This is a preview post for an upcoming Loop System – Early Business Idea Validation. In this sprint, we will walk you through how to get in front of customers early on and have the right conversations in order to get the insights you need. These previews help you decide if you want to make room on your calendar in the upcoming two weeks to work with us as we help Loop Community members implement and execute this system with our processes, tools, training, coaching, and cohort roundtables.
These Loop Systems sprints are for paid members of the community, although this first sprint will be made publicly available.
Falling in love with a solution without finding a market need is one of the deadly sins a business can make. It is far better to have access to a customer base with an identified need, then to have a solution searching for a problem to solve. Focusing on the latter may result in a business spending months or years trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
That being said, it can be devastating to get out of our echo chamber and talk to potential customers before we have a fully baked solution. Nobody wants to hear their baby is ugly. Yet overcoming this trepidation is a critical step towards building a product people want.
In order to find a customer base, we must fall in love with a problem. We need to focus on needs, pain points and jobs to be done by customers in order to give ourselves the best chance at creating a viable solution. There are ways businesses can quickly and systematically accomplish this goal.
Enter customer discovery
One of the best ways to do so is through a process called customer discovery. Customer discovery is one of the key steps in the customer development methodology, and a vital system to deploy for any business seeking to find product-market fit and growth. Customer development is a method created by Steve Blank in his book, The Four Steps to the Epiphany to discover and build businesses around customer problems.
Through customer discovery, we can get a very early indication on whether the idea we want to work on actually solves a problem for customers that they will pay to have solved. Customer discovery is where we “get out of the building” to engage with customers directly. Using exercises such as interviews and experimentation, we work to extract data and themes that provide us with the information we need to understand the problems customers are trying to solve. By taking a systematic approach to testing ideas with customers and identifying problems we can apply rigor to our product development and ultimately customer acquisition model.
Understanding why this is critical
When I used to develop energy efficiency programs for utilities, we wouldn’t take this approach and it cost us dearly in terms of resources, but more importantly in regards to our client and customer experience. When developing incentive programs, rather than trying to learn what type of energy efficiency devices (i.e., Nest thermostat controls, LED lighting, efficient heat pump water heaters) customers needed, we would rely on the ‘expertise’ of the most experienced executives. The result was that we weren’t able to optimize the build-out of these programs and instead tried to offer everything to anyone. The result was increased customer complaints and escalations, an unhappy utility client, and missed energy-saving goals. Had we focused on customer discovery at the outset, we would have been able to design a program that was more relevant to the customer base we were serving.
The Sprint Preview gives you an idea of the upcoming work, should you decide to join this sprint with us.
The discovery sprint is designed to help:
Identify a new customer market for your product or service
Validate or invalidate a current customer base you have been exploring
Implement a system of customer discovery within your business
By joining this sprint you are signing up for the following:
Spending 30 per day reaching out to potential customers
Doing up to seven 30-minute customer interviews
Joining a 1-hour training
Joining a 1-hour group coaching call
Customer Discovery Sprint for Beginners Trying to Find a Market Need Part One: Scheduling Discovery Interviews
Day 1: Identify a General Need (Consider your idea, vision for the business and the general problem you think exists to be solved)
Answer the following questions:
What market segment has this problem?
Who in that segment is most familiar with the problem?
What is the main pain we think this problem causes?
How do we think customers solve this problem currently?
Day 2: Design Outreach Campaign to Schedule Customer Discovery Interviews
Create a basic Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) for managing campaign:
Decide on a strategy for finding customers (i.e., LinkedIn, Hunter.io open databases, etc.)
Develop an email template for initial outreach. Here is a handy one that’s worked for us in the past:
Hello <THEIR NAME>,
<Insert interesting factoid about them here>
I am looking into launching a project to help [TARGET AUDIENCE] solve [PAIN POINT].
I’m not looking to sell anything, but since you have so much expertise in this area, I’d love to get your input to make sure we don’t build the wrong thing.
Can I schedule a quick call with you next week? [Insert Options] perhaps?
Let me know, thank you.
Day 3-8: Execute on Campaign
Set Daily Outreach campaign (depending on the segment, 30-50 emails per day is a realistic goal)
Send emails and subsequent follow-ups every third day until calls are scheduled or your request is declined, document results in CRM
Customer Discovery Sprint for Beginners Trying to Find a Market Need Part Two: Running Discovery Interviews
In part one of our customer discovery series, we shared how to go about setting customer discovery interviews in a new market. But what do you do when you get those interviews in the books? How should you frame interviews such that you maximize insights and ensure a positive experience for the interviewee. In this post, we discuss the second half of the customer discovery sprint: running discovery interviews.
Day 6-13: Run Discovery Interviews
Running a good customer interview is about finding the right balance between rigidity and nimbleness as you navigate the conversation. We want to ensure we are getting our key questions answered, but we want to be able to adapt to the flow of the conversation such that we are able to create an environment where the customer tells us things we may not have anticipated. For these reasons, it’s smart to have a discussion guide to help you manage the conversation. The guide should be clear about your learning goal, who you are talking to, and contain as few questions as possible to execute on your learning goal. Try this template to manage your conversation.
Day 14: Synthesize Themes and Learnings
At the conclusion of your customer discovery campaign, it is vital to review your learnings from the interviews. Your goal is to determine if you have enough indication to validate a next step, or if you need to run more interviews to find the requisite trends.
A great way to synthesize these learnings is through affinity mapping, which we use to try to identify themes.