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Tagged vision

Browsing all posts tagged with vision

Customer Development Biases

I haven't weighed in on Customer Development thoughts for several hours, so it's about time. Interesting series of tweets in the last several days got me thinking about the biases we bring to Lean Startup Customer Development practices. Unfortunately, but perhaps inevitable, the biases often result in finger pointing and not a little bit of self-congratulation. To an objective user, however, such instances seem to be rather obvious forest-tree issues, rather than the profound insights they hope to be.

Here's a handy graphic illustrating source and bias:

Customer Development Bias graphic

If one looks closely, one can perhaps discern my bias. ; )

Let's go through these.

1. Those with marketing backgrounds are comfortable speaking with customers in a manner determined by their specific role.  Product Managers talk about road map, collect feature requests and bounce ideas off customers, often in group settings (focus groups, advisory boards, etc.).  Product Marketers communicate features and benefits and elicit feedback, often through surveys.  Corporate marketers practice "branding" and spin.  Feedback goes to info@ email boxes, twitter tweets, and Facebook 'Likes' (or not).

2. UX Designers are quick to tell you they invented Customer Development only called it something different.  And frankly, they're right to a degree.  When it comes to product design.  Or parts of product design.  Anyway, UX Designers are good at observing user behavior and interacting with them in a particular (not peculiar) way to determine if the product is "working."  This is instrumental to today's products.  (Not always the case, as I'll argue in another post.)

3. Engineers, in their lifetime quest to never have to actually speak to a live animal of the "Customer" species, utilizes analytics tools and product instrumentation to produce reams of data on user behavior, i.e., actual user interaction with the product.  Instrumentation is instrumental, too.

4. Penultimately and leastly, are the investors, branders, Madison-Ave marketers, turn-key salespeople, high-tech gadflies and backseat pundits who declare that Vision is the only thing that matters.  All you have to do is be like Apple and Ikea, get it?  Do I have to spell it out for you?  All you have to do is be just like A-P-P-L-E.  There now, go to it.

5. Finally, what is the Customer Development bias?  Customer Development needs all the practices above, but none of them help you understand the problem, the pain, the passion. That's the final leg or better yet, the first leg of Customer Development.  Empathy.  Whatever walk for mankind you need to do to walk a mile in your customers' shoes; whatever interview technique, lunch buying, drink toting, teatotaling, karaoke yodeling you must participate in to gain an understanding such that you feel empathy.

Now, then, can't we all just get along?

Please excuse the hyperbole and generalities and the tongue-in-cheek.  Recuse yourself as you see fit.  Feel free to post vitriol in comments. : )

Treat Your Customers Like Children (or your Children like Customers)

One of the more intriguing dynamics in startups and business in general, is customer communication. Customer Development is, of course, all about talking with customers to test fundamental business hypotheses, match product solution to customer problem, and in general, learn as much about them as possible in order more efficiently and effectively market and sell to them.

The tension comes from learning when to ignore your customers and when to take heed. Custdevguy reminds us that customers have their own agenda, which might not coincide with your own. Steve Blank reminds us that Customer Development is not just collecting web metrics and it's not about focus groups. I've written before that Customers own the pain, Founders own the vision, meaning that as an entrepreneur, you must tailor your vision to solve the customer's pain. That is the objective of speaking with your customers.

Sean Ellis perhaps says it best, describing the process as "honing in" on the "signal" that is the core value proposition of your product to your customer. What's valuable about this description to me, is that rather than looking at what you need to ask each customer, it provides a high-level perspective on what your objective should be and how to get there.  It's talking to enough customer and asking whatever questions necessary to hone in on the core value of the product.

Continue reading “Treat Your Customers Like Children (or your Children like Customers)” »

Who owns the vision?

I love the work Eric Ries is doing with Lean Startup.  (IMO, coupled with an investment model where funds are predicated on implementation of lean startup principles and achieving specific customer development milestones #leanstartup could revolutionize the start-up and investment landscapes.)

Words are powerful and and the intent of catchy phrases can be lost when removed from their original context.  I brought this up before a few weeks back, when the "Fail Fast" meme was cruising through Twitter and among some cheerleaders, it seems, failing itself had become the best means to success, as if it were the end objective, as if tripping your way to finish line will ensure you are the winner.

So it goes, IMO, with this quote about the customer's vision:

Early customers are often more visionary than the startup they work with for that product.

I'm not so sure.  Continue reading “Who owns the vision?” »

Mumford's Law and Vision vs. Customer

Lewis Mumford (1895-1990) was an American Architecture and Literary critic, as well as Sociologist and Philosopher.  I often attribute a particular quote to Mumford, though I can't seem to locate the source.  When asked where to put a sidewalk, Mumford responds:

See where the people walk and then pave their path.

How many times have you seen two sidewalks intersecting at 90 degree angles, with worn grass cutting the corners?

There's a fine line between executing on your vision and listening to your customers.  Consider Mumford's quote, thinking of the sidewalk as the "vision" and the path as "customer needs."

Continue reading “Mumford's Law and Vision vs. Customer” »

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