Whether you interview customers regularly, watch support requests on HelpScout or use a GetSatisfaction or UserVoice - like tool, your startup is inundated with feature requests from your customers. It's great to have them engaging, but can lead to the dreaded "feature creep" that leads to a bloated, unusable product. What's a startup to do? The answer may surprise you in its simplicity: use the 5 Why's.
Running a startup puts a ton of responsibilities on your plate. From marketing to sales, ghetto-HR to accounting, development to project management, you're wearing a million hats. We all know that Lean Startups methodology and customer development are important, but *actually practicing* it can be hard (if you're not familiar run to CustDev.com *right now* and get Brant and Patrick's book The Entrepreneur's Guide to Customer Development ASAP!).
As you commit yourself to "getting outside the building" to talk to your customers and truly quest for Product-Market Fit, it's essential you make the most of those discussions. One of the hardest things for newcomers to customer development is structuring their questions for customer development, so I'd like share how I structure interviews to maximize their effectiveness.
It happens to us all. Your startup is cruising along, or at least you're really busy running in a million directions. Maybe you've also got pulled away with some personal issues like selling your home, caring for children or relationship challenges. No matter what the cause, you get away from the most important thing: Getting outside the building and talking to customers.
So knowing that you have dropped the ball and need to pick it up again, what do you do? How do you get back on the customer development horse?
Over the past month, I've had the opportunity to talk to many developers and business founders alike as I work on my next startup. One thing I realized was that it's seemingly much easier to tell a good developer from a bad one (look at their work, ask about their approach and then have a trusted tech friend vette them) than it is to tell a good business cofounder from a bad one. With that in mind, I thought I'd share what I think are some of the key questions to ask of a business cofounder to test their skills.
In honor of both the Lean Startup Circle Meetup on Thursday and the Lean Startup Machine coming this weekend, I'd like to share a few lessons I've learned in the past year as I've served as Customer Development Manager at oneforty and been actively learning the Lean Startups methodology.
In late 2009, my best friend Jennifer and I decided to start an internet company building affiliate-based shopping sites. I had recently read about the Lean Startup philosophy, coined by two entrepreneurs Eric Ries and Steve Blank.
At the end of the event, I specifically asked (skip to 2:09:11 if you'd like to see it) about how the consumer web should approach building a viable lean business, where free, freemium and often uncertain business models reign supreme. Eric Ries gave me a great, detailed answer when I caught up with him after the panel ended which I'd like to share now.
“Customers live outside the building.” Every startup is well served to remember this and make sure they’re reaching out to their customers/users to understand them. As customer development manager at oneforty, I’m on the front lines of that effort and our overall goal of implementing Lean Startups methodologies. I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned along the way.
So you’ve a great product, you’ve spent time and money, working tirelessly to make sure that it’s got all the bells and whistles that you think people will love. But how do you know? Does it really reflect what your customers need or want? Both new and established businesses fall into the same trap, thinking: We have a great product, people are going to love it, and we are going to rake in the dough. The main focus is on product development with minimal contact with customers. But not focusing on customers’ needs and wants can break a business. It’s putting the cart before the horse, and unlike in Field of Dreams, if you build it, they won’t necessarily come.