Customer Development Workshop – A step by step guide

These are notes from a workshop on customer development I led at the Startup Leadership Program – Delhi 2013.



It is usually agreed for that you can build an immensely scalable web/tech business if 40% of your users can’t live without your product.

Other ways to put this message –

40% of your users would be extremely disappointed if you stopped providing your service;

40% of your users would be extremely difficult to switch to a competitor product etc.

Please note that when I say product, it means everything – the features, the service, the price at which you are offering – the whole package. The goal of customer development is to find out if your product really has such a set of users. It does away with the assumptions and gets you validation from actual customers.

As part of this workshop, you’d be able to discover what you need to do to be able to find this set of users.

The steps here are how I applied the principles defined in Business Model Canvas, An entrepreneur’s guide to Customer Development and much of Steve Blank’s blogs and videos. You should visit them for details.

Step 01 – What is your product’s problem – solution – benefit?

As a first step of this workshop, let’s begin by defining the product. We’ll use the PSB placards to do this. Pick up Post-It Notes and start jotting down the following-

Problem: What is the problem that your user faces?

Solution: What is the solution that you are providing?

Benefits: How is your user benefited?

Most practitioners tend to believe that we should only define the most significant problems that we are solving. I think it’s an assumption in itself. For one user security could be the most significant problem while for another, it could be performance. Therefore, pick up any and all the problems that your product solves.

FAQs to step 1

Q. Do I have to consider my competition in this PSB?

A. Getting competition into the problem statement is not a bad idea. However, it does tend to lengthen (time) the process. It might even end up getting you into another research phase right. The question really does boil down to how much detailing you’ll bring in here. What if your product has 3 customers, each solving the problem in a slightly different way? Do you make three placards?

You could instead just add one other point there saying – Existing Solutions. Your PSB now looks something like

Problem: What is the problem that your user faces?

Existing Solutions: How is your user solving these problems right now?

Solution: What is the solution that you are providing?

Benefits: How is your user benefited?

You don’t even have to do this for all your PSBs. Just the ones where you think it’s important.

Q. What if the problem is specific to a certain type of user? Do I state the user here also?

A. The data entry operator would probably have a different problem as compared to a companies’ CEO. So it does make sense to add who is facing this problem. But don’t rush into it. This is what you’ll be doing in a subsequent step of this workshop.

If however you do have the user in mind, mark it in pencil and put it on the back (not front) of your PSB card. That’ll help you in the subsequent stage.

Q. Is there a word-limit to how long my PESB should be?

Brevity & conciseness is always a great idea. 160 characters for each of the headings would be easy to work with. No hard and fast rules though.

Q. How many PESBs should I have?

No right answer. You could have 1, you could have 50. Just start jotting down all the problems-solution-benefits that you are directly solving. You could increase my productivity and in-turn save costs but then so is every other productivity solution. Get direct. Provide more tangible results that your customer agrees to.

I generally go unbridled and after I can’t think of them right off the top of my head, I stop. Then I get my key people to do the same and then we all do it collectively.

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