Comment Neopost innove grâce au Lean Startup

Depuis plusieurs années, l’envoi de courrier baisse. Malgré cette baisse, l’un des principaux équipementiers du secteur, Neopost (1,1 milliard de CA en 2014) continue de croître. En effet, l’entreprise a su compléter ses offres courrier par des offres autour de la communication digitale et de l’envoi de colis. Pour créer de nouvelles offres, Neopost organise entre autres un Challenge Innovation qui incite les employés à présenter de nouvelles idées de services. Cette année les participants ont été accompagnés par des experts Lean Startup.

Les 12 projets, coachés par les experts Lean Startup ont en premier décomposé leur idées en hypothèses et puis par des itérations ultra-courtes ont cherché à vérifier chacune de ces hypothèses.

Ils ont interrogé les clients pour comprendre leurs réels besoins, testé et dé-risqué leur proposition de valeur et construit leur MVP. Ces retours leur ont permis de tirer des apprentissages concrets pour faire évoluer leur idée.

Un des projets proposés visait à modifier un dérouleur de ruban adhésif pour poser simplement une poignée sur un colis. Cas typique de l’invention qui cherche son public. Le porteur du projet ayant pris conscience de l’importance de comprendre le besoin du client a vérifié sur le terrain si son idée présentait un intérêt concret pour les commerçants. C’est en interrogeant les cavistes qu’il a réalisé leur besoin de faciliter le transport des caisses pour leur clients.

Neopost-Lean-Startup

Suite a cet accompagnement, les équipes ont présenté leurs résultats au Comité de Direction, puis à l’ensemble du personnel. Par rapport aux années précédentes la différence était marquante, avec notamment :

  • des projets plus matures, plus complets et plus cohérents
  • des business cases plus solides, grâce à une validation poussée des hypothèses.

Ces améliorations a permis un engagement plus grand du management ce qui a eu un impact direct sur la mise en œuvre de certains projets. Parmi eux, un « carnet de santé numérique » qui permet de mieux planifier les interventions et mises à jour des machines sur le terrain. Cet outil s’appuie sur une infrastructure big data récemment mise en place chez Neopost. Le fameux dérouleur de poignée, quand a lui est en phase d’industrialisation. Il a été présenté au concours Lépine 2015 où il a remporté une médaille d’argent.

Laurent Farlotti, Directeur Innovation et Brevets, a observé : “Les projets sont plus matures, avec plus d’éléments business. Les participants étaient très motivées et il y a eu une très bonne réaction du management. Sans Lean Startup, ces projets seraient restés au stade de l’idée et n’auraient probablement jamais eu de suite.”

Le Lean Startup a été introduit en 2013 à Neopost par Philippe Boulanger, CTO du groupe. 80 employés ont été formés à la méthode à ce jour.

How to use surveys to learn from your customers

Too often I have seen entrepreneur trying to understand their customer need by sending them … a survey.

“Please rank those feature in order of preference”

Because surveys capture what people say – which is different from how they behave – they don’t provide insightful data.
Worst, they provides data that too is easily misinterpreted and lead wrong insights…
The most useless survey question I have ever seen:

How much will you pay for a service that does such and such…

Whatever the answer, make sure you ignore it.

no_more_surveys
I have seen 2 rare occasions of useful surveys:

  1. to (scientifically) pick the best domain name
  2. to measure the customer pain. An entrepreneur sent a very long and boring survey his potential early adopters. When the results came back, he did not look at the actual answers but at how many people actually finished the survey. A direct measure of how much trouble they are will go through to get a closer to the solution to their problem. A measure of their pain. He then identifies the most eager early adopters.

Both of those examples are about validation, not discovery.

What do you think ? Do you have other examples of survey that worked ?

Problem Interview Guide for Lean Startup Experience

A hard part of customer development doing problem interview. It’s hard because interviewing strangers is not natural and its also actually hard to do the interview right.

The good news is that practice do make perfect, get it wrong a couple of times and you quickly understand what to correct and what to keep. If you want some simple exercices to improve your problem interview skills tweet this:
What exercice can I do to get better at problem interviews? @fdebane @adamberk

In the meantime, here the problem interview guide we use:
Download the problem interview guide

It’s to print and take as a memo for interviews.
Here is a guide to print and take as a memo for interviews.
You should not read the guide while doing the interview, but can refer to it inbetween interviews.

If you have to remember just 3 rules for problem interviews here they are:

  1. Do not talk about your business idea or product
  2. Ask about past events and behaviours
  3. No leading question, learn from the customer

Download the full problem interview guide

To capture the output of the interview, you can use the problem interview template.

Problem interview template

Problem interview template

Nov-14 2014: Added entry to classify customer into early adopter or not using @Justin_Wilcox definition: someone who is actively trying to solve the problem

Talking to your customers is the starting point to understand their needs. It’s easy to do, but difficult to do well.

On each interview I try want to understand:

  1. pain level of the problem to the eye of the customer. Is this a problem worth solving for them?
  2. the frequency of the problem. How often does it happen?
  3. discover alternative solution the customer have used. How are they solving it today?
  4. understand how they have been looking for those solutions. This provide insights on their journey and is valuable to understand you marketing channels
  5. discover other potential problems related. This allow you to identify other opportunities

I don’t like using a script for interview, it breaks the natural flow of the conversation. But I found having a template to take note helps structure the feedback directly and make sure I am not missing any of the above.

Download the Problem Interview template

If you are doing problem interview with your potential customer, please try it and let me know what you think.

Put this Hammer Down – Why do Customer Discovery ?

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“When you have a hammer everything looks like a nail” -Bernard Baruch

Here, the hammer is your solution and the nails are your customers. I am sure you have already found lots of nails for your hammer. But please take a closer look at those nails. They are screws.

Put the hammer down and look at that poor screw. If it’s actually a nail, take the hammer back and take a swing, but if it’s a screw, you will need something else.

Many entrepreneurs start by building the solution they have imagined (a hammer) and then come up with a list of potential customers that could be interested (screws that look like nails) and hit them with their solution.

And the screw says ouch. The entrepreneur don’t hear the screw and hit harder, ouch, and then try to hit another screw. But the end of the day, the entrepreneur is exhausted that the nothing has being build.

The entrepreneur should really look at the screw, understand what type of screw it is, how the head is, the thread, the length, the alloy. And then think about the tool he can use for the job.

So put the hammer down and take a close look at that screw and decide what the solution should be. Don’t hit the screw on the head.

That’s called Customer Discovery. Remember, no hammer allowed.

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.