Summary: Customer Development demands a lot of conversations with potential customers. If every person you talk to introduces you to two more people, your golden. If you are not getting introductions, you’re in trouble (some advice on what to do). The Customer Development Viral Coefficient is a measure of this rate and the first insight an entrepreneur gets on his startup idea feasibility.
Getting Out of the Office
Finding people to give us feedback can be frustrating, tedious work. Or it can be easy and fun.
I’ve experienced both extremes and am sharing a heuristic to give you insight into your chance of success during Customer Development.
How I Find People to Interview
I start with my own network and look for people who have the problem I’m trying to solve. After getting feedback on my Problem/Solution assumptions I ask for intros to others.
Conversations lead to introductions…and more conversations…and so on.
Customer Development Viral Coefficient
CDVC > 1
If every person you talk to introduces you to two more people with the problem, you’re golden. Congrats, your CDVC > 1.
After a few weeks of Customer Development you’re having tons of great meetings and your biggest problem is getting through your email inbox, thanking everyone, and making sense of the input you’re getting.
I’m experiencing CDVC>1 with the Grapetree Project and it’s a blast.
Even if our solution ideas suck – as mine certainly did a month ago – we know we’ve got a shot at success because
- People share our worldview that something is wrong.
- They think we have the unique qualifications to help.
- They will risk their own reputations to introduce us to others.
We’ll get enough data to keep adapting our solution until it no long sucks.
Unfortunately, most of my projects and most startups I help have CDVC < 1.
What if Your CDVC < 1 and You’re NOT Finding Potential Customers?
If most people you talk to don’t introduce you to someone else with the problem, you’re in trouble. Your CDVC < 1.
You’re probably frustrated with Lean Startup, deflated, and generally miserable. You’re armed with passion, skills, ninja-like Lean Startup skills and hardly anyone will talk to you.
IT SUCKS. TRUST ME, I’VE BEEN THERE.
After working through your limited network you’ve almost run out of people to talk to. People don’t follow-up with you, don’t respond to your emails and requests for help.
I lived in this purgatory for more than a year and know how you feel.
YOU are NOT the problem. You are doing everything right.
But your chances of success largely depend on what you do next.
What to do if you’re not finding customers to interview?
In a subsequent post I offer some advice on what to do – and what not to do – based on my own mistakes and successes.
Thank you Ray Wu for reviewing drafts of this post.
- Yes…I realize this is a linear equation and not a power equation like the viral marketing models. I started creating a complex power model but realized it just doesn’t matter – I can only talk to so many people a day. Forget about the math, CDVC is a conceptual heuristic. Are you getting more introductions than you can manage? CDVC>1. Are you staring at an empty email inbox? CDVC<1. Of course these are extremes and your experience is probably between these. ↩