Saturday, September 21, 2013

How Customer Development can help identify your market cheaply

If feedback was human, he would be my best friend. - purely me.

I would share 2 instances about how customer development can be very helpful.
The first instance was about 3 years ago, I had not heard about the term “Customer Development”.
I was engaging the driver of a yellow taxi cab for the purpose of getting feedback for the idea I had coined “clickacab” as a name for - A taxi booking service that would connect cab drivers with passengers.

There were 2 categories of cab services. The Yellow ones which are privately owned, and the taxi agency owned ones, which were new at that time and more expensive -Red Cab and co.

It was presumptuous to say every cabbie, irrespective of whether they owned the cab or not was going to be a customer, but this wasn't the case. I was biased towards the taxi agencies, the springing up of the new business inspired this idea and it was only right for the service to revolve around them.
I saw them as the main customer.

I was wrong.

The cab agencies did not need help finding customers, there was a system in place already, and besides, the bureaucracy that existed within would not support the model. The time spent crafting the solution around the agency guys was going to be a waste.

Traveling from a Mobile Monday meetup, I and a friend decided to "customer develop" the cabbie, that owned a yellow cab we had boarded. We all spoke for the entire length of the journey, and the feedback was useful. The cabbie welcomed the idea and was willing to pay a fees to have a customer come through the service when asked. That's something the cabbie of a cab agency would likely not want to commit to, because he lacks the flexibility.

The second instance was for validating customer loyalty solution for small stores. Again my presumption was that every small store would need this. This time I had learnt about the lean startup and customer development, so I consciously set out to do custdev before any sort of execution.

It was rewarding.

"Every small store" did not fit my true customer segment. In the custdev session I had with a store owner, she saw the value within, but she simply did not see the need for her subscribing to such service. I observed the environment and discovered she was alone, she had no competitors. This meant everyone would patronize her anyway.

Automatic loyalty it was for her. I told myself - "This woman isn't my customer"

Thanked her and went away happy.

Learn-able Lessons: It is not enough for your customer to fit the "Customer Segment" - e.g Women getting married soon". They may meet some of the criteria of that segment, but those are not enough. The truest qualifier of a customer is the feedback/behavior of the customer when they understand the value you are proposing.

You don't really know your target market until you ask/interact with/customer develop them.

Launching a solution to your "target market" without really knowing them through cust dev, is like serving meat to room filled with hungry people. Some of them may be vegetarians and would not eat the meat prepared.

Leading to waste.

Wastage of time, efforts and resources used in preparing meat for them.

This is what lean start-ups and customer development is all about, eliminating the chances for waste, setting out to meeting the right needs and solving the right problems.

Share your thoughts in the comments space below. Thanks for reading.
By the way, it would be interesting to know if veggies default when there are no other options. :)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

6 Lean Start-up Resource persons you should be following as a start-up

 "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." - Isaac Newton

This list is by no means exhaustive and could have more people added to it in the nearest future. If you have no idea of what Lean is all about and how it relates to start-up, I suggest you read this first

  1. Steve Blank

    Popular proponent of customer development, author of 4 Steps to Epiphany, and If you’ve ever heard the term “Get out of the Building” used in a start-up context, yes, that’s Steve Blank. Highly experienced in field of start-ups - having been part of about a dozen or more successful start-ups, he shares his lessons and experience with the start-up world. You should keep tabs on him.
  2. Eric Ries

    Author of The Lean Startup and a major player in the Lean start-up movement. His works on the lean method is what gives entrepreneurs around the world a better chance of being successful in business and management as well as a technology entrepreneur. I probably won't be writing this, without having seen his early works on the lean start-up methods. He is the hero.
  3. Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur

    Key contributors to business model generation, from which they developed the business model canvas. The canvas presents an intuitive way to visually capture the most critical aspect of your start-up - the business model. They also co-authored a book on that subject. Get a preview here.
  4. Ash Maurya

    Ash’s works are simply enlightening. Founder, Spark59 and author of Running Lean  and soon to be released “Customer Factory”. His works also includes the remodelling of the Business model canvas by Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur (above)  into the lean canvas. Signup for one of his email courses and see the light about how your business model is the real product.
  5. kevin dewalt

    Kevin’s latest start-up – So Helpful is a unique one, and I presume the lightbulb moment could be while applying lean principles from his vast experience in the startup field. Indeed a very helpful persona. He would be co-anchoring a webinar with Eric Ries soon, (Mentioned above) on leanstartups and customer development around the world. Highly resourceful.
  6. Stephany Hay

    Lean Content authority.  Are you looking to commence online writing or perhaps you are in the business of blogging or content creation for marketing purposes, Stephany Hay applys lean principles to writing and shares values on how helpful it could be. Fine, you may not be doing so bad in terms of content creation that gets the page-views, but by applying lean concepts to writing, you would see how much more better you could get with less.
There are a lot more people.

Locally, I have stumbled on one person that seems to apply lean concepts to their businesses - Bankole of techcabal. Brilliant.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Let's begin afresh.

The third blog. It's first home.
My first blog on the web which is a technology blog, had 1,2,3 homes before it's present location at .

It's been fun and impactful sharing my technology pieces on the internet, and I hope I can still lay hold on them in say 10-20 years from now. That aside.

Since I mostly talk about a different subject these days - Technology startup Development [still somewhat related to technology, but the business aspect of it ],
I thought it well to create a separate blog. I had this thought in 2012, but here I am posting the very first post today.

Something spurred it.

The need to conquer the word "start-up" - as a friend described it as the most abused word [arguably  ] in the technology space today.

The lessons so far are extremely insightful -  all thanks to the lean start-up fever I caught in Stanford's then, Venture-lab program- which in itself applied lean principles. Today there is Noeved, a product of that lean exploration. You probably have noticed the redirection of the link.

A thankful tweet:
Great lessons so far.

But beyond lean startup - this space, my friends, is where I would share my personal views on crossing the chasm between tech start-ups and tech business. May be doing some vlogs, for some content that may be lengthy in words.

"Theory is the language of the scholar, Pragmatism is the language of the leader." - Peter J Daniels

Only the doers count.

We need less teachers and more examples.

Technology is great. We shouldn't make is look bad by doing it wrongly.

So yeah.. that's it . Cheers to an exciting journey already.