Getting Started

Customer discovery, a secret ingredient to startup success

One women talking to another to get feedback on idea as part of customer discovery process

Customer discovery is a process that involves talking with the people who are your customers or could be your potential customers.

When you're beginning the process of starting a business, the aim of customer discovery is to find out the truths about:

  • The problems people have, which you could potentially solve. This will help you to understand if there will likely be a demand for your product or service.
  • Who it is that has this problem the most and is most likely to pay for a solution. This will help you to understand who your first customers will likely be.
  • What this group of people cares about most in a solution. This will help you to understand what benefits and features your product needs to have for it to be valuable enough for people to pay for it.

Once you've built the product, ways to observe, measure and get feedback directly from customers should be built into your product.

Why is it necessary?

Doing customer discovery early in the idea development process will help you develop more certainty around the opportunity that exists. Certainty is valuable because it makes it easier to take action.

It will reduce the risks that are involved with starting a business. Because it's a way of understanding what people want and whether your idea has legs before you invest a lot of money into building the product.

It will help you to make decisions about what the first version of the product should be.

Not only that, but the people that you speak will most likely end up becoming your first customers.

If understanding the value of using customer discovery to drive decision making is so valuable, why don't more people do it?

Winning the battle with your mind

Although the process of customer discovery is not particularly hard, it is hard to force yourself to do enough of it.

Here are some of the reasons why:

Most people who are starting a business for the first time have no idea about the details that need to be understood to be able to build a unique, valuable product. You don't see this process for existing companies, which makes it hard to accept is as an important process for business success. If you don't accept or understand the process, you're not going to be compelled to do it. Hopefully, we've crossed this off the list for you.

When you have an idea that you think is a good one, it's hard not to let your mind wander to what your life might be like when you're running this new company. The fear of finding out that an idea might not be as realistic as first thought can make people put blinders on. Customer discovery takes the blinders off. Some people don't want to take the blinders off.

Another reason is that people feel personally attached to their ideas, and fear being humiliated by the people they talk to about it. Humans are innately fearful of humiliation as it has played a significant role throughout our evolution. Thousands of years ago, humiliation had an impact on our abilities to find a mate, decades ago and in some ways still today, it has an impact on our social standings - our perceived status.

None of these worries are really that valid. If the idea is not going to work, its best to find out early so it can be changed. And the more you know about what people want, the better your abilities to come up with ideas. Also, if you do customer discovery using our process, people will not be giving you direct feedback on your idea, they will be telling your stories about their experiences.

A persons willpower and confidence need to be relatively high to transcend the fear and take action regardless. Most people's willpower and confidence are not that high. It's something that needs to be worked on.

So what next?

You can read more about how to do customer discovery in our resource 'How to do Market Validation'.

If you are starting and building a company and you are not using customer discovery to inform your decision making, you're missing an important opportunity to reduce risk and increase your chances of success.

If it's a task that's daunting for you, one that you keep putting off, we recommend finding a mentor or other people to keep you accountable to doing this task.

We offer this service through Mum's Garage, in a way that makes it affordable for early-stage founders.

Please ask us about it using the link below.

All the best!

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