10 Things I’ve Learned

  1. Whatever 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. The two driving forces of purchase and usage behavior are apathy and the desire to avoid looking/feeling stupid.
  9. 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.
  10. Whenever you start thinking “this is a lot more complicated than I originally thought”, you should immediately stop and find a sounding board. You are probably either wrong or overthinking things, and an external brain will see it much faster than you.

35 Responses to “10 Things I’ve Learned”

Women 2.0 » 10 Things I’ve Learned About Customer Development:

[...] This post was originally posted at The Experience is the Reason. [...]

Adam Wride:

Great wisdom in this post. 


Hello Cindy

Great Post !

 I have a question regarding #5. Let’s say I have built a new product and I need beta users who will use it and endorse my product for my future customers. Isn’t it fair I give it to them for free and then charge for customers who come later as they will be getting a more refined product? 

 So it is not always bad to give the product away free for the first few. Is it ?

Thanks for your advice!

Paul Rosania:

Awesome as usual! In particular, I like #7 and #9. Empathy is such an important guiding human emotion, and we frequently ignore it or fail to leverage it in ourselves and others.


There is a huge difference between someone who is using your product without paying you money and someone who would ONLY use your product (or any other product) if it was free.

There’s an implicit social contract with you and your early beta customers – they’re using it because they want to use it.  You both know it’s not done yet, probably has no help content, and plenty of bugs. So in return, the least you can do is waive the cash price (which is usually a lot “cheaper” than their time!)

This is very different from someone who will sign up for anything ‘as long as it’s free’, or who regularly goes to a lot of effort (workarounds, gaming the system, signing up with multiple accounts, etc.) solely to avoid pulling out their credit card.    These people waste their own time in order to save money, and they’re only too happy to waste yours too.

How do you tell the difference?  Usually the beta customers don’t ask — they pretty much assume it’ll be free, at least temporarily.  But the freeloaders: that’s the first question they ask, before even “what do you do?” or “how do I use it?”

Mike Abasov:

2. I wouldn’t personally use Linux, BlackBerry, TweetDeck or Comic Sans, but I bet other people would. 
And they do.

Otherwise, great post.

Steve Johnson:

Good tips on understanding what people mean despite what they say. 


Good point.  The correct followup to “but I bet other people would…” is probably “Can you think of any specific people you know who do/would use this?”

There’s a big difference between “well, yeah, my sister uses Linux” and “ummm… maybe someone who’s really into X would use product Y?”


The “maybe it’s just me clause” is polite society at work. Pay attention to what the person is really saying even if it’s dressed up in nicety. 


The post provide quality information.  People will sometimes let you know stuff by what they are not saying or being nice.  I do agree that product is build for people that you like because the extra effort is put forward in building a product. It is human nature to put energy in product or task that you enjoy; therefore, your energy, best effort, will always show most when people you like.


Deceptively simple post with deep insights :). Each one of these expands into an important and useful topic to explore. #6 in particular! The one I question is #2, though I think this is a common problem. But there is also this problem: if you ask people *not in the target audience* and they tell you “I don’t think anyone will use/like/want this”, they have no idea. And sometimes, even the people who WOULD use it have a difficult time predicting that in advance from bring asked to explain if and why they would or would nit. Sometimes you just have to give it to them to try, without asking them anything, to uncover the truth.

Excellent post! Thank-you.


“What features your customers ask for is never as interesting as why they want them.” — totally agree Cindy :)

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Ethan Danstrom:

Great article, number 6 in particular.


Great observations, Cindy :) I especially liked number 6 :)

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James Hu:

Great insight. It’s true when people have their own opinion will sometimes reflect the general market and then there is the other side where those financially successful individuals who think that anything they touch turns to gold will be the determining factor in the outcome of a project. In which case, you should step-aside and rethink the idea.  


Love this post, thanks for sharing!

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Julie Booth:

simple and true.  Thank you. 

Eric Wittenberg:

Well done, these are awesome simple reminders & fresh insights, especially #6, so true.

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Reid Walley:

Clear and simple. Which equals powerful! Thanks, Cindy. This post was recommended as a must-read on Lean Startup Machine.

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