What is Customer Development?

Customer Development

So far I have posted on Business Models, Value Propositions, and now I want to point to Customer Development. I am late to this party and through reading the Lean Startup by Eric Ries, which I found out about through a Product Management course I was taking, I learned about Steve Blank and Customer Development. I will not presume to give the definition of customer development, I leave that to Steve Blank.

Get Out of the Building

I have been in positions where our goal is to innovate.  Innovation can be something that is incrementally different or extremely new and different in a startup or an existing company. In the process of doing this, there is this unknown of whether the end user or client will actually like it or purchase it. I had always called the term market research or user research, but after being exposed to the resources above I found that the term is really Customer Development. Steve Blank coined this term a while back. The most important thing about this concept is that whether you are a startup or innovating in your company, it is important to “get out of the building” and talk to the customers to validate your hypothesis.

There is sometimes a fear of talking to the customer about things that you may do. It is so limiting and stifles innovation. With innovation comes risk and being afraid to fail will stifle all informed risk taking which stifles innovation.

The Manifesto

Steve Blank’s “Nail the Customer Development Manifesto to the Wall” post from 2012 provides details on the manifesto and customer development. The first line in the manifesto is:

A Startup Is a Temporary Organization Designed to Search
for A Repeatable and Scalable Business Model
1. There Are No Facts Inside Your Building, So Get Outside

Take a look at the source of this quote, the rest of the manifesto, and the Customer Development framework. It is going to take me a while to read all of his blog posts and his books, as there is a wealth of information on his website. Mr. Blank is a prolific sharer and over time I will be pointing to more of his resources as I continue my quest to learn more about the framework that I know exists regarding vision, strategy, innovation, customer development, development, and measurement.

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