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Customer Development is not a Focus Group  

Steve Blank notes:

Any idiot can get outside the building and ask customers what they want, compile a feature list and hand it to engineering. Gathering feature requests from customers is not what marketing should be doing in a startup. And it’s certainly not Customer Development.

In a startup the role of Customer Development is to:

  1. test the founders hypothesis about the customer problem
  2. test if the product concept and minimum feature set solve that problem

Collecting feature lists and holding focus groups are for established companies with existing customers looking to design product line extensions

Startups are short on time. Serving multiple customer segments requires more features and pricing plans and support and marketing and everything. That's tough for a young startup to bear and few would intentionally choose the extra work. Still, we can fall for the trap accidentally as Steve described.

By consenting to every feature request, you end up serving multiple customer segments. But focus means saying "no". Part of the early goal of talking to customers is in determining which of the many available segments you really want to focus on. Then you can say no to everything else.

More from the library:
Use your competitors' marketing budget for your campaigns
Behavioural change
Patrick McKenzie's work on the Fog Creek website
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