Want Customers? Do This

Imagine proudly launching your new product, then feeling like a fool because no one buys it.

Jason Evanish worked for a company that built an app store for Twitter. If you haven’t shopped at a Twitter app store recently, you might understand why it never got traction.

As Jason says in hindsight: “How often do you have a problem where you need a Twitter app? There’s not really a whole lot of pain you’re solving.”

Now the product manager at KISSmetrics, Jason uses a customer development system to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

“You better make sure that one thing you spend all this time frantically building is what people want,” he says.

In his Mixergy course, he shows you how he does it. Here are three tactics you’ll learn in the course.

1. Don’t Jump to Conclusions

Jason worked for a company that built an "app store for Twitter". As it turns out, that's not a problem that anybody cared about. Bummer.

So how do you find out what somebody's top three problems are?

Ask What They Care About

Just ask them!

But make sure you’re not “leading the witness” by asking them if they care about the specific problem you’re thinking of solving. Often, they’ll just agree with you.

Instead, ask open-ended questions. Let them respond freely about their most pressing problems.

Ask “What are your top three problems that you’re facing with X?” When one of their top three problems is the one you’re trying to solve, it’s a strong sign that you’re solving a problem that people value.

2. Are They Jumping On a Couch?

Every customer has problems they want you to solve.

But you can’t solve a problem because your favorite customer asked you to. Or because it sounds exciting.

So how do you know what problem to solve?

Don’t Solve Every Problem

Start by taking notes. Jason takes a lot of notes.

Then, he reviews his notes to find patterns. He looks for common pain points that a lot of customers want to solve.

He also recalls how excited they are to solve the problem. Jason says he looks for people “that are ready to jump through the screen and say When can I get my hands on this?”

Use your interview notes to find problems that lots of people have. But don’t do anything until you’re sure they’re really jumping-on-a-couch excited.

3. Test The Waters First

Customers can verify that you’re working on an important problem. But you don’t make money by identifying problems.

You make money by creating solutions.

Unfortunately, customers stink at visualizing your solution without trying it for themselves. At the same time, you don’t want to release your solution to the whole world without some real-world feedback.

Maybe it doesn’t have the right features. Maybe it’s too difficult to use. Maybe they really hate your icons.

Use a “Limited Release” to Get Real Feedback

Jason suggests creating limited release for the people most desperate for your solution. Ask them to help you improve it before your public launch.

Give exclusive, early access to a handful of people who are excited about your product. Jason sends them an email saying, “Hey. I just gave you exclusive access to a new feature we haven’t fully rolled out yet. I’d love your feedback. I think it will solve a lot of your problems.”

  • http://twitter.com/heyhoop Matthew Hooper

    What do you think of taking a public beta back into Private beta if you find your traction is slipping?

  • mobileloverphx

    What do you suggest/how do you suggest a new business gets a client to PAY (even a reduced price) to participate in a limited or beta release?

  • Jordan

    I see it as if you’ve solved a big enough problem for the client, s/he should be more than willing to throw money at you to relieve that pain.

    Real trick is to know how to price it recurring, one time, freemium etc… and how much to charge.

    One way of tackling both problems could be to set up a fake pricing page page (depending on your business model of course) and see what option potential clients select if any at all.

  • Artur@JuicyCanvas

    Not every startup is about solving people’s PAIN.
    How would you suggest we validate a whole new consumer experience?JuicyCanvas is a new twist in Art Buying. It allows you to Discover & Customize Art…and delivered straight to your door, ready to hang!Private beta : http://dev.JuicyCanvas.comfeedback welcome. thanks

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    No, it’s not for everyone.

    But are you sure the customers you want don’t have an aching pain that you can solve? If they did, would it be easier for you to get more customer?

    I’m still figuring this stuff out. I just happened to notice that this approach comes up a lot in interviews, so I’m curious about how and when it works.

  • http://www.highballblog.com/ Constantin Gabor

    The most accessed articles on my blog are those that solve a problem. Period.

    Traffic comes again and again with no work on my part coz people are actively searching for a solution – and they seem to find it on my blog (stuff related to video editing and DIY projects).
    Where there’s pain and frustration, there’s potential for a product/content/ service. This is approach is as powerful as it is simple. I just wish I knew about it earlier.

  • http://www.facebook.com/angelokh Angelo K. Huang

    I am confused. Before iPhone or iPad, no one was searching a smart phone or tablet with app store. But now, again, people will not search what other crazy thing a phone can do or a watch (hint: Pebble) that can connect to iPhone before they see what’s possible.

  • Pingback: Business tips for startups by proven entrepreneurs – Mixergy » DELETE AFTER SEPT 30, 2012 Master Class: How to interview customers (So you’ll know exactly what to build for them) Taught by Jason Evanish of KISSMetrics()