Photo By: Etienne Girardet

The Better Question About Customers

Customer development is hard.

There is a question that makes it easier.

Photo By Matt Walsh

A better question than the one I have been asking.

The question that I and every investor I know have been asking is

“What are your customers doing now?”

Often this question is phrased as

“What is the competitive landscape — who are your competitors and how are you better for some particular segment of the market than each of them.”

The many startups that can’t answer that question even as well as a two-minute google search do not have a bright future. It’s a good and important question.

But there is a better even more important question:

“What are your customers doing right now to try to find a better solution?”

Because the ones that are trying to find a better solution are the ones that will most quickly and easily find us. The ones who will put up with the most problems in our early solution. The ones who will pay the biggest premium. The ones we can most easily target. The ones we can most easily interview and otherwise have to help us.

If there isn’t anyone actively trying to find a better solution for their problem, we are going to need a heck of a customer acquisition plan; and, that plan might take a heck of a lot of money and entail a heck of a lot of risks.

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Written by Russell Brand

Russell has started three successful companies, one of which helped agencies of the federal government become very early adopters of open source software, long before that term was coined. His first project saved The American taxpayer 250 million dollars. In his work within federal agency, he was often called, “the arbiter of truth,” facilitating historically hostile groups and factions to effectively work together towards common goals


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