When aspiring entrepreneurs finally realize they have to spend more time developing the customer than developing the product in the early days, they are faced with a dilemma: “You mean I have to actually TALK to people?”
Steve Blank and Eric Ries would answer the same way: yes. You can’t build a product around who you think is the customer and what their problem is and how they want to solve it and whether or not your product offers a compelling solution—you are not the customer! Only the customer is the customer. You have assumptions, but you have to define and verify them before finalizing your product, so you have to get out there and do the process of customer investigation.
So, how? I suggest Seven Steps, which are built around sales process as it applies to qualifying a prospect.
1: Ask for permission – show respect and consideration; ask for permission and help
2: Qualify the prospect – do they fit the customer profile?
3: Problem probe – do they recognize the problem?
4: Solution probe – are they looking for a solution?
5: Urgency probe – how urgent is the need to solve… Continue reading
When you are testing the assumptions you generate in the Assessment stage of the ACE Methodology, you have to first define and verify them through research in the Confirmation stage. This means asking a lot of prospective customers the three critical questions: 1) do they really have the problem you think they do?, 2) do they have an urgent need to solve it?, and 3) does your product seem to offer a compelling solution? The customer investigation process is an important part of designing a successful product.
To do this, you have to ask people these questions, either in-person or virtually. Conducting face-to-face interviews is best because you can judge their reaction and ask probing questions. In Startup Assembly Manual, we discuss the Seven Steps of customer investigation; it’s a sales process structure.
Virtual interviews need a different strategy. You have to test your marketing message through a web site or social media to get the answers to the questions. The best method I’ve tried on the web is where your home page has a random redirect function to four different pages. Each page has a different message, which basically asks… Continue reading
I think the average Joe (or Jane) like us goes farther trying to hit singles and doubles than always swinging for home runs. I have been the guy with the “next great idea” and not had a clue what to do with it. Don’t read me wrong. I have been mostly successful during my years of being an entrepreneur, but it sure wasn’t easy or clear. There was no road map or trip planner. Nobody was there to help me, explain what I write in this book, and open my eyes to very basic things. I just plodded ahead, one step after another. Eyes open. What has to be done and how to do it can become very muddy. I have suffered and overcome my share of “founder flounder,” where there is a goal but no clear path. This book is about adding clarity to the process. It is about helping entrepreneurs find the starting line, then giving them a road map to follow.
As I evolved as a businessperson, I realized that there was more structure to starting and running a business than I realized. When I just winged it, it didn’t always end well, but when I sat… Continue reading