5 tips for developing a product or service your customer really wants.
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Leonie Ebbes '5 tips to develop a product or service your customer really wants'

Leonie Ebbes 2021 02 Leonie Ebbes

You have an idea! And that idea, after many rounds of honing, has been translated into an innovative product that you really believe in. You have registered with the Chamber of Commerce. The company has started. You are convinced that your potential customer is just as enthusiastic about the product as you are. And so you think it's time to go to market.

Of course, you don't miss an opportunity to tell them how good your service or product is, what its benefits are and what it makes possible. The customer can't live without it, and he'd be crazy to pass up your innovative product or service! But.... have you asked yourself that one important question? Is the customer actually waiting for it? Haven't you come up with a solution that has no problem at all?

Oops, suddenly realize you haven't talked to your potential customers enough? Don't panic, you're not the only one. Many startups - and even experienced entrepreneurs went before you. After all, once you yourself are convinced .... how can another not be. However, the logical reality is that a customer won't buy the product if he doesn't need it. But how do you make sure you can perfect your product or service without losing sight of the customer's problem?

Therefore: 5 tips for developing a product or service that your customer really wants.

Tip 1: Define your potential customer's problem

It is not easy to let go of your own assumptions. Yet this is of great importance in order to successfully market your product or service. Therefore, start a conversation with your customer, 1 on 1, and make sure you get his need and/or problem as sharp as possible. Formulate the problem as a hypothesis and ask the following questions to test the problem with the customer:

  • In what activity does the problem occur and how does your potential customer deal with it?
  • What is the problem during the core activity?
  • Does your client recognize the problem?
  • How common is this problem?
  • How is your potential customer solving the problem so far?
  • Did your potential customer search for alternatives? If so, what insights did that yield?

You can then use different canvases to structure the data. Consider the Problem Interview Canvas, a tool that can help you get the customer problem in focus.

Steve Blank, an innovation and startup great once wrote: ''The difference between winning startups and those who lose is that the winners understand why customers buy. The losers never do''.

Tip 2: Show empathy

If you have a good understanding of the problem, we have another reminder for you. Customers buy products and services mostly based on their emotion. This is why many prefer to purchase a MacBook worth more than €1,000, rather than another, cheaper, laptop with exactly the same specifications. A MacBook looks stylish and gives you a certain status.

So in that same interview, be keen on feelings and thoughts based on which the person might buy your product or service. The following questions can help identify emotional buying arguments:

  • In what situation have you purchased our product or a related product (from the competitor) in the past year?
  • Where were your frustrations and/or obstacles in purchasing?
  • What did you experience as positive?
  • What requirements and needs did the product or service meet?

Don't ask the question, "Would you buy our product? Customers often give a socially desirable answer to such a question. You could use the empathy canvas to reinforce your research.

With the answers to the above questions in your pocket, you have already taken a big step in the right direction to improve your product or service. But there is still room for improvement.

Tip 3: Think big, start smaller

List the answers from tips 1 and 2 and brainstorm for an hour with your team, or with friends, about possible creative solutions to meet customer needs. At the beginning of this hour, ask the following question: Suppose we have unlimited money and resources to spend. How would you respond to the above problem definition and associated emotions?

All of you, separately, grab post-its and for 10 minutes write down as many solution approaches as you can. Note that you have unlimited money and resources, so Think Big. Then share the results with each other. You will see that many new inspiring perspectives emerge to improve the product and better meet customer needs. Then you translate from these solution directions to a lower budget. Now you have €5,000 to spend. How can you creatively realize your out of the box plans without immediately costing too much money? Think Smaller. Take another 10 minutes to work out the ideas.

Applying this will make your product many times more innovative and smart.

Tip 4: Build a prototype

This tip is short but powerful. Translate the best ideas from tip 3 into tangible prototypes.

Tip 5: Test your prototype with the customer

Here we'll make a few more words. Call the customers interviewed from tips 1 and 2 again and ask the following question: Can I come test the prototype at your place of business? Let the customer watch during testing and listen to their feedback. Use the feedback to make your product even better and process the comments in a structured way in a Problem Solution Fit canvas. You use the Problem Solution Fit Canvas to test whether your product or service actually solves the customer problem.

Now it's time to explore the wide world. By the way, no matter how good your product or service is: always keep validating. So keep engaging with your customers. Once your website and social media channels are live, design surveys that once again engage them in conversation and ask for feedback. How can we make our product even better? Again and again, that remains the key question in further optimizing your product or service and, overarching, your business.

We wish you much success and, above all, entrepreneurial fun. Do you want support to better understand the needs of your customers? And would you like to work in a structured way towards a validated problem solution fit? We offer a Market Readiness Program in which we test all assumptions about your customer in 10 weeks. Among other things, you will learn how to conduct effective customer conversations to include the customer's perspective in optimizing your product or service. Read more or feel free to call us for questions or more information. We are happy to get started with you. Leonie Ebbes, T (06) 55 71 00 20.