Shop the Problem, Not the Product-Customer Discovery

The Philosophy

“A start-up begins with a vision: a vision of a new product or service, how the product will reach its customers, and why lots of people will buy it.” I believe this sounds right thus far. “But most of what a startup’s founders initially believe about their market and potential customers are just educated guesses. A startup is in reality a ‘faith-based enterprise’ on day one.” Now that was a humorous reality, but I can still agree. Customer Discovery is “to turn faith into facts…to know whether they have a valid vision or just a hallucination.” (Blanks, 2013, pg. 43)

Customer Discovery occurs when you seek out potential customers to buy your product or service. Blanks defines it as “time to hit the streets and identify your repeat buyers.” This discovery goes beyond gathering electronic market data. Instead it translates into being “…out in the field, listening, discovering how consumers worked and what their key problems were.” (Blank, 2013, p.28)

The Question?

When you began this journey, did you shop your product or service or did you shop the problem that your product or service would solve?

I find this question very important when building a business. Are we following our passion and dreams or actually lending our dreams to a product or service that can solve a problem, which will provide sustainability for your company. It’s like applying for a grant. Many people think they have a great idea for someone to fund. When in reality, your idea needs to fit the goals and mission of a granting organization. It’s all about how you fit in the grantee’s world and so it also is about the consumer that you will be serving.

“The concept is deceptively simple: form hypotheses around the problem that your product solves, and around the product itself, test these hypotheses with those who could be your potential customers to verify, iterate or exit. This discovery process is part of the larger customer development model where the minimally viable product resulting from customer discovery undergoes validation testing among customers.” (Venture Atlanta)

I agree with Venture Atlanta when they say it’s deceptively simple. You have to get the buy in from a group of strangers that will agree that what you are offering will solve their problem. And remember the problem may not exist yet. Once you gather real data, you are testing or tweaking to make adjustments from their feedback. Then you hit the pavement again to gather another round of feedback. In this round, you have your reality check of where the pairing of the product/service and the consumer provides conclusive evidence; to draw a conclusion you hope will say that you have made the right decision and it makes sense financially.  It’s the beginning or the end.

Just think, you haven’t sold a thing, but you have gathered valuable information that will allow you to be profitable. This in depth approach to gaining a viable consumer following could make the difference in a start-up’s continued success.

5 Phases of Customer Discovery

Phase 0-Get Buy-In

Phase 1-Start Your Hypothesis

Phase 2- Test and Qualify Your Hypothesis

Phase 3-Test and Qualify the Product Concept

Phase 4-Verify

An in-depth study of the 5 Phases of Customer Discovery can be found in Steve Blank’s The Four Steps to the Epiphany. (pg. 53-105) In addition, Venture Atlanta provides a wonderful set of Customer Discovery Tips

Resources

Blank, Steven G. The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products That Win. 2nd ed. California: Steve Blank, 2013.

Customer Discovery Basics. (2013, March 7). Retrieved February 15, 2017, from http://ventureatlanta.org/2013/03/customer-discovery-basics/

ENT 601 -Week 5 Reflections

1 thought on “Shop the Problem, Not the Product-Customer Discovery”

  1. Hello Michelle I am in total agreement with your post, vision is key to a newly start up business. What also helps is a great analysis of the market.

    Eric

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