At TheVentury, supporting sttartups is part of our DNA. That’s why we get to work with people launching new products on a daily basis. Even though Customer Development & Lean Startup are not new concepts when it comes to launching a new product, we still see people making the same mistakes over and over again. Let’s have a look at the most common pitfalls, so you can prevent to tap into them:
Mistake #1: Not testing your assumptions
Spending too much time on writing a business plan but not enough on testing the most critical assumptions.
While business plans may nudge you to think about certain extremely crucial things, they can also create the false premise that it is a plan that can simply be executed and lead to success. As Steve Blank, the “father” of Customer Development said: no business plan survives the first contact with customers. He does not argue against business plans per se, but as long as you do not have a proven business model, there is no point in making a 5-year plan.
It is more crucial to find a strategy to test and validate the most critical assumptions that underlie the new business idea. Testing ideas and failing quickly is much better than spending an immense amount of time and resources on a product that nobody wants. That’s why we recommend our customers to go through a customer discovery process, before jumping into the development of the product and way before launching a new product.
Three steps to get started with customer discovery:
- Use the Value Proposition Canvas and the Lean Canvas (or the Business Model Canvas) to put your idea on paper
- Note down & prioritise the underlying assumptions of your idea
- Create a solid plan to validate the assumptions with experiments
Mistake #2: Not talking to (potential) customers
To this day, we see a lot of people brainstorming and designing their product in a silo. This behaviour is based on the premise that we have a clear understanding of what our customers want and need. The reality is: there are no facts inside the building. If you haven’t talked to your customers, you probably don’t really understand their problems to the full extend yet. This is especially true when launching a new product, but even if you want to develop an internal tool, talking to your users will help you gain a much better understanding of their needs.
Many people forget that they can actually talk to customers even if they don’t have a product yet. Using the right techniques, you can learn about their most important problems and start validating your idea. We have yet to find a person who didn’t think it was worth talking to customers after doing so. Sometimes people are amazed by how many valuable insights they are able to get just by having conversations.
Three tips for good customer interviews
- Prepare a guideline of questions before jumping into the interviews
- Don’t pitch your idea, learn about your customers’ lives and problems
- Ask about specific events that happened in their life, instead of opinions
Mistake #3: Overblowing the initial product
The third mistake usually happens after the first steps of validating the idea. After talking to customers, you start sketching out countless features of the product in your head, all of which will make up the perfect solution for their problem. The more time you spend thinking about it, the more ideas you have. Soon enough you have planned out a full-blown product that is ready to be implemented. But you’re missing the fact that it is still not proven that the product will actually take off and your customers will accept it.
Let’s take a step back and take a look at the definition of a minimum viable product (MVP). Eric Ries defines the MVP as “that version of a product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning with the least effort”. Keeping this definition in mind, there are a lot of things you can do to gather insights before jumping into development at all. And even when you are ready to launch an end-to-end MVP, it is important to carefully think about what assumptions you should test first and how to deliver value to your customer.
Three essential tips for scoping your initial product
- Understand your customers well enough to understand which feature will offer the most value to them
- Scope your minimum viable product with the assumptions of your business model in mind and think about what you are trying to learn
- Launch with few features only, start analysing results and only add more features subsequently
To sum it up, avoid making these mistakes!
If you are planning to launch a new product, prepare yourself to not make these most common mistakes. Think about your business model and become aware of the underlying assumptions. Talk to your customers before actually developing the product to start learning early in the process. When you are ready to build a minimum viable product, don’t blow up the scope. Instead, build a product that allows you to validate your value hypothesis as fast as possible and iterate from there.
If you need any support in this phase of your innovation journey, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!