Experiment #0 | Customer Development

"The journey of a million miles starts with a single step. 
The start-up of a million users starts with a single customer interview. "
You want a crash introduction to #leanstartup? Lean is applying the scientific method to "ideas" with the goal of wasting as few resources as possible. Building things no one wants is one of the biggest sources of waste, ergo the first step towards jumping in to the pool is to translate your idea into a customer/problem hypothesis and talk to 5 strangers, in person. The goal of these customer validation interviews is to learn more about their actual needs as compared with the needs you think they have. You also want to learn the likelihood of this person actually becoming a customer when you build your product. The strangers must fit your customer segment hypothesis and the conversation must center around your problem hypothesis, NOT YOUR SOLUTION (or your idea). Here's how to do that.

RECIPE: "Not your grandma's meatloaf, customer development street interviews, guerrilla style"

DIFFICULTY: Easy to do, difficult to do well.

SERVE: Well done!

Actionable, realistic tips for your first round of #custdev based on hundreds (getting into the thousands now 12/3/2014 of experiments with personal clients, international accelerators, and large corporations. 

  1. One, properly defined, customer hypothesis. 
  2. One, properly defined, problem hypothesis. 
  3. A minimum success criteria. (You need to get into good habits defining expected outcomes in order to prove things true or false). 
  4. An open mind. Guts. Humility. Confidence.  
  5. Two ears, one mouth. Better yet, four ears one mouth. 
  6. A template to record your results. Open it and make a copy. If you want free advice, set privacy where anyone with the link can view, and tweet it to @adamberk
  • Look at your customer hypothesis. Where will you find 10 of that person. Go there.
  • Start a conversation with people. Your goal is for them to tell you that they are "sick and tired of x (your problem statement) without YOU saying it.
  • Record ALL OF YOUR DATA HERE. You are looking for patterns. You are looking for surprises. You are looking for the "hidden clue", the directions to the next experiment. You are looking to be wrong?!:(
  • Start with targeted but "guerrilla style" interviews. It is cheaper, quicker and easier to start approaching random people on the street and in a mall. Especially when you are not 100% positive about your problems and/or customer.  As you learn more and more about the problem you are solving and get better and better at asking non leading questions and truly discovering information- you will move towards more qualified and filtered interviews.  
  • Start unscripted and move to scripted as you learn more and more about your real customer, your real problem and their real behaviors. It's called exploration for a reason. Your goal is to tell you they have the problem you think they have without you LEADING THEM to say it and without them saying it because they think it is what you want to hear (observer bias) or because they want to end the conversation. If they think you are working on solving a problem that they really have, they will REALLY TALK TO YOU. It happens EVERY TIME. 
  • Do not take a surveys.
  • Talk to people in person, face to face (especially your first experiment)
  • Find out about past behavior.
  • DO NOT SELL THEM, PITCH THEM, OR LEAD THEM. Remember, you are a psychologist more than a salesperson at this very early stage.
  • DO NOT TELL THEM YOU ARE WORKING ON A COMPETITION (they will tell you what they think you want to hear)
  • Talk to one person at a time. One on one is best with an eavesdropper on your end or two on one. Avoid observer bias and group think at all times. / edit courtesy of William Jewell workshop 1/13/13. 
  • The goal of the first round is as much about good habits as it is about gleaning good data.
  • Try not to tell them you are in a contest or even that you are the founder - the point of everything you do is to avoid bias - resist the urge to explain yourself and just pretend you have the problem too! context is everything edit courtesy of LEANKC5
  • Feedback from mentors, even if they introduce you to people in your customer segment does NOT count as validation. If the people they introduce you to, however, have the problem - THAT COUNTS. addition courtesy of the +NUMA Paris workshop 
  • If the result of your interview is "they want our app" you told them your solution. Don't do that. -Bergen Norway November 14 GEW "interviews of 27 parents of pupils in primary & secondary school. They want our app"

VOILA! Your goal is to get to experiment #1 which is based, for the first time, on external data rather than team opinions. Keep doing customer development on an ongoing basis. Formulate a solution (don't build it we will talk about that in the next recipe) ONLY WHEN YOU HAVE VALIDATED THAT YOU KNOW THE PROBLEM AND KNOW YOUR FIRST CUSTOMERS.  You do not have to run experiments to discover facts. Everyone wants more money, more time, more customers, etc. Be creative. Work hard. You are not the first person to think of your solution. The only way to the treasure is to uncover the clues one at a time. You may stumble on the treasure by luck, but the chances are 1/million. 

  • Customer Development is about proving, qualitatively, that a problem exists and there is a customer for whom this problem is worth solving. Steve Blank is the Godfather of the theory of #custdev.
  • Brant Cooper & Patrick Vlaskovits have distilled and clarified the notion of customer development
  • I am happy to review the results of your first round of #custdev just add me to the spreadsheet when you record your data. 
  • Free startup advice.
  • Great article on asking good questions
  • $5-25k in funding at a $1,000,000 valuation no questions asked if you do and submit 100 interviews. 

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