What I Learned this Week: Be Prepared, Just in Case You Succeed

Author: tracysigler | Posted: November 10th, 2012 | | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

What I Learned this Week: Be Prepared, Just in Case You Succeed(Photo by robswatski)

Prepare for success. I do not mean: prepare so you can be successful, but be prepared for when you do succeed. It’s been known to happen.

I think it pays to think at least one step ahead. Ask yourself, if this thing actually works what’s my next move so I can make the most of the momentum? I’m not suggesting you hire extra customer service reps just in case your next product launch blows the roof off. But what if it does? Do you know what to do next?

We recently did a small product launch and sales were decent from go. But they kept getting better. I wanted to monitor it and then decide what to do next. If I had planned to deal with success we would have had product bundling ready, maybe some “upsells” to more expensive products, etc. The work to have this stuff ready was pretty minor and if it had been in the work queue already we could have increased the average dollars per transaction, guaranteed. So that’s some easy money we left on the table while we tried to catch up to our initial launch success.

“Iterating” with “minimum viable products” is smart and it certainly mitigates risk, but a little extra planning doesn’t take much effort or money. With a plan for next steps, you’re ready to pounce when things go right.

P.S. I also believe thinking this way also improves your awareness of new opportunities.

Customer Development and Getting Punched in the Face

Author: tracysigler | Posted: February 24th, 2011 | | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Yesterday Kevin and I “got out of the building” and conducted our first “customer development” interview with someone we know, who has a business in a market we are targeting as part of our growth strategy.

My short, simplistic explanation of Customer Development is “asking prospective customers what they really want and then giving it to them, initially in the simplest version of the product worth doing.”

Much of our education on the topic came from two great ebooks:

The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development
A “cheat sheet” to The Four Steps to the Epiphany

By Brant Cooper & Patrick Vlaskovits
Foreword by Steven Gary Blank

Running Lean
A systematic process for iterating your web application from Plan A to a plan that works
By Ash Maurya

Cooper and Vlaskovits explain it this way:

Customer Development is a four-step framework to discover and validate that you have identified the market for your product, built the right product features that solve customers’ needs, tested the correct methods for acquiring and converting customers, and deployed the right resources to scale the business.

We are doing this because we’re trying to develop a product that is genuinely innovative in meeting our customers’ needs. Up to this point we’ve put a lot of thought into customer development, created our hypotheses to test, made a list of friendly contacts to interview first, and carefully composed our script for the meetings.

From our very first interview we learned that we may not even be asking the right questions. Moreover, prospective customers may not care at all about what we are already working hard to deliver. For example, in-depth reporting and analysis may put them to sleep and the metrics they care about may be much simpler to monitor.

Our hypothesis contained what we believed were the three major pain points our “minimum viable product” would attempt to alleviate. But this interviewee considered one of them irrelevant. Oof! I mean, great! Now we won’t waste time on that. If we get similar responses over the next several interviews we will “pivot,” to use a term from the “lean startup” movement, and point our next Minimum Viable Product in a different direction.

Like Mike Tyson said: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Our first interview was a haymaker that connected. But if we hadn’t put together a testable hypothesis in the first place, and got in the ring we wouldn’t have learned anything. Scarred but smarter.

The authors of The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development say that if you learn only one thing from their book it should be: “Question your assumptions.” We are definitely doing that, and I can’t wait to get more input from other prospective customers.

We’ll be posting more about customer development, our experiences with it, and related topics like “Blue Ocean Strategy” in the near future.