How Do You Know What Your Customers Want?

Hint, hint...

I’ve almost finished reading The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. Great book. And apparently it’s all the rage in Silicon Valley.

The book is invaluable for anyone creating (& hoping to sell) products or services in conditions of extreme uncertainty.

In the current economic conditions that’s quite a lot of us, don’t you think?

The key question is this:

How do you know what your customers want?

What the book claims is that most startups and businesses in general make the mistake of assuming what their customers want. They then waste a huge amount of time & effort creating the wrong thing. The rest as they say is history.

‘Get out of the building’ and ask them!

Why not just ask your customers what they want? Get out of the building and ask them what their problems (or desires) are. Do this before wasting your time, energy & money creating what you think they want.

Once you’ve validated an idea then go and build what the book calls a Minimum Viable Product (MVP.) This is a skeleton product that is designed to get more feedback from customers. You might also do what the book calls Wizard of Oz testing where anything complex is done manually behind-the-scenes. This is exactly what Groupon did: and later became the fastest fastest growing company in history. Dropbox also started this way.

Of course how do you this depends on what sort of product (or service) you’re offering. It could be online or offline, physical or digital. The important thing is to ask, experiment, poll, test, and learn. Don’t guess. Don’t assume. Learn what your customers really want and, what you can offer them.

Build, Measure & Learn

The key is to only ever create just enough to let you learn from your customers. You’ll then either have validated an assumption which you can then build on with the next experiment, or you try something else. The idea is to home in on what’s of most value to the customer as quickly as possible. It’s what the book calls the Build > Measure > Learn cycle.

Measuring and learning from customer feedback is not just for startups but for any business that wants to introduce new products or features or to simply to confirm that it’s still on the right track.

How is Muse Stories learning?

Here are some of the things that Muse Stories is doing to learn from its readers (and potential customers):

  • Asking open questions at the end of each article
  • Inviting readers to comment on articles
  • Sharing and interacting with ‘friends’ on Twitter, Google+ & Facebook
  • Encouraging readers to converse with each other – in the comments & on Google+ etc
  • Asking for feedback on the exclusive content in the Weekly Email Newsletter
  • ‘Getting out of the building’ and talking with people who might be interested
  • Asking for feedback on interviews with people we think readers will be interested in

A new experiment…

Last week I started something new. It’s a way for readers to reply to questions with a simple YES, NO or DON’T CARE response. Anyone can ask any question. And, anyone can reply to any question. You’ll find them at the bottom of each article including this one – though they could be anywhere on the site.

These YES/NO questions are not a substitute for comments but a new option for you to engage with me and with other readers. It’s also anonymous and so just might appeal to some who’d prefer to stay that way. [Urtak, a US startup, is the company behind this & they have also have a WordPress Plugin]

The idea is that these YES/NO questions will give Muse Stories another way to better understand what it’s readers really want. Feel free to try it out and let me know what you think…there are lots of ways of doing that!

How are you learning from your customers?

How well do you think you’re doing this?

How are you doing it?

What’s working and what isn’t?

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