Getting your first customers – simplified customer development

Sometimes startups come to me with this problem: we have created this great service, how can we get our first customers.

Those startups quite often need to put a hold on product development and focus customer development.

What they don’t actually know is:
– are they addressing a real, existing problem or a burning need ?
– does their service or product actually solve the problem – to the eyes of their target customers (or to their wallets should I say).

Answering those questions with genuine insight from real people is what customer development is.

Here is how to do it. It look and sound easy can be very tricky as it’s goes against a lot of expected cultural and social behaviours.

Find 10 potential customers from the target group and understand if the problem you are solving is a big pain or they dont really care.

For each customer understand where they stand:

  1. Did they have the problem ?
  2. Did they know they have the problem ?
  3. Did they look for a solution ?
  4. Did they hack a solution ?
  5. Did they pay for a solution ?

Customer problem categorisation - customer development

Achtung! Don’t ask them those questions. Have a conversation – not an interview – about the problem you are trying to solve and understand how they are solving it today. At the end, categorize them into the buckets above.

Once this is clear, the question is, how do I find those 10 potential customers ?
Be creative, try different methods. Which ever method works best can later become one of you marketing / communication channel. Drop the one that dont work. If you can’t find those first 10 customers, how are going to find 100s of them ?

If your product solves the problem, the people that you identified as paying for a solution (the last bucket) are your potential customers. You can start selling it to them.

Crisis communication (1/4) – examples

As as part of Marketing lectures I am giving to the students about crisis communication, I have gather a set of real life examples that illustrates the best practices to follow. This is the first post a series where I share those examples and best practices.

January 2010, an article in the New York Times advances that H&M destroys its unsold clothes in order to prevent steal and deterioration of the brand image.
Quickly, a link to the article is published to the 1,4 million fans of the H&M Facebook page.
The story is picked and amplified by the Huffington Post.
H&M response: What they did was post a message on Facebook (followed by two similar ones) on the same day and the day after followed by a press release.

One of H&M’s missions is to take responsibilities as regards the way our methods affect people and the environment. Our policy is to give damaged and used clothes to humanitarian organizations. We investigate why our 34th avenue store throw out unsold clothes. The US head office donates every year thousands of clothes through the NGO Gifts in Kid International.


In 2009, two Domino’s Pizza employees published this video.

Domino’s Pizza responded with this video from Patrick Doyle, president of Domino’s USA.

Clear, concerned, impact full…