New ideas are common place in product management to the extent product managers are often repeatedly saying “NO”.  So when the embryonic idea is given a “YES” what should be next?

Following a lean approach the typical cycle repeated is “Build, Measure, Learn”. This requires a MVP (Minimal Viable Product) or perhaps more accurately MVE (Minimal Viable Experiment) to test the hypothesis presented by the embryonic idea. There are many forms of experiment to learn more about the hypothesis, some require significant more investment than others. 

If the lean mantra, “Build, Measure, Learn” is not taken literally then the experimentation may not require anything to be built - the build stage can be a customer interview.

Before customers can be interviewed the “Build” stage does require some effort, you need to define the following:

  1. Who is the customer? Or, who is the addressable market?
  2. What is the monitisable pain your idea solves? 
  3. In a few brief sentences how does your solution solve that pain?
  4. It unusual to find a pain not solved by anyone else, so what makes your solution different?

That is the “Build” done, now time to “deploy” which requires you to talk preferably face to face or over Skype with potential (or existing) customers from the segment you defined.

When interviewing customers do not sell to them, the aim is to learn from them, these tips will help you:

  • If possible it, helps to have a colleague so you can talk and they can scribe.
  • Consider your "talk to listen" ratio and make sure you are doing the listening.
  • Take notes throughout the interview.
  • After introducing yourself define the problem and ask if they have it. (If they don’t there is no point talking to them any further)
  • Ask how they handle the problem today.
  • Breifly, without waffle and going into sales mode, explain your solution and ask if this solves their problem and why.

After three to six interviews its is time to “Measure”. Review the findings into concise points. What have you learned? Do the findings validate your hypothesis, do you want to reshape the hypothesis based on your new findings? Your MVE (Minimal Viable Experiment) is complete. Your first cycle of the lean “Build, Measure, Learn” process is in the bank.

It is normal that your learning give you cause to to reshape your hypothesis. This is the start of your next iteration of the “Build, Measure, Learn” process. My personal preference is to repeat this cycle until you can interview 6 customers and not want to reshape your hypothesis - at this point you may have learned all you can from customer interviews. It is now time to progress to a different type of experiment.  

AuthorDave Martin