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Book: Talking To Humans

I found out about this book while watching the recording of the talk on the same topic, given by Frank Rimalovski at Lean Startup Conference.

I found the talk interesting, and liked the example-rich way Frank used to deliver points to the audience. At the end he announced that everything he presented and more can be found in a newly published book Talking To Humans, which is also completely free to download!

This is not the first time I’ve heard about customer development - I’ve actually been very actively involved with it on the projects I’m currently working on. Still, reading this book made me reevaluate and reinforce my knowledge - going through chapter by chapter I could pinpoint things I was missing on and better understand their importance.

If you want to learn about customer development, here are some great resources I can recommend:

All in all, this was fun and easy to read material, and here are my main takeaways:

Do. Observe. Ask.

I like how the author divided customer dev process into these three components. I used to associate it only with the “Ask” part, in other words interviewing people. Having read this, I realized I’m already doing a lot of observing, just didn’t think of it that way.

For example, I like to collect the examples of how people currently deal with the problem we’re trying to solve. That way I gain understanding of what is important to them, and also why. At the same moment I identify the potential early adopters - if they are dealing with the problem, it must be important to them.

“Do” means trying to experience the targeted problem yourself, and later also using the solution yourself. I think this is really important, and would love to practice this more.

Ask for referrals.

As the author says, make it happen - this is one of the secrets of “growth” in this stage as you are much more likely to get a response, opposed to sending a cold mail. That’s so both because you’ll get an introduction, so your contact won’t be cold anymore, and because your referrer will do her best to connect you with the people who are truly interested in what you’re doing.

Here’s an example of how I do it:

I find it very beneficial to learn about this problem from a different perspectives. Could you recommend anybody else to whom I could talk to?

If you already have a value proposition or even a product that you’re testing, you could go with something like this:

Do you know anybody else who might find our solution beneficial? I find it really valuable to talk to the experts like you and learn how to improve our product.

Focus on early adopters first.

Note to myself:

New founders tend to obsess about their mainstream customer. However, by definition, the mainstream is waiting for proof from early adopters before they trying. If you cannot get early adopters, you cannot move on.

And here’s the definiton:

Early adopters are usually folks who feel a pain point acutely, or love to try new products and services.

I also think about early adopters as of people who could not only benefit from the solution you’ll develop, but are also truly excited about it, and interested in how you’re going to solve it.

I’ll leave you with a great 1-minute video by Steve Blank who makes a point much better thank I could say it:

These are the people who see your product even better than you do. They see the finished product 18 months from now, even though you didn’t show it to them - because they’ve been thinking about solving the same problem for themselves for years, and then you showed up.