Kenny Rogers and Customer Development
You got to know when to hold em..
We’re believers in Lean Startup here at AgilityFeat. In addition to our boutique UX/ Design and Software Development Services, we’re working on a few business ideas to scratch our collective entrepreneurial itches. One of those business ideas was called 5th Caller (RIP) and last week, we decided it was time to hang up on the idea. Arin and I have been diligently building a validation board and ranking our assumptions by risk and were ready to get out of the building and talk to potential customers. There was only one problem, no one wanted to talk to us! Here are 3 lessons we learned from the customer development process that wasn’t.
#1. Prepare like a scientist
One of the important things that we did was to limit the variables in our experiment. We created a few versions of an introductory e-mail and sent them out to 20 potential customers. Initially, we wanted to contact people that we didn’t know and had no connection to in hopes that our questions would validate our product idea with total strangers. Our thinking was that validation from this group would be a strong indicator that we were solving a real problem. We had selected our list of clients based on market (Radio Stations) and target audience so we could test the two versions of our e-mail across different audiences to see what message resonated the best with whom. However, after speaking to a grand total of zero people out of twenty contacted (including follow-up messages) we decided that perhaps we needed to warm up the contacts a little.
#2. When cold calls fail, try referrals
After an epic fail contacting our first 20 potential customers, we returned to the drawing board to make a list of people we knew in the Radio industry. After culling Linkedin networks and sending few e-mails, I had an e-mail introducing me to 10 new contacts in the industry. What’s more, one of the contacts had even contacted me without me following up so I set up a call with him. The call was a great success, the answers we received validated our thinking and also made us aware of alternative ways Radio Stations were solving the problem we wanted to solve. I was getting excited and followed up with the others that I had been e-troduced to. After three rounds of follow-ups, I had been stood up for one additional phone call and no response from anyone else. Hmmm, this was all too familiar.
#3. Be honest with results
At this point, we had reached a decision point. Did we need to pivot or persevere? While we still loved our idea, the numbers were adding up. We had tested different messages with cold and warm leads and had exactly one interview to show for our efforts. It was time to move on.
Despite the fact that 5th Caller has now been shelved, we still feel that following the process was a success. We invested no time in development, marketing or sales of a product no one wanted. In the end, we learned when to fold em, learned when to walk away and learned when to run. An entrepreneur is a gambler indeed but Lean Startup methodologies sure helped us manage our risk with this business idea.
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