helpful customer discovery with Kevin Dewalt

Being Helpful – Interview with Kevin Dewalt

Kevin Dewalt (Founder of SoHelpful) is constantly helping startups 1-to-1. When he's not angel investing, playing golf or (allegedly) mangling the Chinese language in Beijing, he's always available to help out someone just getting started with lean startup. So I reached out to him to chat about his approach to early stage customer discovery...being helpful. You can find him on Twitter, LinkedIn, or his blog)

Q:  Your SoHelpful approach to early stage startup marketing is essentially, "stop marketing and start helping people 1-on-1." What makes you favor this route when every budding entrepreneur wants to put together a DropBox type demo video, post to HackerNews, and watch the signups?

These approaches are not working for the entrepreneurs I help, mentor, and invest in.

What I teach is based on what I do and what I see working for other startups. I wasn’t working with Drew when he did the DropBox “viral video MVP”, so I don’t actually know what is myth vs. truth. Drew himself probably doesn’t remember.

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The Disappointing Toaster

Killed by Expectations

(This is a guest post by Dan Toma, Senior Innovation & Product Manager at Deutsche Telekom AG and author of the upcoming The Corporate Startup Book. You can find Dan on Twitter, LinkedIn or his blog.)

How much stress, anger and frustration can one simple malfunction or a minute delay in response cause? We experience expectation related frustration on a daily basis with the objects we interact with, the products that we purchase, and the services we acquire.

In order to consistently design better product, services, and experiences for their customers, there is one critical first step any entrepreneur needs to take: understand the customer’s needs better than the customer understands themselves.

Often times, we are disappointed by our peers, by particular experiences, by products that fail to deliver the job we hired them to do, or by services which, for one reason or another, don’t match out standards.

What do we do then?

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Lean Enterprise Straw Man vs. Tank

Straw Man Lean Enterprise

In my last post, I criticized adoption of the term Lean Enterprise and was accused of making a straw man argument.

That is 100% correct. It is a straw man argument.

It's the straw man that I'm arguing against.

The enterprise adoption of lean startup principles is following much the same course as startup ecosystems adopting lean startup. There's a lot of cargo cult buzzword adoption.

It's the Lean Hype Cycle.

That's ok. It takes some hype to get things rolling.

So let's dig deeper and deconstruct the straw man.

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umbrella - enterprise business model

Lean Enterprise & Innovation Ecosystems

Lean Startup +  Enterprise = Lean Enterprise

Compelling. Isn’t it?

The idea that an enterprise scale company with tens of thousands of employees can be as swift and nimble as a startup is enchanting...

...but it’s false.

Comparing an enterprise to a startup is like comparing an ocean to a dolphin. They simply don’t equate.

Enterprises can’t be like startups and they certainly can't be Lean Enterprises. They can however nurture startups as the ocean can hold and nurture an abundance of life.

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everyone knows someone who needs a kick in the ass

Selling a Kick in the Ass

(This is part of a series of posts about testing product/market fit. You can download the Product/Market Fit Storyboard here.)

Back to the basics.

"Everyone" is not our customer.

Neither are "Consumers" or "SMBs."

Unless the problem we are solving is death, not everyone wants our solution.

Even then, not everyone wants our Grim-Reaper-Be-Gone!™ Spray. Some people just want to check out this of this madhouse.

(In case you were thinking it, taxes aren't a problem for everyone either.)

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The causation of birds and bees

Customers and Causality

(This is part of a series of posts about testing product/market fit. You can download the Product/Market Fit Storyboard here.)

When looking for product/market fit, we start with the customer. That's the "market" part of product/market fit.

Everything starts and ends with the customer.

Sometimes we start with the product or the friggin' awesome technology. Sometimes we might fool ourselves into starting with what we can get funding for. But at some point, we always backtrack to the customer.

Having a clear customer hypothesis is the first part of an MVP.

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