February 2017

Customer Discovery and Your Strategic Toolset

Abstract: At product launch, there is often too heavy a focus on “features” and an inability to fully understand customer needs resulting in delayed releases, high cash burn rates, and potentially failed products. Many teams will assume they know exactly what the customer wants and begin an iterative development process but unfortunately focused on building the wrong thing. By virtue of having been trained by some of the best Lean Startup, technology commercialization, and Jobs Theory instructors in the US, Patrick will share his keys to successful customer discovery and requirements gathering providing your team with the necessary tools to plan your discovery efforts, land high profile interviews with product users, influencers, and buyers, and validate/invalidate your assumptions while simultaneously identifying other pivot opportunities.

Describe audience take-aways from your session:

Audience can expect to learn strategies on the following:

  1. Creating testable hypotheses
  2. How to test those hypotheses (and why surveys don’t work)
  3. Who to contact (users, influencers, who buys?)
  4. How to contact (tools: spreadsheets, Launchpad central, LinkedIn premium)
  5. How to interview

Creating testable hypotheses- Help audience structure testable hypotheses surrounding value propositions and customer segments before meeting with customer/user they can test in an unbiased fashion while meeting with customer/user. Also called “validated learning”, this method serves as a way to clearly identify customer requirements, other users, and also other potential opportunities the customer is not thinking about at the present (pivots).

How to test those hypotheses- Show audience how to structure open-ended questions to ask during interviews leaving room to ask “why” after the interviewee responds, providing information on why surveys do not work and the value in reading interviewee body language and being present in their office (opening opportunities to identify what motivates them (i.e. are there awards on their walls, what books are they reading, do they value their team?, motivation for promotion), where they buy similar products (i.e. what magazines/news they read), ability to quickly get in front of other coworkers at the same office)

Who to contact- (identified from “hypotheses” section above) identifying who at your target company can “champion” you through to higher profile interviews, who is a user/buyer/saboteur of your product and how do you provide value to each, are these people early evangelists who can serve as beta testers

How to contact- how to write an exciting subject line to those identified in previous step (your “target”), success of LinkedIn InMail vs. regular email, how to get through the front desk (likely security) and a direct line in to your target, leveraging alumni networks, ultimately amassing contact data about your target on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, news, recent publications and using this to your advantage, using a Business Model Canvas (BMC)/Launchpad Central/Lean Launchpad to record interviews, validate/invalidate hypotheses, and quickly iterate on customer requirements

How to interview- value in bringing a partner to listen and ask the questions while you take notes, key questions that should be asked in every interview (i.e. what are your biggest challenges, who else can I talk to?), how to deal with conflicting viewpoints on a challenge/product (i.e. between upper and lower management), identifying the degree to which this challenge effects the organization (i.e. cost/time lost, is a pivot necessary for your organization?)

Patrick AckerBio: Patrick Acker is focused on enabling startups and small businesses to properly develop their customers, Patrick brings customer and product development experience from the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps and two former entrepreneurial ventures. After recently co-founding supply chain startup, Yard Mapper, he secured a $50k National Science Foundation grant leading a team of entrepreneurs on a six-week, national customer discovery tour interviewing 125 industry experts across 60+ different companies. Patrick has cycled (solo) across America and recently graduated from Virginia Tech earning a B.S. degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering.


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