Enterprise software providers can elicit the help of earlyvangelists by creating a Customer Charter Program or Advisory Board. This involves recruiting 8-10 of your customers to work with you on the product creation process with the goal of having at least 6 of them purchasing it in the end. These 6 will ultimately be powerful references for the product and make the job of your sales team much easier. For the Product Manager, these customers will give you real and timely feedback throughout the process so that you can be assured you are building something that they actually want. There are rules you need to follow, such as making sure that you have the right set of customers, that you forego payment until you have a product worth paying for and that you maintain transparency and open communication with your partners. The same framework can be employed for consumer-facing products but you’ll need to assemble a larger set of customers.
How to find earlyvangelists in your Customer Development process
In an ideal situation, you’ll already be deeply acquainted with a community of people who are all experiencing the same problem. Since this is highly unlikely, you’ll need to look elsewhere. John Gannon suggests reaching out to conference/tradeshow speakers, people mentioned in relevant press releases and members of LinkedIn who have identified themselves publicly as good targets.
Earlyvangelists: the most important customers of all
As with much material relating to Customer Development, Steve Blank provides a solid definition of an earlyvangelist. These potential customers are identified at a very early stage in order to test your concept and spread the word about the product. They’ll have these characteristics — they have a problem or need, they understand they have a problem, they’re searching for a solution, their problem is so painful they’ve cobbled their own solution together and they are ready to spend money on a better solution.
What I learned talking to 500 customers in 4 weeks
To achieve this feat, Alex Turnbull simply emailed all of his customers and used Doodle to set up 10-15 minute calls with those who replied. The effort paid off as he was able to find faults in his onboarding process, meet unhappy customers, and better understand who exactly his customers were.
10 great questions Product Managers should ask customers
Thankfully there are many resources available that give examples of questions that should be asked. Jim Semick lists 10 open-ended questions including the most powerful one that should be asked repeatedly, ‘why?’.
Conducting customer interviews can be difficult and feel unnatural for many of us. But like Ash Maurya, there are ways of overcoming your fears and becoming adept at them. He suggests focusing on learning (not pitching), preparing a script, starting with people you know and recording the conversation.
Customer Development is a four step framework for creating products that customers really want first outlined in Steve Blank’s book, Four Steps to the Epiphany. It has since become a crucial tool for startup and established companies launching new products. Anastasia at Cleverism gives an overview of the four steps — Customer Discovery, Customer Validation, Customer Creation and Company Building. The first two are a cycle of experimenting to find a problem worth solving (problem-solution fit) and a market in which to sell the product (product-market fit). Market by Numbers provides a handy graphic that summarizes the four steps. Even better, check out this 2 minute video that provides an excellent overview.
95 ways to find your first customers for customer development or your first sale
Steve Blank once said: “no plan survives first contact with customers.” You have already committed to getting out of the building, but where do you go exactly to find potential customers? Jason Evanish lists many online as well as literal ‘out of the building’ sources.