VIDEO: What do your customers ACTUALLY want?
*** This is THE most important step of all ***
Obvious thing to state but the reason why most ideas either never make a sale or flop is because they do not create products / deliver services that customers want. It's actually surprisingly hard hard to really understand your users because people inherently lie to you when you are trying to get feedback or do research.
Now you’ve got your niche (or test niche), challenge yourself to get to know them inside out.
It’s your job to understand the nuances of what they need, the specifics of their expectations, and the intricacies of their current behaviours. This is where customer development - or user research - comes in, and it’s something you’ll continue with at every stage of your business.
You can use tools like Typeform and User Testing to do one-off surveys and observe real user behaviours. Also consider what information you can capture from new customers when they first sign up to or buy your product. Not forgetting good old fashioned conversation at every opportunity.
Get in the habit of gathering information on the four pillars of customer development:
- Problem Validation: Is there a problem?
- Solution Discovery: What are potential solutions?
- Solution Validation: Is your solution possible?
- Solution Optimisation: How do you improve the solution?
Standing in the way of reliable, actionable user insights are a couple of hefty stumbling blocks. They come in the form of false positives, quietly guiding you to pursue a path that isn’t necessarily right. Here are some golden rules for conducting customer development research, to avoid red herrings and maximise the reliability of your data.
- To get to know your niche, speak directly to your niche.
Your friends and your mum will tell you what you want to hear - and not give you useful data on which to build your product. Consider their inputs to be the fantastic moral support that they are - but not the foundations for developing your business.
- Ask about behaviours, rather than opinions.
Any variation on ‘Do you think it’s a good idea?’ is going to give you a lot of hypothetical opinion, and little in the way of actionable data (it’s also a leading question - to be avoided). Ask instead: ‘What else have you tried? Did it work?’ If your idea’s a good one, they’ll have looked for solutions and found them lacking. If they haven’t tried anything - perhaps your problem isn’t a real one.
- Talk about value, rather than price.
Ask someone what they’ll pay you, and they’re likely to be more generous than they would be when standing at the checkout. Much better to test different pricing structures and analyse the results - and in the first instance, to ask ‘What do you typically spend on solving [X] problem?’ Gauge what your solution is worth to them by thinking in terms of value, rather than pinpointing price.
- The past is much more useful than the future.
‘What would you… [do / buy / pay]’ is a shaky foundation for understanding real behaviour. People are likely to be much more optimistic about the lengths they’ll go to, or their willingness to engage with new products. Get closer to the truth by asking about specific past behaviours: ‘Last time you needed to [X], what did you do?’
- Ask about problems, not solutions.
People are experts on the problems they face and the needs they have - focus on understanding these in depth, rather than asking users to come up with solutions. ‘What would your dream product do?’ is a distraction from understanding ‘What do you find difficult about [X] problem?’ Use these insights and translate them into your product’s solution.
Good questions / Bad questions
Checkout this following cheat sheet of question do’s and don’ts, and keep it next to you when speaking to customers.
Alongside real-time purchase behaviour from your early customers (who’s actually buying your product?), these questions will help you continue to validate your persona focus, to ensure you’re targeting the right people.
And of course, while using the above to understand their relationship to the problem you’re solving and the product you’re building, continue to gather information about who they are. Where do they hang out? What other brands are they fans of? What do they do in their spare time? Continue to populate your Persona Canvas to develop a richer, more detailed picture of your target niche.
(If your target customers tell you that they don’t need a solution, they’d never buy your product, or they’re looking for something you can’t give them - rewind to Step 3 and choose a different niche.)
Understanding your niche is in many ways the most important of all. Get comfortable here - you’ll be revisiting customer development throughout your product launch, and well beyond.