Week Five Reflection: Customer Validation
In Chapter 4 of Steven Blanks’, The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win, Blank continues to guide his audience on how they can effectively progress through the various stages associated with maintaining a startup. At the beginning of the chapter, he calmly quotes Nietzsche saying, “Along the journey we commonly forget its goal,” before repitiously throwing a massive amount of info directly at his audience. Blank maintains that customer validation has 4 phases which prepare the founder to navigate through the murky philosophies dealing with what market the startup is entering (existing, new, or re-segmented), and how these differences will direct and define the path the distribution channel will need to follow to successfully sell the product. Once you understand how the consumers for your products behave (how they spend their time and money) and how you must be innovative to stay ahead of competitors and trends, Blank argues that you can initiate activities to sell to your first “real” customers. Here, Blank affirms that the customer validation process is meant to help the startup gather indispensable intelligence about their consumers so that they can assemble a cohesive plan of action that will allow the entity to progress productively.
At this step, Blank also encourages startups to articulate a value proposition which will clearly express why your product is worth buying. “The value proposition builds the bond between you and your customer, focuses marketing programs, and becomes the focal point for building the company…Transformational value propositions deal with how the solution will create a new level of class of activity—i.e. something people could never do before.”
Once this is actuated, Blank wants founders to direct their attention to their distribution channels and understand how this “food chain” of wholesalers, distributors and retailers will work to support the enterprise. “One of the mistakes startups often make is assuming that their channel partners invest in creating customer demand.” Understanding these principles will be key to the longevity of the startup and to the overall achievements of the venture. Additionally, amassing individuals for their expertise on advisory boards is commendable at this stage and can only serve to facilitate the founder in getting things “right” the first time. As always, Blank urges his readers to continually iterate their ideas, return to the stage of the plan that did not yield the results that were predicted, and provide a solution for the issue. If it can’t be repaired, by all means exit!!! If it can or doesn’t need to be resolved at all, you are ready to proceed to the last phase of the plan, also known as Customer Creation.
Blank, S. G. (2006). Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win (3rd ed.). Cafepress.com.