About a year ago I started coaching 6 corporate-startups at Aimforthemoon. At this time of the year we have 18 teams. Crazy amazing! But with so many teams in house our coaching process needed to become more scalable. Therefore Stephan van Meir and I developed the Scanvas, which helps teams with taking the right steps during their first weeks.
My mission is to help teams create products and services customers will love. That is why I encourage the teams to really take the time to talk to potential customers and find a problem worth solving. Interviewing is an important step in this process.
One of the most important, and one of the most difficult things to get across is the importance to search for the right persons to interview. And to thoroughly understand for whom they are designing a product. Talking to customers is one thing. Finding the relevant customers to get good data out of these conversations, is another thing. The Scanvas is a tool that facilitates this.
In most Lean Startup workshops people are sent outside the building in order to test their business idea. They come back disillusioned: “People don’t want this!”.
Don’t get me wrong, it is a challenge to overcome the fear of talking to customers and yes they need to get outside the building to find these customers. But it is much more important that they understand who they have in front of them and how they should interpret the data from this interviewee. They now may just draw the wrong conclusions by talking to random people on the streets.
Go for the Early Adopters!
So how do we do this? Search for your early adopters! We all know that early adopters are those customers that experience the problem we are trying to solve, they know they have the problem, have searched for a solution, hacked a solution and maybe even paid for a solution.
But what does this really mean? And why do we forget about this whenever we explore and interview potential customers?
When I was doing customer development for my fashion startup Swipe & Shop, we came across multiple problems we could solve for fashionistas. We realized early on that we needed to interview the girls who experienced shopping browsing as a huge problem, not just a little.
The girls that could show us an excel sheet, word documents, lists of favorites, emails they sent to themselves with links from clothes they would like to buy. These girls were our early adopters. We had to create a solution for them!
What would have happened if regular shopping girls tested our solutions?
What would have happened if we interviewed moms browsing through webshops?
If these groups of women would invalidate our solution it would mean less or nothing.
Look who’s Talkin’!
At Aimforthemoon, the first four weeks of our Scan Phase are dedicated to finding a problem worth solving, it means complete focus on getting to know the customer and understand his or her problems.
After two weeks of interviewing, I always ask our startup teams to categorize people and the problems they found based on the Diffusion of Innovation bell by E.M. Rogers. To explain the different adopter categories to the teams, I usually use the e-bike example.
Innovators: People who want to be the first to try innovative things. The innovators of the e-bike would probably be someone who bought the loose parts in order to upgrade their own bike to an electrical one.
Early Adopters: People who have the problem you are trying to solve and searched for a solution and therefore will be the first people to try new solutions. The early adopters of the e-bike would be the elderly who have issues cycling long distances because they either get tired, or have some disabilities. They encounter the problem that e-bikes are solving.
Early Majority: People who adopt new ideas before the average person. That said, they typically need to see evidence that the innovation works before they are willing to adopt it. If you look at the early majority of the e-bike, they might be the people that cycle a distance to their work. Therefore, they have a slightly different problem. They still want to cycle long distances more quickly and without much effort like the early adopters, but for them it is not because they can’t cycle the distance, but because they don’t want to arrive all sweaty and tired. They therefore might need a slightly different product.
Late Majority: These people are skeptical of change, and will only adopt an innovation after it has been tried by the majority. In the e-bike example that would be when most people would ride on an electric bike. But unfortunately we are not there yet!
Laggards: People who are very skeptical of change and are the hardest group to bring on board. Laggards are the people who would only use the product whenever there is no other option possible anymore.
After the categorizing the team can decide on two or three screener questions to ask — whenever they walk on the street and want to approach someone — to identify if this is the right person to interview for their product. So the next two weeks they can focus on interviewing only early adopters and early majority about the problems they think are worth solving.
The biggest mistake: getting caught away by the innovators
You know the people that sleep in front of the Apple store to get the newest iPhone? These people are innovators. You don’t want to build your product solely for innovators.
Why? They will be highly enthusiastic about everything you do. They will love your innovative product or idea but ……. when a new product comes along they will drop your concept like a hot brick. The truth is, they are probably not the ones that actually have the problem that you are trying to solve.
You don’t want to interview innovators in the first phase, instead include innovators in the building process. Innovators love to think along and understand that a product is not finished or perfect yet and they are excellent customers to give you feedback when you are developing your first version of your product.
As Seth Godin put it: “Innovators have a relentless desire for better, which is precisely why they are always looking for the new. You can’t be perfect in the eyes of innovators.”
How we solved this at Aimforthemoon
I have been struggling quite a while to find a tool to get this point across whenever coaching teams. We all get caught away by those innovators and mislead by the late majority.
It’s one of the reasons why Stephan van Meir and I have developed a canvas to help teams to answer: what problems does my potential customer have, who are my early adopters and what hacks are they using to solve the problem currently? It is called Scanvas because we use the canvas mainly in the Aimforthemoon Scan phase. :)
Interested in to receiving the Scanvas? Just let me know by typing Scanvas in de comments and I’ll send you the canvas when launched.
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Hi, my name is Nikky Hofland. Great to see you got this far. Please, hit the 👏 button if you enjoyed the post and make sure to follow me if you like to learn more about Customer Development, Corporate Innovation and The Lean Startup. If you have any questions or want to get in touch, contact me on LinkedIn!
This article was originally posted on LinkedIn, 11–12–2018