6 Steps to Implementing Customer Discovery for Startups

Customer Discovery research by phone

You may have heard the term ‘Customer Discovery’ recently. In this article we explain exactly what ‘Customer Discovery’ is and how it can be used effectively by startups in the product development process.

What is Customer Discovery?

Authors Eric Ries and Steve Blank first wrote about the importance of Customer Discovery as part of the “Lean Startup” methodology. The theory behind customer discovery is that customers should be utilized very early on in the business development process, before going into full product development.

As they wrote, “Customer discovery is a customer-oriented scientific process that shows how a product fits the market.”

The Importance of Customer Discovery for Startups

One of the most common mistakes in startup presentations to investors is when the startup team displays only a superficial understanding of the market and ignores the customer’s needs.

Design thinking tools effectively cope with the customer discovery stage of product development. This is the initial stage of improving or developing new products, as well as service design. It is also when vivid problems and opportunities within customer answers are revealed. The startup must focus on these issues, based on input from the clients. The ideas that are generated become the starting point of the project.

Web Development

Most of today’s startup projects utilize a full stack developer. A full stack developer is a web professional who understands how to code at each level and works on both the front and back ends of a website or app. Increasingly, they may be required to work with customers during the product planning phase.

You will need to find web developers for startups or freelance web developers that can join your team or remote development team who are not afraid of engaging with clients in the customer discovery process.

What Customer Discovery Reveals

The most successful products are born from the pain potential customers experience. A startup must base its business model on hypotheses about the client and who he or she is. Customer discovery helps to reveal how to make correct hypotheses about customers.

 6 Steps to Implementing Customer Discovery For Startups 

  1. Focus on the essentials. Formulate 4–5 questions about users for whom you or your team do not yet have an answer. At this stage, form a hypothesis that defines both the problem and the solution that you offer.
  1. Define Assumptions. You need to aim your assumptions at the problem you are solving, the solution and at the market which will pay for the solution to the problem. The best option is to create a hypothetical client, with all the necessary data (name, age, hobbies, prospects) and ask questions to such a client. 
  1. Show empathy. Start with 3-5 interviews with your users. Record the conversation on audio and in the process of research ask how your clients use the product or service. By asking your questions you allow the client to express their exact opinion on the topics in question. 
  1. Evaluate. If the customer discovery process is carried out correctly you can find out things that are not thought about from the very beginning. There is always the opportunity to return to the initial stage and work on the errors, add new information and repeat the process. As soon as the client’s response meets your hypothesis, you can move on and work on what the client needs. 
  1. Focus. Draw 3–5 customer experience cards or customer journey maps to understand what works and what does not match the experience of your users. 
  1. Generate ideas. Record the ideas and try to transfer them into prototypes.

What Are Benefits of Customer Discovery?

In the search for optimal solutions, use specific tactics based on an understanding of users and their expectations. Thanks to this technique, some important points can be revealed:

  • the original hypothesis is correct;
  • the proposed product solves the problems of users;
  • the target audience will use the product;
  • The design of a new feature for an existing product will be effective;
  • consumers are willing to pay the indicated price of the goods.

The main advantages of this approach are:

  • direct contact with the client;
  • obtaining facts from the market;
  • statement of the problem in the words of users;
  • checking your target audience.

Customer discovery is extremely important, but many startups skip this vital step. It is a necessary process to recognize potential users and test the product hypotheses. It determines at an early the viability of the original concept, what needs to be improved, what to remove and what to add. It is important to formulate a hypothesis about a problem, not about a solution. The hypothesis must be formulated so that it can be confirmed or refuted.

Customer discovery is one of the best methodologies for startups as it penetrates deeply into the customer’s needs, identifies the customer’s problems and enables the development process to proceed effectively.

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