Top 3 Ways to Fail at Customer Development

Disco cracker

The squarest disco ball you'll ever see

The customer confirmed all of our hypotheses! We’re awesome! I mean really, who wouldn’t want a square disco ball? Let’s go build it!

Bullshit.

In the unlikely event that your revolutionary new product, the square disco ball, is actually a customer need, the customer will still challenge your expectations of what the product should be with either:

  • Pricing discrepancies – “I would’ve paid more than $2000 for that.”
  • Unexpected use cases – “This will make a great piñata!”
  • Marketing material miscommunication – “What is this disco thing of which you speak?”
  • Ridiculous feature requests that no one else will want – “Why doesn’t this disco ball come in a nice plaid?”

If you take the time to talk to customers and learn absolutely nothing new about your product, even if only a few random brainstorm ideas, then you probably were talking to not with the customer.

So congratulations, you made a sales call. You were probably leading the witness the entire time. You did not do a customer development interview.

Shut up and learn to listen.

 

Fail #2 – θυμάστε αυτό
That was the greatest customer development interview ever! The customer, Alice, told me all about how she uses the product, made some great feature suggestions. I think one of them was to make a rhomboid disco ball.

Umm… buy a notebook.

Taking notes is a pain in the ass but it has to be done. Even if you have an eidetic memory, your co-founders do not and they need to know what you learned. Taking notes is part of communicating your findings.

If you can’t take notes during the interview, do it right afterwards. Best is to tag team a cusdev interview with a partner so one person can focus on talking and the other can take notes and can critique your technique afterwards in case you were leading the witness.

Fail #3 – Being Gullible

Great! The customer said they’d pay $2,000 and order twenty square disco balls if we included a disco Jesus bobblehead. Let’s start manufacturing!
Customers lie.

Customer development is not just doing what the customer tells you to do. It’s figuring out what the customer really wants. It should not surprise anyone that people don’t always know what they want and are terrible at introspection and hypotheticals. Here’s a terrible question:

Would you buy a square disco ball for $2000 if I include a disco Jesus bobblehead?

A better question:

Would you like to pay with cash or credit card?

Listening to the customer is great at establishing whether or not there is a customer need. It’s not so great a predicting behavior. In this case, purchasing behavior.

This is particularly true when it comes to entertainment products (like disco balls) which don’t meet a clear and present need (like artificial hearts.) It’s not like you can ask, “How would you like to lose $20 in $20 minutes?” to see if I like blackjack.

Make sure you understand the hypothese you’re trying to test and build the right test. In regards to square disco balls, get a purchase order before you start manufacturing them.

Bonus Fail

What’s customer development?

Dude…get out of the building.

Cheers,
Tristan

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