On Customer Development

I was recently asked about Customer Development as a process. I looked it up to see what the formal definition is, and concluded that I don’t know too much about the official “Customer Development” process, but I understand and practice the general principles of Customer Development in my own business.

Here my reply:

Do you know how to do customer development?

Not in a formal way. But I have two strategies I use for finding & acquiring customers.

  1. In areas I have expertise (such as software testing & delivery) I’ve built a strong network and reputation by publishing articles & tutorials and offering training videos and meetups.). This works great.
  2. In areas where I am not an expert where I have built products on a larger scale, I have relied on intuition and research to discover needs. I then build a customer base as I develop the product through social media and direct contact “growth hacking” with a freemium model.

With Resumelink, for example, I contacted individuals I thought would benefit, and offered the service before it was build — and manually did the steps before having a product, and got feedback on features. I initially built it for myself, but with some keyword search I realized the market had a hole.

So I think it takes an initial spark of inspiration to identify a need, with research to see if there is a market niche that can be filled and determine it’s profitability, followed up with a proof of concept that is more manual process that a product, and then targeting your perfect customer to identify ways to refine and improve the product — developing it by small feature increments as the needs become apparent (and keeping other ideas on the backlog), and then growth hacking through social media, content delivery, and community outreach.

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