Ash Maurya‘s new blog documents his journey through customer development. This is the most by-the-book application of customer development that I have ever seen. I am following this blog very closely; it’s thoughtful and well written. Some highlights:

Is AdWords the right MVP for your product?

“For Timothy Ferris, his MVP for testing new products that don’t yet exist (micro-testing) comprises of a landing page, signup page, and Google Adwords to drive traffic. However, this approach presupposes that:

  1. You can create a good landing page
  2. You can write good adwords copy
  3. Adwords is a viable distribution channel for your product

“Unlike a book title or some other other physical product, startups are usually characterized by products where the problem and solution are unknown and have not yet been validated which makes writing good landing page copy hard, and good Adwords copy even harder (you only get 25 characters for your headline!). At best, you can guess. But starting with that approach is a surefire way of dumping a lot of money on Google Ads fast. Plus the return on learning is low – When your click-through-rate is low, or the bounce rate high, you get zero visibility into why. Was it poor copy, poor product/market fit, or both? And don’t even get me started on how expensive CPCs have gotten in competitive markets.”

Have you ever stated or revised your problem hypotheses?

“Our top 3 [problem hypotheses] were:

  1. Sharing lots of photos and videos is a hassle
  2. A lot of services downsize the images so the quality is poor
  3. Notifying family and friends of updates was manual and a chore…

“During the interview, we were particularly interested in learning what their sharing workflow was like. We set up the stage and let them tell us everything they did with their photos/videos taking them from camera to shared, what they wished they could change, and the magical pricing questions: Would they use a solution like the one we were envisioning if it were free? Would they use it if it were $X/yr? X changed from customer to customer but we kept it as real as we could.

“We talked to enough people until their answers started sounding the same. At that point we had a pretty good idea of what our product’s unique value proposition should be, a list of other benefits, and a price to put on our signup page.

“Our revised top 3 problems were:

  1. Sharing lots of photos and videos is a hassle (stayed the same)
  2. Requiring visitors to signup is annoying
  3. Photo gallery design was too busy or complicated”

Have you ever collected feedback from your customers with, like, your ears?

“By now we had also heard of the merits in listening to your users and decided to follow a release early/release often model. The only problem was we didn’t know how to listen. In the interest of efficiency and productivity, I generally avoided face to face meetings and phone calls and preferred email. Many people were struggling with the software (desktop apps are hard) but we didn’t know how to engage them. After they’d cancel their account, we would send them an email to learn why but many times it was too late.

“We were getting a lot of feedback over email but didn’t know the best way to qualify them. If more than one person asked for a feature and it sounded like a good idea, we built it. The reverse was also true, if the feature didn’t meet our model of “the vision”, we ignored it no matter how many people asked for it. And that’s how we kept busy for a while till I realized we still had a lot of leaky buckets despite all the listening we were doing.

“Determined to get to the bottom of this, I got an 800 number which I put on our website and also started calling on users directly. The findings were staggering. Most of our paying users were using a very small percentage of the application. We had built up a lot of bloated features or waste which had only taken time to build but also continued to create ongoing work with regression testing, feature dependencies, etc.

Thanks to Eric Ries for the link.

Topics Customer Development · Resources

One Comment · Show

  • Healy Jones

    I very much agree with the actually talking to your customers point. We’ve learned a ton interacting with customers over the phone, and have also prevented a number of them from churning by providing customer support that helped them get the product to do what they needed.