10 Things I’ve Learned About Customer Development (2014)

It’s been a couple years since I originally made this list, and all of these observations still ring true. But when I revisited this post, I noticed that only #10 included a “so here’s what you do”.  I don’t like leaving my readers hanging!

In the interest of making this post more useful, I’ve added next steps for the rest of the list items.

  1. Whatever amount people say they will pay for it is wrong.
  2. If someone says, “I wouldn’t personally use it, but I bet other people would”, no one will use it.
  3. The answer to any question that starts with “do you want” or “are you concerned about” will always be “yes”.
  4. If someone says “maybe it’s just me, but…” — it’s not. Especially if it pertains to your product being hard to use or your marketing being unclear.
  5. If you want to charge money for your product, don’t talk to people who try to get everything for free. (They might eventually be customers, but not until your product goes more mainstream or becomes a defacto standard.)
  6. What features your customers ask for is never as interesting as why they want them.
  7. Almost anyone will do almost anything for you as long as: the request is short, you are enthusiastic, they don’t have to make any decisions that require more than 1 minute of thought.
  8. You can’t build a good product if you don’t genuinely like the people who’ll be using it.
    You don’t have to be like them, but you have to like them.
  9. The two driving forces of purchase and usage behavior are apathy and the desire to avoid looking/feeling stupid.
  10. Whenever you start thinking “this is a lot more complicated than I originally thought”, it’s too damn complicated.

So what?  How do you use or fix these?

Whatever amount people say they will pay for it is wrong.  So: Don’t bother asking how much people would pay for it. Instead, ask the customer about something else they already use that provides a similar amount of value, or that they use with the same frequency. It can be a totally different product! But it’s useful to know that they currently pay $10/month for something that saves them an hour every day, or that they bought a product for $500 that they use weekly.

If someone says, “I wouldn’t personally use it, but I bet other people would”, no one will use it.  So: Say “I’m curious, can you think of what other people might use this?”  If the person has an immediate suggestion, ask her for an intro to that person. If not, that’s a mark in the “invalidated hypothesis” column.

The answer to any question that starts with “do you want” or “are you concerned about” will always be “yes”.  So: Don’t make “wanting” free! Instead, ask people to rank potential solutions, or ask what they would sacrifice in order to solve a problem.

If someone says “maybe it’s just me, but…” – it’s not. Especially if it pertains to your product being hard to use or your marketing being unclear.  So: This is an indicator that the person is trying to be polite.  No! To get useful information, you need honesty, not politeness. Give the person ‘permission’ to tell you just how awful your product is by saying “other people have also said…”

If you want to charge money for your product, don’t talk to people who try to get everything for free.  So: Screen them out of your customer development process. Asking “how much money do you spend per month on X category of solutions?” is a useful way to find the people who’d check the “I don’t spend money on X” option.

What features your customers ask for is never as interesting as why they want them.  So: Direct them away from talking about the solution and back to describing the problem.  Listen, pause, and then ask what it would allow them to do if they had it today. Ask what they’re currently doing as a substitute. They’ll either identify a problem (good – now go solve it) or be unable to provide specifics (feel free to deprioritize this suggestion).

Almost anyone will do almost anything for you as long as: the request is short, you are enthusiastic, they don’t have to make any decisions that require more than 1 minute of thought.  So: Invest time in making your emails as short and clear as possible. Test them out on a friend. Preview them on mobile devices. Iterate.  It might take me an hour or more to craft a three sentence email – but it will get a great response rate.

The two driving forces of purchase and usage behavior are apathy and the desire to avoid looking/feeling stupid.  So: Tweak your wording. Don’t ask “do you have X problem?”, ask “how does X problem affect you?” Refer to (anonymous) other people who share X problem. Subtle wording changes put people at ease.

You can’t build a good product if you don’t genuinely like the people who’ll be using it. You don’t have to be like them, but you have to like them.  So: If you find yourself condescending to your potential customer or thinking they are dumb, find a new target market or a new problem to solve.  Your disrespect will come through in your interviews, your product, and/or your marketing.

Whenever you start thinking “this is a lot more complicated than I originally thought”, it’s too damn complicated.  So: STOP and find a sounding board. Your solution ideas are either wrong, or you’re overthinking things. An external brain will see the problems much faster than you will.

Find this post useful? I’ve written much, much more in my new book, Lean Customer Development.
You should get Lean Customer Development now!

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[…] 10 Things I’ve Learned About Customer Development (2014) 10 уроков от Cindy Alvarez, автора Lean Customer Development. 1) Любой ответ на вопрос: “Сколько бы вы заплатили за…” — неправильный. 2) Если кто-то говорит: “Я сам не буду этим пользоваться, но уререн, что другие — будут”, то никто не будет пользоваться этим продуктом. 3) Если спрашивать пользователей: “А не хотелось бы вам…?”, “А не беспокоит ли вас…?”, то ответом всегда будет “Да”. 4) Если кто-то говорит: “… возможно, это только я один такой, но…”, то ответ — “Нет”. Особенно, если кажется, что ваш продукт сложен в использовании, либо у вас не четкий маркетинг. 5) Если вы хотите брать деньги за свой продукт, не спрашивайте пользователей, которые привыкли пользоваться бесплатными продуктами. Они, возможно, и станут вашими клиентами, но не раньше, чем продукт статет массовым. 6) Интереснее не та функциональность, которую хотят пользователи, а почему они её хотят. 7) Почти каждый готов сделать на словах то, о чем вы его попросите: просьба маленькая, вы полны энергии, и им не надо принимать больших решений. 8) Невозможно создать хороший продукт, если вам не нравятся потенциальные пользователи. Вы должны быть к ним как минимум не безразличны. 9) Две дижущих силы в поведении пользователей: апатия и нежелание выглядеть/ чувствовать себя глупыми. 10) Если у вас появились мысли: “Всё гораздо сложнее, чем я думал”, всё на самом деле — намного сложнее. Сама книга lean Customer Development — одна из лучших по исследованию пользователей. Кардинально меняет некоторые устоявшиеся в голове концепции и подходы. […]

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