The Overview #2

This week, a focus on early stage startup customer development, learning, and research.


This is The Overview, a weekly roundup of noteworthy B2B SaaS stuff. You'll find interesting tweets and articles from around the internet, plus highlights from my personal swipe file.

This week I’ve focused on early stage startup customer development, learning, and research.

Early stage customer discovery

One thing I reiterate at every chance with founders/sales reps at early stage startups is that every customer conversation must center on the problem they have and the problem you are solving.

The goal is to discover if they are aligned. Sales, at its core, is an alignment-finding exercise. Is the problem is big enough and ugly enough that they’ll pay to solve it today, with what you have and what you plan to build?

The product will evolve according to customer and market needs. The product may not fit 100% today, but it will likely be better than struggling with their status quo.

It’s too easy to rely on your product - what you’ve built, and the tangibility of it - but you’ll skew the conversation and miss potential opportunities.

Speed of learning

Just as product teams will do ‘elephant carpaccio’ to slim down big builds into smaller slices of value, sales/marketing teams can do the same.

Rather than create a huge plan that requires a ton of execution before any results come in, can you break those down into smaller, discrete pieces that have a quicker feedback loop?

Let’s take marketing campaigns: can you test a topic with one post and some high-signal distribution before investing heavily?

Or positioning: can you run a landing page test and promote via PPC to gauge interest?

Connect smaller, tighter feedback loops with last week’s “how will we know if this is working?” question to build confidence and momentum in your sales/marketing and overall strategy.

When to use exploratory research

It’s too easy to jump straight into data collection and analysis. Everyone thinks they know what the range is to be evaluated, where the limits are.

This article from Intercom looks at the benefits of exploratory research, and where it fits into the product development process.

It’s harder to take a step back and carry out exploratory research to inform what your data analysis should look at in the first place. But it really pays off, by providing a tighter direction of travel (by defining focus) for you to then experiment, survey, and test in (to build confidence). And focus + confidence = momentum.

We’ve seen 2-3 weeks of research upfront saves weeks of product development down the line… Instead of experimenting with, say, 4-5 solutions, teams have been able to focus on the top 1-2 solutions that get at the heart of our customers’ problems.

Read the article

How to find customer development interviewees

In hindsight, I wish I’d found this post years ago. To carry out research, we relied heavily on our personal networks and existing customers - blind to the obvious biases that exist in those groups.

This article from Jason Evanish has 95 ways to find your first customers for customer development or your first sale.

That’s the Overview for this week

Hope you found some interest in this edition.

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