Note: This article is part of a four-phase process designed to help entrepreneurs develop their value proposition. This article describes the third phase in the process which is based on the method of “customer discovery” in Steven G. Blank’s book, The Four Steps to the Epiphany. The other three phases are discussed in the following articles:

For more information, see The Customer Development Model (CDM), product development and technology startups.

Test your product concept

Testing your product concept

Testing and qualifying your product concept is something you do once you have reached a solid understanding of your customer’s problem, their business, and the space in which they operate. At this point, you can apply these insights to your product hypotheses to understand to what extent your plans for a product solution are headed in the right direction.

This phase of the customer discovery process involves taking the feedback you’ve gathered and sharing it with your product development team. Together, you will need to consider the implications for your customer, your problem statement, your product hypothesis and your product specifications.

Different customer or different market?

If your initial idea seems a poor fit for the customers you have identified, a difficult decision must be made.

  • Is your product concept close enough so that minor changes will make it a great fit for this market?

OR

  • Are the required changes so fundamental that you would prefer to search for a different market?

If your product is a partial fit for the customers’ problems, the answer might be to reconsider certain product features.

Once you’ve made this decision, you will need to create a new product presentation that reflects your changes. The new presentation will enable you to ask your customers to review and validate the customer problem you are solving and to test your new product specifications.

This product presentation should be customer-oriented: it must present the problem and your solutions from the perspective of the customer.

Any feedback you receive following this presentation must again be shared with your product development team. This way, you ensure that you update your product development plans, and that customer and product development are conducted with the same goals in mind.

After this phase in the discovery process, you will have obtained enough information to put together the following briefs:

Once you have these three documents created, you will be ready to move to the last phase of the customer discovery process, Value proposition and Blank’s customer discovery method―Phase 4: Evaluate customer feedback and set next steps.

Minimum viable product

At this point of the customer discovery process, you also need to consider your minimum viable product (MVP). Your MVP is the minimum product for which you believe you can start charging, with the least amount of invested development.

The “minimum viable” idea is key for early-stage businesses as timing as well as time spent are essential elements to a startup’s success. And entrepreneurs should not invest in developing product features without knowing that someone is willing to pay for them.


Researching a market? Our free online course Introduction to Market Sizing offers a practical 30-minute primer on market research and calculating market size.


References

Blank, S.G. (2005). The Four Steps to the Epiphany. Self-published: Cafepress.com.
Maurya, A. (2011). Running Lean. Self-published.
Ries, E. (2011). Lean Startup. New York: Crown Business.
Vlaskovits, P. and Cooper, B. (2010, July 29). The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development: A cheat sheet to The Four Steps to the Epiphany. Self-published.