Technology in search of a customer

Listen to Steve Jobs on Customer centricity versus Technology Centricity. A valuable business lesson that companies and employees forget very quickly. We all have solutions in search of problems…

There’s a lot of technology in search of a customer.

You know in other words a lot of companies do things because it’s technically possible. But in the end, nobody cares, nobody wants to buy them.

So we see a lot of that: technology in search of a customer.

I think the hard thing is to figure out what can be done, but also what people really want to do.

What we found is an example in iPods, is that most of our customers don’t care about having a radio built into their iPod. As a matter of fact, the reason they got an iPod is because they don’t want some DJ in radio station determining the music they listen to. They want to determine it themselves, they want to build their own playlists. And so that’s why they buy an iPod. We have a radio feature that you can attach to your iPod now, but most customers don’t buy it because they want their own playlists.

It’s a lot easier to come up with technology that people don’t want than it is to come up with technology that people do want. 

Understanding this might be the reason why Apple keeps beating other companies and growing year after year?

The right path to take – advice from Steve Jobs

In May 1997, Apple held its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California. At that time, Steve Jobs was not CEO of the company. He was speaking as an advisor to the company. In this extract, Steve Jobs answers an challenging and rather agressive question from one the participant. His response elevate the debate and until today remain one of the best advice that businesses could take on product development.

One of the things I’ve always found is that you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology.

You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re going to try to sell it.

I’ve made this mistake probably more than anybody else in this room, and I’ve got the scar tissue to prove it. And I know that it’s the case.

As we have tried to come up with a strategy and a vision for Apple, it started with ”What incredible benefits can we give to the customer? Where can we take the customer?” not starting with, “Let’s sit down with the engineers and figure out what awesome technology we have and then how are we going to market that.”.

And I think that’s the right path to take.

A few months later, when Steve Jobs became new CEO, Apple was on the the verge of bankruptcy. Under his leadership, Steve Job reinvented the company to become one the most successful company in the world.

Innovation grow business.

When doing business, you decide what are the fundamental directions you want to take. Remember to answers this question first: What incredible benefits can we give to the customer?

How the perception of effort increases value

Value is relative

The value that a buyer sees and depends on the frame or perception they have about the product. To increase the perceived value of your product, you can influence and change that frame. One way to change it is to show that the product is the result of effort, energy, care, or complexity. Showing the effort behind the product increase the perception of value. Let me share how I learned this.

The perception of effort

I realised this for the first time when I was in Atlantic City. I was a student when I took a summer break from my engineering school in Paris to work in Atlantic City. It as a summer job, and the job was pushing the rolling chairs to push a rolling chair on up and down the boardwalk the the tourists. Tourist hired the chair, sat on it and like a taxi I pushed them away to their destination. Every morning I rented one of those chair for a fixed price and kept the money I earned from the different rides. Sometime I would get a tip on top of the agreed fair, sometime I wouldn’t.

I remember this particular time I took a couple in my chair for a ride. On that day, the sun what hitting hard. The passengers in the chair were in the shade but not me. I was getting hot and sweaty. To make matters worst the chair I had did not roll smoothy. I had to push harder the entire day. Arriving at destination I was dripping sweat.

As the couple paid, the they noticed me sweating and the women said:

“Give him a good tip, he worked hard.”

The good tip was the reward for my sweat. The same ride without the sweat would have been less.

The sweat was the proof of my effort. And because it was visible, the ride was worth more for the passengers.

The perceived value increased with the perception of the effort.

Read more on perceived value here.

4 Ways to Test your Value Proposition

Okay, you think you have nailed a good value proposition for your new product? You like it, your friends like it. Good. But what matters is that your future customers want it or at least understand it.

Here are 4 ways to test this value proposition with your potential customers:

  • Online Ads
  • Landing Page
  • Pitch
  • Solution Interview

Online Ads

The idea is to broadcast your value proposition to target customers in the form of an ad.

Google Ads or Facebook/Instagram Ads are great for that. They allow you to run ads shown to their customers (/users). You only pay for the click you receive on your ad. You can also run ads on other platforms (Twitter, LinkedIn), depending on where you think your customers are online.

Facebook and Google work differently and give different results. You should decide and test which platform to use:

On Facebook Ads

  • Customer: A customer looking at Facebook is leaning backward, looking to be distracted or surprised. His/her next action is to scroll down.
  • Targeting: On Facebook, you can target customers based on their profile and all the information Facebook is collecting about them
  • Channels: Your add will appear on Facebook and you can choose to reach customers on Instagram as well.
  • Message: Image, video, and some text. You will need a Facebook page as well to run the ads.

On Google Ads

  • Customer: A customer on Google is leaning forward, searching for something and his/her next action is to click on a link.
  • Targeting: On Google, you can target customers based on the keywords they are searching for.
  • Channels: Your ad will appear for some customers on the Google search engine. You can also choose to broadcast your ad out to a network of search partners and the display network.
  • Message: in its simple form, your ad will have a title a web link and a few lines of text.

Those ads constitute the top of your funnel. Clicking on them should lead the user to either a form (like Typeform or other) or to a Landing Page, which will allow you to capture people’s contact provided they are interested.

Of course, you get extensive analytics from Google and Facebook on your ad campaign. But here you are looking to understand if your value proposition is marching your customer segment. Define an acceptable threshold at iterate on your ads.

Online ads will only give you quantitative feedback. But if it doesn’t work, you have no idea why. That’s why you need to complete, or even better start with qualitative feedback.

Landing Page

The landing page is now a classic. I think I first head about the concept in the 4 hours week book by Tim Ferris. To build a landing page, you can use sites like Strikingly, Squarespace, Wix or Weebly. They all provide similar services.

To build your landing page, I recommend this very comprehensive article: How to set up a landing page for testing a business or product idea.

As a result of what should something like this.

With your Landing Page done, you already achieved two things:

  1. you made your value proposition tangible — and made hard choices around wording, customer and benefits.
  2. discussed it with your team and eventually aligned, helping uncover some potential misunderstandings

But what matters is customer reactions. You can test this Landing Page in 2 ways:

  1. expose it to customers, either with Online Ads, Email or posting it on social media where your customers are. Measure clicks on the ‘call to action’ button. Great if it works. If it doesn’t, you need to find out why?
  2. the 5-seconds test

The 5-seconds test allows you to get qualitative (the why?) feedback on your landing page. Here you engage directly with your target customer in the real world, not online and you show them your Landing Page. For 5 seconds. It’s short. It’s the 5 seconds it takes for a distracted web surfer to consider an offer and make up their mind about it.

After 5 seconds, hide your Landing Page and asks questions:

What was it? What did you see? What did you understand? Take notes. Don’t explain. This will give you, surprises for sure, but also the customer perspective and the different points to improve.

A pitch

Pitching your value proposition directly to potential customers is a great way to test comprehension and clarity. You can see their reaction and listen to their questions.

Ask them to rephrase back what you pitched and see what they understood. Listen to the word they are using — those are words you could use in your next pitch.

If a customer is excited about your offer, you can follow up with a solution interview.

Solution Interviews

A solutions interview is to test the appetite of the customer for what you have to offer. It starts with a little preparation and finished with meeting the customer. This is how to structure those interviews.

Part 1 — Problem validation

Before you make any proposition to the customer, make sure they are in your target segment. Qualify their needs.

We have been talking to lots of people like yourself and we have heard this [problem/need/situation].

Could you share how does it relate to your experience? What story comes to your mind? What would you like to share?

After this conversation, you know with more certainty if the customer needs your solutions or not. Now test your value propositions.

Part 2 — Co-create around the value proposition

Here explain what you have in mind, our solution, and assess the customer interest.

We are looking to “value proposition”. Is this something we can explore with you today? What does this mean for you?

How would you use it tomorrow? Why is it important?

You can also drill down to the feature level.

We are thinking about feature 1,2,3. Which one do you think is most relevant to you, which one would address best your problem. Why?

Part 3 — Validation and Commitment

Would it make sense for us to explore this?


Now you have an interested customer. To assess how interested he/she is, ask for a commitment. It’s is something a customer would do, should they be interested in your offer. For you, it’s proof of their interest.

This proof of commitment has some cost to the customer. Either in time, effort, energy, financial, etc… If it has no cost, to implication for the customer, this is not a commitment. Because it has a cost, we also call this a currency.

Here are examples of what you could ask for:

  • Money — pre-order (think kick starter or prepayment)
  • A signed agreement (NDA, contract for a POC, exclusivity, …)
  • Invitation to another meeting (with the boss, at a different location)
  • An email, phone number (in b2c context)
  • Access to sensitive data -(contact list, usage data for AI products,…)

Depending on the situation, some of those examples don’t commit customers. Are you asking this customer to be committed or involved?

Of course, your value proposition is something that changes over time and will need to be refined as you keep on learning from your customers.

For more on running experiments, read David Bland’s post: An Introduction to Experiment Pairing.

How to build your Value Proposition

Getting the value proposition right is one of the most ambiguous task entrepreneurs face in the early definition of their idea. It a convergence point where your team and your customer meet. Not easy to pinpoint.

So here are some elements to consider to help you build this value proposition. To simplify, the value proposition is the promise you make to your customers.

When prompted with your value proposition, your target customers should be able to:

  1. understand what you are proposing them
  2. decide if this is something they want or not (yes I’m interested, or no, this is not for me)

To be able to craft a decent value proposition you need to understand and align on:

The main problem you are solving for your customers

The problem you are solving should resonate with your target customer. If your target customer recognizes the problem, they will be interested in hearing about the solution you have to offer. That simple as that.


  • Vivino — picking bad wines
  • MAYU — drinking bad water


Explain now how you are going to solve the customer problem? At this stage, if the customer agrees with the problem, then he wants to know what the proposed solution is. You don’t need to go into details here, but you want to see if modalities of your solutions are acceptable to the customer. Your solution could be an app. A personalized service. A device.


  • Vivino — A mobile application
  • MAYU — A jug of water with a rotating stone


As a result of accepting your offer, what could happen to the customer? What can he expect to have or achieve that could not have before?


  • Vivino: feel great about their choice of wine, the confidence that the bottle they will share is a good one
  • MAYU: drink purified water, and live healthier

Customer Quote

Thinking from the customer perspective is always useful. Think of what a happy customer would say after using your solution? This makes your value proposition very tangible for you and for the target customer that will see it.

Customer Commitment

To see if your value proposition is one that is compelling to your target customer, you simply present it to them and hope for a firm agreement. More than a yes, an engagement from that customer, joined with some commitment from them. Otherwise, don’t really if they’re just being polite are really interested. Think of what could be a good commitment you could ask your customers, should they be interested in your proposition. It could be pre-paying for the solution, registering for your service, sending you further data.

Ready to build your value proposition now?

Here is a template to help you out.

Your value proposition is ready?

Find out how you can test your value proposition!

When to focus on growth?

So, at the Lean Startup Unconference in San Francisco, David Binetti was holding a session on How to know when to step on the gas and focus on growth.

He repositionned the question, using the growth curve and the 3 horizons model and asking: how can you measure if you have product-market fit or how do you know you can move a product from H3 to H2.

All users or customers of your product come either from PROM: promotion activities or WOM: Word of mouth. PROM activities gives you linear growth but WOM activities gives you exponential growth. Which makes sense when you think about it for a second. Vitality is exponential.

Looking at the growth curve, PROM only brings the curve forward in time but does not impact its shape.

In the real world, your growth curve is messy and looks like this.

If split your source of new customer into PROM and WOM you have a different read the signal.

And when the number of users that comes from WOM is superior to the number of users that comes from PROM, that’s when to step on the gas.

So on the early stage of this growth curve, work on WOM.

Customers are your best source of customers. -David Binetti

How WOM happens? On the iPod, the white earphone told everyone looking this was someone using an a iPod. You joined Facebook because friends asked you to. People started buying flatscreen TV because they could see flat screen TV boxes thrown in the garbage, and neighbours and friends getting flat screen TV.

This is what got the “early majority” to buy the product. This is how you know you are ready to step on the gas, when WOM > PROM.

Thank you for this David.

Lean Startup: Impact pour nos Grandes Entreprises


Venu de l’ingénierie de la Silicon Valley, le Lean Startup est en train de révolutionner la façon de créer les startups. Mais pas que. Cette approche pratique et systématique commence à faire son chemin dans nos grandes entreprises françaises.

Le Lean Startup reconnait que la réussite d’un produit passe simplement par son adoption par le marché. Les clients et utilisateurs sont au centre de la démarche dont le but est de comprendre comment créer, livrer et capturer de la valeur pour ses clients.

Face à la planification de développements souvent sans fin, elle prone des itérations rapides sur une version minimal du produit (MVP = Minimum Viable Product) qui permette de mesurer les comportements des clients et à terme de mieux comprendre leur besoins et attentes. Partir d’une idée de service, construire un premier proto avec le minimum d’efforts, mesurer les comportements des utilisateurs, apprendre ce qui marche et qui ne marche pas et itérer. C’est le cœur du Lean Startup, la boucle build-measure-learn.

Le principe est simple : comme la voie du succès est ponctuée d’erreurs, autant les faire le plus vite et à moindre coût afin de pouvoir réorienter ou faire « pivoter » le concept autant de fois que nécessaires.

Aujourd’hui leadées par quelques spécialistes visionnaires (peut-être même illuminés aux yeux de certains), les grandes entreprises en France adoptent le Lean Startup.

    Dans l’entreprise le Lean Startup sert:

  • aux directeurs innovation qui cherchent à équiper leurs équipes de méthodes
  • aux product managers qui utilisent ces outils pour comprendre les besoins clients et faire évoluer leur produit en fonction
  • aux départements marketing qui comprennent les limites des études de marchés et cherchent à renouer le contact direct avec leurs clients

Dans ce monde en constante évolution, le Lean Startup émerge comme l’approche business adapté à notre temps.

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…