Dont Let The Customer Lead Your Product Development

Many people will tell you to “put the customer first” or that the “customer is always right”. While they are correct, these are invariably techniques to deal with customer conflict resolution i.e. to pacify or aid a dissatisfied customer get what they want. Recently, I have encountered many founders who have extended these strategies to their entire product development process. This has led to a complete disaster, resulting in the unnecessary expansion of the bouquet of products and services being offered – massively scaling both, the size of the team and the processes that the venture is following. Unfortunately, expansion isn’t the answer, since a larger pool of products & services only means that there are fewer winners, many mediocre products and some downright losers.
With so many permutations and combinations to play with and a business to run, the founders’ bandwidth gets spread out too thin and the hawkish attention they should be paying to their target customer is lost. This leads to a new conundrum, which products or services should the venture discontinue? How can the founder gauge whether that move will further alienate the venture from their target audience or bring them closer? To be this confused at an early stage of the venture building process is pure suicide. Alternatively, a smaller bouquet with a focussed attention is much more appreciated.
Take for example the original OYO rooms offer which only offered 4 things to their customer

    1. 1. An affordable price
    1. 2. A clean room
    1. 3. Free Wi-Fi
    1. 4. Free breakfast

Although, offering only these thing, may have alienated larger sections of the market, it catered very specifically to the target audience that they were after. Today they are expanding their product portfolio and catering to different segments, but that wasn’t the case at the outset and yes, of course, today they have $250 million sitting in the bank that gives them to flexibility to expand their portfolio.
It is clear, that I advise founders against trying to cater to every customer’s demands so early in the venture development process. There isn’t a single venture that has successfully been able to satisfy all the people in the world. This has been proven time and again by all the start-ups who have attempted it, and regardless of sufficient funding and prestigious global networks, either died or learnt their lesson and chosen to scale down to stay afloat. If you are reading this and realising that you are in the trap of catering to everyone and no longer addressing the market you had originally intended to cater to – then this is the time that you scaled down
40/2018

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