Friday, January 30, 2015

It Takes 10 Visionary Customers To Play The Game

By Christian Dahlen & Oana Olteanu

A product owner needs to work closely with visionaries to develop a product that will meet the need of thousands of customers and millions of users. In almost all cases, working with a single customer will result in a product which does not scale to other customers, with one possible exception: The first customer is a standard setting lighthouse customer in its industry segment; the ‘job to be done’ has already been widely adopted by others.

It is always difficult to recruit multiple charter users and customers without much more than a storyboard. If it is impossible, it is very likely that the product owner is chasing a problem that is not urgent or important. For teams in an accelerator program, finding enough customers within the prescribed three month period until the demo day can be major issue. For product teams in large enterprises, the pressure of a marketing driven release schedule often cuts short the time spent on customer development in favor of frantic engineering activity.

There is agreement that about ten customers in the target market segment is a good number to get to product/market fit. To get to ten actual customers, the team will need to talk to hundreds of people. Only a few dozen will be in the eventual target group, and less than 25 will have the appetite to move forward. Those ten customers will lead to about five reference customers that publicly state their use and satisfaction with the product.

Read next: How to focus on business outcomes and not features.

Special thanks to Allen Bannon, Ryan Nichols, and Riley Scott for their insights.

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