The Customer Development Model

It’s pretty clear now that “getting users” isn’t a simple thing to do. I came across a presentation that addresses just this. It claims that startup’s focus too much of their early attention on product development, and not enough “customer development.” As a result, startups fail not because engineering was broken, but because their offering is just not valuable enough to the customers. Rather relying on a “launch” and hoping users will just come, the author explains that there should be a long and iterative process beforehand that validates that you can actually creating something that people wants.

For instance, during the early stages, there should be a back-and-forth process between customer discovery and customer validation. The presentation wants you to keep in mind that the “facts are outside the building, opinions are inside.” In other words, you might think your idea is valuable, but you won’t really know until you verify with the market. From the concept, see if you can make a repeatable sales. If not, go back to the drawing board.

I find the structure that the author lays out to be pretty useful. However, how you decide to mold or change your idea is the hard part. No one has the answer to this and you’ll never really know until you try it.

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    Absolutely. I think this is a huge problem with the concept of viral marketing. I've consulted with founders who spent more time talking about how their products had viral aspects than working on the product quality.

    (That's not to say viral marketing doesn't have benefits, but the best way to get people to talk about your product is to build a great one in the first place).

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