Today, I want to show you why talking to your potential customers long before you develop a product is so crucial for your success.
For your ideas to really have an impact in the world and the life of your customers, you want to make sure that they are solving real problems instead of being castles in the sky.
You will learn why getting early feedback is more important to your success and impact than having a product which is readily developed. You will learn how to find product market fit easier, instead of wasting your time and resources on products that end up as great ideas on the landfill of crashed dreams.
Don’t build a product just because you believe it’s a great idea
Many successful startup founders have preached the mantra of “build it and they will come”, meaning if you just build your product, customers will come by themselves.
This is wrong on many levels.
More than 90 % of all companies being founded fail within the first 3 years. Gosh, my first one didn’t last for half a year! But most of these companies have something in common with each other: They were built by founders who were convinced that their idea was great and believed it would change peoples’ life.
When genius strikes us like lightning, we tend to believe that we just produced the greatest idea in the world, and that everyone will love it. This blind believe often leads to founders investing their time and money into developing a product without verifying the assumptions they are based on. And while we only hear from those who succeeded (and who had a bit of luck, too), we often don’t hear from the 90 % who also believed in their ideas, worked hard, and gave everything – but didn’t make it.
Founders, makers, entrepreneurs – and those who want to become one – often believe they need to have that great idea that they just need to turn into a product and then sell it to their customers. This approach of just building it is not only risky because it puts everything on one card, but it also keeps people from starting their business in the first place. Developing a product is not a small hurdle to overcome. And when you believe that your product will make the world a better place, it is even easier to fall into this pitfall.
Luckily, there is a better way to see if your idea is worth your time and effort. And verifying its value to your customers requires only little time and effort – and no product at all.
You Don’t Need a Product to Talk to Your Customers
If you are a bit like me and want to make the world a better place, you often have “great ideas” of how things could be better. For example, in my first startup, my teammates and I believed that we could support the integration of renewable energies into the energy system by shifting people’s consumption to when renewables were available. We developed a small traffic light like lamp that would show you how green the electricity in your grid is now. We thought this could really influence user behaviour – and our fellow energy nerds agreed!
But have you ever heard anyone complaining about not knowing when to use electricity? No. The one’s who care about green electricity have a green tariff, and the rest is lost anyway.
We thought we were solving a big technical problem on the energy system level, but we didn’t notice that we did not solve any problem for our target customers. Just through someone else’s outside perspective were we able to see clearly that we didn’t provide any value to our targeted customers.
Before you spend any money and effort on developing your product, reach out to at least 20-30 potential customers and verify that they experience the problem you think they have.
A useful product that customers want to buy, solves a critical problem for them. Critical problems are urgent and occur repeatedly. Your customers must deal with them on a regular base, and they are uncomfortable for them.
If your future product can easily solve a critical problem for your customers, it will become a must-have instead of a nice-to-have. You won’t need to convince your customers that your product will provide value to them, because they will understand its value proposition directly.
You can test this by trying to sell your product or solution before you build it. For example, you can create a simple landing page for your product that displays all the features it has (or rather will have). Now send it to your potential customers and try to get pre-orders or paid reservations.
You don’t even need to have developed anything yet – they don’t need to know that.
But before you develop ideas and solutions to potential problems, you should find out what problems your customers are facing in their job daily.
Talk to people in your target audience
It’s hard to get started, but the best way is to reach out to people in your target audience and ask them a few questions about their work, their daily struggles in the business, and what they do to overcome them.
Make sure that they are the ones who are talking the most. Don’t tell them about your product or idea, just ask them questions and let them talk through the topics they want to talk about. This will get you to their critical problems faster, as they know best where their pain is.
Personal chats and interviews work best, and you should start with those. It will also create first touch points with potential customers & partners and allows you to build your network.
Talk to your target audience first and discover and validate their critical problems from an embedded perspective.
Try to sell your product to your target customers before building it.
Ask your customers for feedback on a regular basis and keep the discussion alive!
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If you found this interesting, you might like to read about the Top 5 Startup Mistakes Impact Founders Should Avoid, too.
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