The customer development process is crucial to the success of start-up ventures. What consumers want is constantly evolving and is often surprising, so logically it follows that no business should just assume that they already know what their customers are looking for.
Steve Blank describes customer development as the process of getting out of the building and working with the consumers that you want to serve. Of course, anytime there is potential for a new business endeavor an entrepreneur will have assumptions in mind regarding who the market will be, what features are important, and the like. That is just how an entrepreneur’s mind works if you ask me and there is no way to avoid such assumptions. But it is essential for the entrepreneur to take these assumptions and put them to the test; going out and ask the real potential customers what is important to them, what changes they would like to see, would they be willing to purchase it, and so on.
At the beginning of the year, trendwatching.com released an article outlining “10 Crucial Consumer Trends” for 2013. The first trend in the article is titled, “Presumers and Custowners”. Those two made up words might sound like nonsense, but entrepreneurs in particular should take note of their importance. Basically, “Presumers love to get involved with, push, fund, and promote products and services before they are realized” and “Custowners: consumers who move from passively consuming a product towards funding/investing (if not owning a stake) in the brands they buy from”.
This is crucial information for start-ups. Not only do consumers want to help entrepreneurs create a product that they want and will buy, but they are willing to invest in bringing these products to the market! Today’s consumer is willing, not only to purchase the products they help design, but to spend money getting those products to the shelf. If that doesn’t convince you of the importance of customer development, I don’t know what will.
*See <http://www.trendwatching.com/trends/10trends2013/> for more 2013 consumer trends.