or practical?
• If they could do [answer to the above question], how would that make their
• Who is involved with this solution/process? How long does it take?
• What is their state of mind when doing this task? How
busy/hurried/stressed/bored/frustrated? [note: learn this by watching their
facial expressions and listening to their voice]
• What are they doing immediately before and after their current
• How much time or money would they be willing to invest in a solution that
made their lives easier?
BARRIERS OF CUSTOMER
• Social desirability bias (they want to please you)
• Recall bias (they remember wrong)
• Confirmation bias (you want to be right)
• ”Build it and they will come”
• Internalizing problem
These are fancy names meaning that you want people
to tell you honestly what they think, and you want to
interpret it in an objective way, not being too fixed on
your initial assumption (i.e., hypothesis). Be ready to
change your opinion, like Gandhi advised.
METHODS, E.G. TESTING
VIA LANDING PAGES
a. Force customers to pay from the beginning - this way you
see if the thing you’re building has value to anyone.
b. MVP. Create first the non-scalable, bare minimum solution.
This is not even a product, it's a service. Use manual labor over
technology and get the user information through free tools like
Google Forms, and track everything with analytics.
The advantage is that you get hard data, not opinions. The
disadvantage is that hard data doesn’t tell you why.
OTHER WAYS OF
• Before, to manufacture a product you needed money from
• Now, you can collect that money through crowdfunding from
buyers of that product.
1. Pre-test concepts before production
2. Gain valuable customer feedback
3. Gain legitimacy for investors
4. Generate actual sales before even building.
• If you have to read one book about this topic, read this
• If you want to read another book, then it's this
• If you need to read a third book, then you should stop
doing a startup and become a researcher :)
(You can reach me at LinkedIn)