Customer Development – Don’t Overthink It

One of the most valuable habits I’ve used since my first startup experience (Techrigy) is that you have to validate your product ideas with customers as quickly as possible. (At that time, it wasn’t called “customer development.” We did it just by spending time with anyone that would talk with us.)

If you Google “customer development,” there’s an emerging curriculum on how to conduct exactly the right interviews that follow a formal process. While these methods are helpful, they can also be very overwhelming to new entrepreneurs.

  • “Don’t bias your interview subject”
  • “Make sure they name the problem with your bringing it up.”
  • “Don’t ask them how much they’ll pay”

I generally agree with these points, but there’s also a high-degree of over-optimization happening here. One of the most important things founders be is customer-focused. You learn so much by talking with potential customers and getting a broader data set. Sure, your first interviews won’t be perfect, but simply having 15-minute conversations will reveal:

  • Is it easy to reach potential customers? Are there enough of them to build a business?
  • Do people get excited (and lean forward) when talking about the problems you’re trying to solve?
  • What types of other products do these people use?
  • etc

Being customer-focused breeds good habits and gives your more data to work with. Sure, your data may not be perfect. But, getting into market quickly will give you a quick litmus test of your business’s viability. Don’t overthink it.