Founder and former CEO of ReevooView Author Profile
Getting feedback from customers can feel like a chore, but that shouldn't put you off
In the world of innovation and new venture creation, the Lean Startup philosophy is now well entrenched - and rightly so. Most of us now get the importance of ‘build, measure and learn’.
However, from what I see, too many of us are putting all our focus on the ‘build’ bit – and not enough on what happens before that.
It’s this step that the great start-up educator, Steve Blank, coined “Customer Discovery”. To borrow Steve’s words, it’s about “getting out of the office” and understanding what makes your customers tick and what causes them headaches. Unless you do that, you can’t prescribe a solution.
So whilst it’s easy to understand the principles of customer discovery, why is it that few organisations actually do it properly?
1. It's too much time and effort
This is something that comes up a lot. The feeling is, ‘this is time I could be spending making my product better.’
I spoke to John Vary, innovation manager at John Lewis a little while back. I really admired the regard he holds the customer in – they’re collaborators, not a necessary evil. He told me:
“We don’t want to do stuff just off the shelf. We want to revolutionise the way John Lewis customers engage with the brand, and by really understanding them, and designing for them, and with them.”
2. It's difficult to reach the right people
It takes significant time and effort to identify individuals within your target customer segment, to reach out and/or be introduced to them and then to speak to them. There’s no getting around it – it’s hard. But it’s worth it to cut through a few layers of generic insight and get to the really pointy actionable stuff.
3. Its hard to know which questions to ask to uncover the truth.
It’s hard to undercover the “truth”. You need to understand the right questions to ask, and often it seems like psychiatry more than product development. But empathise with your users and try to connect with them on some level.
The more natural a connection you can have (in what’s often a very unnatural setting) the more real your results will be.
4. It's not as exciting as actually building a product
Founder-led businesses especially tend to suffer from this affliction. Too many pay lip service to customer discovery and jump straight to building their products - in the belief that they are operating “lean”.
In reality, the end result will be much more valuable if it’s developed with the knowledge that you are building a product that truly solves a customer’s pain.
5. They're scared to hear the truth
It takes courage to engage with your audience and hear things you don’t want to hear (after all, many entrepreneurs hold their vision or idea very dear to themselves). I can emphathise with this. My suggestion in this case is to get user feedback as early and often as possible.
That way, you’re not off working on something for months only to find people don’t want it – a real pride hurter – not too mention the wasted time and money.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a large corporate looking to develop a new product or a brand-new venture - it all starts with customer discovery. Learn to love and embrace it!
5 Reasons We’re All Scared To Talk To Customers