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How to learn more about your customer's needs and build what they want

Vik Duggal
Vik Duggal
• 3 min read

Three hundred six-five long days. You’ve exhausted yourself building the product.

Finally, you open the gates, you get put your solution out into market and in the hands of real people.

One hundred eighty long days pass. You realize it is not exactly what people want, but they are willing to give it a go because they like you. You want more, you need more.

Internally it becomes a different story. The alignment around what to build breaks down and product development becomes chaotic.

You don’t have what people want and you can’t get aligned to build what they need.

What do you do?

While it is tempting to start cold calling, create a lead list, or succumb to the targeting power of Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Google, don’t. You are welcome to try, but consider this: learn more about what your customer needs to inform what to build and build stronger internal alignment.

You and your business will benefit from learning more about what your customers needs that the product can deliver when the following converge:

  • You don’t have enough understanding of the buyer
  • GTM and engineering teams not aligned
  • Company/product differentiation is light

To accomplish this efficiently, my recommendation is that you leverage three product research methodologies in series* that will help increase the speed of learning and systematically uncover what is currently unclear:

  1. Jobs to be Done (JTBD)
  2. Market Saturation Survey
  3. Solution Switching Forces (SSF)

The Jobs to be Done (JTBD) method

Reference of JTBD method from client engagement

This method is rooted in the idea that people buy products to get jobs done. The product they use may change over time, but the underlying job is relatively stable (such as driving leads to sales). One way to put it is, "People don't want a quarter inch drill bit, they want a quarter inch hole." So, by understanding the outcomes that customers want, it becomes easier to see where there are unmet expectations from products currently available in the market, which is where you could then invest in order to meet those expectations.

Market Saturation Survey

Reference of MSS method from client engagement

This short survey will help define whether the people in their target market consider that market to be underserved, saturated, or oversaturated. Your product strategy will depend on the market maturity. If it's underserved, you can focus on the single, primary job. If it's saturated, you'll need to satisfy related jobs (example primary job is cutting the grass, related jobs are bagging/removing clippings, edging, and leaf blowing). If the market is oversaturated, you'll need to disrupt the market with a lower priced solution.

Solution Switching Forces

Reference of SSF method from client engagement

Where JTBD helps uncover unmet expectations, SSF helps uncover the forces at play when a person purchases a solution for the job. The purpose is to understand what the triggers are they make people switch to a new solution for the same job (even if the prior "solution" was that they didn't have one before). It also reveals what pulls someone toward a new solution and what pushes them away from an old one. SSF is beneficial for uncovering nuances about required and differentiating features. It is also powerful data for developing messaging/positioning that marketing and sales can use in their materials.

Final Food for Thought

  • The Sean Ellis/Superhuman Product Market Fit survey questions are popular, but if your customer count is too low, it is useless. (P.S. I see a lot of Founders using this framework and believing the answers they’ve received are statistically significant.)
  • These methodologies will help inform what to build, create strong internal alignment around the job your business will do for people.
  • Leverage the learning from these activities to craft a more sound set of Get Ready Assets.
  • Understand where your business is vs. the market (early, not early enough, mature)

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