KOCHI: The primary purpose of a startup is to have its customer base use and pay for the product or services being offered. Customers must experience the value the startup is proposing. That begs few questions - who are these customers? Where are they? And why will they use this product and pay for it? How much would they be willing to shell out for it? Understanding all these aspects is part of the customer development process.
The first step in the process is customer discovery, which starts with establishing a hypothesis around customers. Some of the areas which need to be delved deep into are - the specific customer segment to target, their specific problems, decision-making process, and their use cases. Moreover, if the customer already has a solution in mind, does the startup address it in a better way? The answer to this question needs to be clearly communicated to the customer Once a customer hypothesis is created, it must be validated in the market. Depending on the stage of the startup and its product, the validation may leverage a conceptual prototype.
The product is taken through the available customer avenues, the value proposition is proposed and efforts need to be made to convince the prospective customer to try the product. The feedback and insights gained in this process are extremely valuable. This process allows the startup to tweak the product, or the target segment, or the value proposition.
The above-mentioned process is iterated with the tweaked hypothesis or even a new one, until fully verified and validated in the market. This hypothesis then becomes a go-to-market play, to be rolled out into the mainstream market. The next step is to verify that the validated use case can be scaled. The target segment needs to be accurate, sales pitch specific, which can be executed in each sales region.
The focus of the customer discovery process is to optimise the positioning and pitch, and get the product or service ready for mainstream sales. This will help accelerate the startup’s journey to success in the market.
(The writer is MD and VP - Products and Progress Software and an advisor to Incubator at IIIT Hyderabad)