Week Four Reflection: Customer Discovery

 

Although the read is still unvaried and can get dull fast, it is full of gems that shine brightly through the rubble of details. In Chapter 3 of Blank’s, The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win, he is explaining to his audience that the business models that were once widely acceptable and used across various industries are no longer applicable today! Blank ascertains that, “the general goal of customer discovery amounts to turning the founders’ initial hypothesis about their market and customers into facts.” Here, Blank wants the individual to work on getting the product out to early visionaries known as “earlyvangelists,” so that they can get the word out about the new “it” product to those they influence. He explains that at this point, the product should have minimal specs that address the customer’s concerns/issues and should not be crafted to satisfy a mainstream consumer.

In addition, Blank affirms that everyone who is collaborating on the project should be knowledgeable about differentiating between customer development and product development processes so that all associated have a clear understanding of the milestones that should be met at each stage (board members and investors are not always privy to what is transpiring in the company since they are oftentimes not directly observing the actions of the employees). Moreover, Blank encourages founders to create both a mission statement and core values statement of the founding team to reinforce fundamental beliefs and clarify why exactly the company is in operation when the vision is stymied.

Blank goes on to encourage entrepreneurs to maintain a dependency analysis so that they will have an idea of what needs to happen in order for their venture to be a success. “For each factor, the dependency analysis specifies what needs to happen, when it needs to happen, and what it means for the business if it does not occur as expected.”

Lastly, Blank urges individuals to build a reference story that will highlight key components of the product or service they are trying to sell. The story should entail how exactly your product features will be a beneficial solution for the customer. Blank says that after you have established this protocol you can then get out and talk to customers who are experiencing this need and are actively pursuing a resolution. He acknowledges that now that you have found a solution (your product) to a “real problem” (the market) you can begin to delve further into the needs of future consumers by asking, “if you could wave a magic wand and change anything in what you do, what would it be?” Blank maintains that this is an IPO question that, when asked (and subsequently answered successfully), it is almost sure to yield exciting results such as your company going public and you being ridiculously lucrative.

References
Blank, S. G. (2006). Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win (3rd ed.). Cafepress.com.

 Week Three Reflection: The Customer Development Model

 

In Chapter 2 of Blank’s, The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win, the tone is much the same…and the struggle remains real to stay alert for Blank’s tips! While the information is certainly useful, it is delivered with no enthusiasm and leaves the reader wearied at times. However, Blank does a tremendous job of adding in fascinating narratives about startups who ultimately failed because in some way, shape, or form, they did not follow the advice (whether they were knowledgeable or not) presented in this book.
Upon delving into another chapter, I am always reminded of Jay-Z’s lyrics from the song, “Guns and Roses.” Jay-Z, Hove, Hova, Sean Carter, or whatever you want to call him clearly states, “You can get a return on investment if you just pay attention!” Seriously, did you get that play on words? Well, that’s exactly what Blank does in each chapter…if and only if the reader can stay woke to comprehend his command, he/she will be enlightened as to how to begin the customer development process and any other business process known to man!

Once individuals have identified their profitable problem to be “real,” the goal of customer discovery is finding out who the customers for your products are and whether the problem you are solving is important to them. Blank asserts that many startups fail because they simply burn through their cash with staff that should not have been hired. Early in the game, he asserts that a minimal number of employees are necessary and that will allow the company to conserve their capital.

Most importantly, Blank maintains that customer discovery entails getting outside the building to learn and discover your users and customers, learn what customers problems are and what it is about your product that solves their problems. Furthermore, the objective of this stage is to build a repeatable sales road map for the sales and marketing team to follow later down the road when it does become necessitous to make those changes.
Blank upholds that product development and customer development are parallel processes. “While the customer development group is engaged in customer-centric activities outside the building, the product development group is focused on product-centric activities that are taking place internally.”

References
Blank, S. G. (2006). Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win (3rd ed.). Cafepress.com.