Don’t expect to build something people want

Customer Development is great. It can really reduce your risk and save you years of misery. One misconception about the methodology that I myself fall prey to is a promise that building something people want is enough. It’s not enough.

You hear a lot of talk about pain killers versus vitamins and the logic is sound, but how many of the things you buy or your business buys would you really call a pain killer?  If I look around, I don’t honestly see that many. Sure, some of them save me time or money. I like having them around. Tedium is reduced, but pain killer? It’s not a compulsion. Few of these things are absolutely necessary and most of them have reasonable alternatives.

How many things that you buy happened simply because someone built something to solve a problem you had? Wait, none? Zero things flashed into your mind and wallet because they were constructed to solve your problems?

How many of the products you buy are ideal solutions for your problems? Does it feel like someone understands you and your specific context? I doubt it. I am often delighted by the smallest improvements in design. If the benefit of using the product is there, I’ll put up with a lot of hassle.

Do you always buy the best or most feature-ful option? Most expensive? Cheapest? Wait, it might be too complex or error-prone with a lot of features? And you think it would be crazy to pay $X for that, but also that there has to be something wrong with the cheapest one?

How do you make your purchasing decisions then? I’ll tell you. You get marketed to because someone else has studied you. you belong to their targeted segment. They are trying to understand you. To speak to you. To talk like you. They want to help you succeed because then you’ll both succeed. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better. They want you to buy.

Don’t expect to build something people want and have a sudden success on your hands. You have to understand your market. Speak like them. Talk to them. Find where they hang out. You have to market something people want.