You’ve built a great product, but no one wants to buy it? How did you miss the mark despite the time and resources you’ve spent on it? The main issue is ignoring customer centricity.
EWOR’s CEO, Daniel Dippold knows the value of customer centricity as the founder of four companies. With his start-ups, Daniel experienced every founder’s ups and downs that come with a new start-up. From this, he learned one of the biggest lessons that can make or break your start-up career: understanding your target audience.
In a previous article by Daniel, the biggest mistakes during customer centricity were discussed. But, in this article, we will share some of Daniel’s advice on why customer centricity should be a priority and how it boosts your growth.
What Is Customer Centricity?
Customer centricity, also known as customer discovery, is the process of focusing on customers’ lives and needs. The goal is to meet their expectations and secure the best customer experiences with your product, loyalty based on that experience, and advocacy.
At its core, customer centricity is part of market research, but Daniel likes to regard it as a separate category to emphasise its importance. While there are significant overlaps with market research, focusing on customers is the qualitative research part of the equation.
“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” – Reid Hoffman
Daniel recommended taking that quote by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman to heart. It addresses how start-up founders miss the optimal launch time because they’re too busy over-optimising their product. He advises investing time into customer interviews and working with minimal prototypes that exhibit only core functionalities initially.
Based on customer feedback, improve your product in the following development stages. That approach is what Hoffmann is referring to, and is a good place to start thinking about customer centricity.
Why Is Customer Centricity so Important?
There are two main early founding risks. One of them is product risk, which concerns every production aspect. As the core of your business, founders have to come up with a business plan and production strategies. Can you build and grow your product? How so? What do you need for it to do well within your target market?
The other risk concerns customers. Do people want your product or service? Do they need it, and will they be willing to spend money on your company? How big will the demand be? Will you have enough customers?
Inexperienced entrepreneurs tend to focus on product risk more than customer risk, according to Daniel. He considers that approach a grave mistake. It’s easier to control and improve the product, but you cannot succeed without understanding your customers’ needs.
“If you do not have a clear understanding of your customers’ problems, you’ve built too early.” – Daniel Dippold
Why Do Entrepreneurs Often Overlook Customer Centricity?
If customer centricity is so important, why do people not prioritise it more? Daniel identified five main reasons why that’s the case. Avoid or work on them, and be open to focusing on customer needs.
Daniel deemed it easier to stick to ideas that you’re passionate about rather than first testing if customers would want to invest in them. Young entrepreneurs are excited about their products, and it’s more convenient for them to focus on product risks rather than spending time on in-depth market and customer research.
Playing into the convenience aspect, Daniel named a lack of discipline as another early pitfall for start-up founders. The passion for the project and juggling all the other responsibilities of a start-up business dominate a founder’s mind. Thus, they sometimes lack the discipline to dedicate a significant amount of time to talking to customers and getting valuable feedback.
The False Consensus Effect
Human psychology can get in the way of growing your business. The false consensus effect affects many of us. We know our opinion is one of many. But at the same time, we assume that some of our opinions are common. In other words, young entrepreneurs like their product and are convinced it solves a significant problem, so they assume others will too. The result is too little investment in customer interviews and thus risking a false assessment of the target audience.
Another reason for putting too little effort into customer discovery is a young entrepreneur’s potential hubris, according to Daniel. Believing in your product is important, but don’t let it overshadow the need for customer feedback. Striving for the best possible product and customer loyalty requires setting personal pride aside and obtaining useful feedback. Overconfidence will only lead to a disconnect from your target audience and thus negatively affect demand for your product.
Part of the reason why the EWOR Academy addresses customer centricity is that it’s not sufficiently taught in universities. While Daniel deemed it a key task to focus on, many schools don’t seem to agree.
To close these education gaps, sign up to the EWOR Platform and discover over 17 courses designed by serial entrepreneurs to help you build a sustainable business.
Do’s and Dont’s During Customer Interviews
There is a framework to conduct interviews with customers that guarantees you walk away with usable feedback. Daniel shared four core principles to follow during such conversations to avoid wasting your and your customer’s time.
Talk About Their Life Instead of Your Idea
Don’t pitch your idea, collect a round of applause, and wonder why you didn’t learn anything new during the customer interview. Instead, focus on the customer’s problem you’re trying to fix. Ask about their life and how they currently solve their problem.
The only way to avoid generics and opinions is to be as precise as possible in your questions. Don’t ask the customer for future predictions or general assumptions about demand or other customers. Hypotheticals won’t be useful for you. Instead, ask about the urgency of the problem, and whether they’ve researched it before and spent money on it.
Talk Less and Listen More
A questionnaire is a good place to start, according to Daniel. After that, spend time getting to know your customers. The more you know, the better. The best way to achieve this is to let them do most of the talking. Lead the conversation in a way that allows them to express their experiences.
Don’t just work through the set of questions you’ve prepared for the interview. By following the third step of letting the customer talk the most, you allow the conversation to take unexpected turns. You’re interviewing to learn more. Therefore, a quick mind will help in follow-up questions to interesting thoughts. Don’t move on to the next question too quickly, but instead dig a little deeper and learn as much as possible.
Customer Centricity as a Philosophy
Understanding your customer base is not only important to create the perfect experience and guarantee customer satisfaction. It’s also crucial to validate every development step of your product and business. Daniel believes in this process: “If you’re 100% sure that people need it, want it, would pay money for it, and use it on an active basis, you can convince any investor and get the money you need to build it.”
The first step is validating your basic business idea through customer discovery. Customer conversations roughly follow the questions we discussed before. Find out if your idea is solving their problem in a way that piques their interest and makes them willing to pay for your product.
The second step is to validate the synthesis stage. It refers to confirming the opportunities you’re chasing with your business idea. This concerns demand based on true customer needs and thus combines the initial idea with the factual opportunity.
The third stage is validating your prototypes based on true customer needs. In other words, after listening to the customer and building the first iteration of your product, customer centricity helps to validate if you’re on the right track. The first batch of test users will provide useful feedback. Think back to Reid Hoffman’s quote on being embarrassed by your first product. This feeds into this step.
As a final step, validate every new feature based on feedback from customers. You can think a new feature is needed and great, but that doesn’t mean the user base will be just as enthusiastic about it. Social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook constantly roll out test features to a small number of users to see if they’re worth adding for all their customers. They validate their growth and continuous improvement efforts.
“It distinguishes a good business from a bad business,” Daniel said of start-ups that follow this philosophy and validate every change at each stage.
Customers Pay For Experiences
At the end of the day, customer centricity is so important because people don’t pay for the product but the entire experience, according to Daniel. That’s why you choose a specific brand over another. It’s why your favourite restaurant may not have world-class food, but you love the waiting staff and atmosphere.
As a start-up founder, you primarily think about your business from your perspective. For the quickest growth and a useful connection to customers, think about what they experience when interacting with your product rather than the product itself. Use the product to achieve the desired experience.
Daniel’s Book Recommendations
As a final tip, Daniel shared his top book recommendations that guide you in focusing on customer centricity and deepening your knowledge.