Please tell me that you like me


We’ve just fallen into the validation trap. Again.

It’s a sneaky bugger, and at least we’re getting better at identifying it after the fact. But it’s hard to avoid. The irony of blogging about this on Valentine’s day is not lost to me either.

This time it happened during customer development interviews. Here’s how it happened…

As I’ve previously blogged about, we’ve really sharpened our act when it comes to customer development interviews. We have a script, and we know which parts of our business model we’re testing.

The problem comes in wanting to please the people we’re talking to. So when they ask for more specifics about what we’re working on, we want to show them our MVP, and describe what we could do to help them.

The problem is that this goes way beyond our business model canvas hypotheses. We’re currently testing Customer Problems, Value Proposition, and Revenue. The honest answer to anything beyond this, at this point, is “we don’t know”. And that makes us uncomfortable

After all, we’re meant to be the “experts”. What sort of expert “doesn’t know”?!. Also, we’re coming from a scarcity mentality. We mustn’t upset this customer, just in case they’re the only one we can get and we need to get traction with them later on.

So, now, a reality check:

  • If this is the only customer we can get, then the idea’s not great and we need to find that out.
  • If they truly are a good first customer, then they should be so excited that they’ll bite our arm off, whatever we say.
  • By trying to get validation, we run the risk of converting someone to a sale who isn’t that stoked about our offering.
  • If we convert someone who’s meh at this stage, they’ll be likely to pull out when the going gets tough during the development from MVP to final vision.

To deal with this, we’re going back to basics:

  • No flannel, and an understanding that we’re not trying to sell anything to these customers.
  • An agreement that “that’s what we’re working on, what would you suggest?” will be our answer to many of those questions that arise.
  • Better speccing of our customer development process:
    • That we’re going to speak to a set number of people before we iterate any hypotheses in our business model.
    • That we’ll make minor unsubstantive changes only to our customer development questions until we iterate.
    • That tasks to change our business model go into our workflow, and are only pulled into this sprint if everything else is finished, just like any other task.

We hope that by making these changes, it’ll stop us chasing validation and losing focus. What changes would you suggest?

As ever let us know in the comments, and please like, share and retweet this blog.

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