Picture this conversation at a company meeting:

“Customers are not buying our  product as we forecast. We need to come up with some solutions to meet our sales forecast or our project will be considered a failure. I’d like everyone to share their ideas on how can we solve this.”

“Mr. Boss, how about a new marketing push? Right now we have only TV ads, and as I’ve said many  times before, that’s an antique approach to marketing! We have to do  some creative guerrilla marketing!”

“Mr. Boss, I beg to differ, we should do influencer marketing! We can arrange product placement in  their photos and vlogs – that will for sure drive the sales!”

“Mr. Boss, don’t listen to these  younglings! You know what has to be done – just crank up the pipeline,  let me call in the sales squad, and we’ll hit the phone lines like we did in good old days. Nothing like a fast talker who is always closing.”

Although the dialogue may be  fictitious, similar discussions happen much more often than they should.  Most of us have bias for action, but we should not allow it to override  logical reasoning. Rarely do we stop the conversation, and challenge  others in the room to understand what is the underlying cause of this  situation.

  • Why are customers not buying our product as we anticipated?
  • Is something wrong with our sales campaign?
  • Is something wrong with our sales channels?
  • Is something wrong with our distribution channels?
  • Is our value proposition clear?
  • Is our product addressed at the right customer?
  • Does our product address targeted customer’s problem or need?

These, and numerous other questions,  can help us better understand the current situation. Often we fall into the trap of accepting a vaguely understood current situation and then  jump straight into brainstorming solutions.

If someone dares to interrupt this standard procedure, he or she is often lectured.

“We do not have time to study the problem deep enough, let’s just try some solutions and see what sticks.”

As a consequence, they are then less likely to explore the problem further.

When it  comes to launching new products and services, large corporations can  significantly reduce the risk of market failure by investing in  understanding their customer. It used to be enough to have good  understanding of demographics, but if you want to be competitive today,  it is necessary to dig deeper.

You don’t need to set up an ethnographic division which would go and live with your customers, but you can invest in upskilling your employees in the customer development  process and generative research methods.

Understanding what troubles our  customers and what outcomes they wish to achieve helps to create a  solution that will have an impact.

Another thing worth noting is that just because we understand the customer, does not mean that we will  build everything they desire.

It is up to every business to decide which problems they want to solve and which they want to ignore.

Customer development is not rocket science, but it helps to get some expert guidance at the beginning of your journey.

In 2017 Norwegian Lean Startup Circle organized a Startup Drill event, which is all about customer discovery and customer validation.

It is laser focused, and structured similar to US marine training, combining theoretical nuggets with hands-on application.

That is a good combination for knowledge retention.

Participants of the 1st Startup Drill Oslo
Participants of the 1st Startup Drill Oslo

Diana Nechita shared following as her key take away:

Although  24 hours were not enough to come up with a product, 24 hours were  enough to get a taste of what lean startup is about. Everyone can build  something, however the most important thing is that you measure and test  all your assumptions before moving on to the next step. Always listen  to your potential users because they have the answers to all your  questions and only by asking can you validate your hypothesis and build  on your learnings. Fun, intense and insightful, the Lean Startup Drill  workshop was definitely worth attending!

Dimitris Polychronopoulos also shared his experiences (in Norwegian) Min Erfaring med Pitch, Team og Mentors hos Lean Startup Drill i Norge, and is now organizing the Corporate Startup Drill in March 2019.

Product development doesn’t have to be a gamble.


Corporate Startup Drill Oslo

Interested to learn how you can better understand your customer’s problems and create products they will love? Then join next edition of Corporate Startup Drill in Oslo!


This post was originally published on Startup Drill blog.