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  • What’s the #1 Thing Entrepreneurs and Product Owners Should Stop Doing?

    What’s the #1 Thing Entrepreneurs and Product Owners Should Stop Doing?

    Work smarter, not harder. Stop seeing the world through your product and instead see it from your target customers’ perspective.

    It’s only natural as an entrepreneur or product owner to be focused on your product and vision; to see the world through the lens of what your product does.

    Just pause for a moment and think about this: customers only care about outcomes – meeting their goals with the least effort, time, and cost. If you only see the world through your product filter, then you are not seeing it through the eyes of target customers. This is a major impediment to growing your business.

    Seeing the world from your customers’ perspective means understanding their environment, seeing the barriers and constraints that truly impact them, knowing which problems they believe are worth solving and which are “below the line”, knowing the business metrics that matter, and what triggers them to take action rather than talk about taking action.

    Imagine if you had this understanding. What would that mean for your product and your sales efforts? What product capabilities would you develop that drive meaningful value? And most importantly, think about how this customer knowledge could be used to accelerate product-market fit and grow your business.

    So how do you stop seeing the world through a product filter and flip your perspective?

    Set the awesomeness of your product aside and think with a beginner’s mind about the problem or need you are targeting. Ask yourself what detailed evidence are you using to guide your product plan and sales efforts?

    One helpful exercise is to do a Concept Validation Review or revisit the one you have already done. You want a fully documented deep analysis of the problem/need. From this effort, critical insights will emerge with the supporting evidence needed to guide your decisions.

    This primary research document should be a combination of what you know, information obtained from internet research, and of the utmost importance, insights from customer conversations used in a process often referred to as Customer Discovery.

    To be specific, customer conversations are thoughtfully structured conversations for learning purposes with target prospects. These are not meetings to pitch your product. (Although, these types of conversations often lead to partnerships and product sales.) If you’re already deep into sales mode and not getting the expected results, think about restructuring sales conversations to make them learning based. In a sales scenario, prospects are often guarded about sharing information, but you will be surprised at the benefits of operating from a learning perspective.

    Having taken this approach you will have deeply immersed yourself into your target customers’ world. You will be able to see both problems/needs and the surround from their perspective. You will have direct feedback on what your product should be and the value it delivers.

    Business success requires smarts and luck. Tilt the equation in your favour.

    A repeatable sales model and product/market fit may have been an elusive goal in the past, but we at the Evidology Group are committed to helping you get there. We’re confident our coaching, best practices, and templates can help you meet your sales and financing objectives, so contact us to find out how. We’ll review where you are, what we recommend for your immediate action-plan and set you off in the right direction. No cost. No commitment. If you want to take it further, we can even roll up our sleeves and join you on your journey.

    As entrepreneurs, we know your time is a very precious commodity, so we take a pragmatic approach nudging you to work smarter, not harder by focusing on the right things at the right time.

    Adam and Doug
    www.evidologygroup.com
    You know your product. We can help you sell it.

  • Happy New Year!

    Happy New Year!

    As you gear up for the new year, make a resolution to be more customer-centric and spend quality time developing a deeper understanding of your customers, their problems, their workflows and how they use your product.

    A repeatable sales model and product/market fit may have been an elusive goal in the past, but we at the Evidology Group are committed to helping you get there. We’re confident our coaching, best practices, and templates can help you meet your new year’s sales and financing objectives, so book a session now. We’ll review where you are, what we recommend for your immediate action-plan and set you off in the right direction. No cost. No commitment. If you want to take it further, we can even roll up our sleeves and join you on your journey.

    As entrepreneurs, we know your time is a very precious commodity, so we take a pragmatic approach nudging you to work smarter, not harder by focusing on the right things at the right time.

    Get the new year started right and set yourself up for an awesome year of breakthroughs and growth. Book a session now.

    Here’s to a happy, healthy and successful year!

    Adam and Doug

    www.evidologygroup.com

    You know your product. We can help you sell it.

  • What Did You Learn About Your Customers This Year?

    What Did You Learn About Your Customers This Year?
    As we round out the year, I think it’s been an incredible opportunity for startups to think about how we can do business smarter.

    There’s never been a better time to stop selling and start learning; to build a customer-centric culture and to look for an optimized path to product/market fit. We’re truly delighted to have helped many companies do just that – and we take great pride in the impact we’re making in transforming their businesses.

    For the Evidology Group, it was certainly an exciting time. Over the past year, we’ve built out a comprehensive repertoire of best practices and templates around customer discovery, concept validation and product validation which has enormous consequences on sales, marketing, product strategy, pricing, fundraising and recruitment.

    Below is a quick summary of the blogs we’ve written. For a copy of our best practices and templates, please reach out to us and we’d be happy to share this content with you.

    Here’s to a happy, healthy and prosperous new year!

    Adam and Doug

    www.evidologygroup.com

    You know your product. We can help you sell it.

  • How Are You Impacting Your Customer’s Business?

    How Are You Impacting Your Customer’s Business?

    We’ve advised, mentored, and consulted with close to a hundred startups over the years and can count on one hand the number of companies that could quantify the impact their solution had on their customers and support those claims with solid evidence.

    It’s not easy for sure, but I guarantee that if you can build evidence to support the impact on your customer’s key metrics, you’ll find both sales and fundraising will be orders of magnitude easier.

    Let’s explore how to go about doing this by answering these five questions:

    1) What are your target buyer persona’s key success metrics?

    Who is your target buyer and how do they measure their success? What are their critical problems or responsibilities and how are you able to support them?

    For example, if your target buyer persona is the VP Sales, it may be to improve their win/loss ratio, shorten the sales cycle or increase average contract value. If you’re trying to sell to the CEO, it may be to grow revenues, increase profitability or employee satisfaction.

    2) How does your solution impact these key metrics?

    Frame your value proposition and messaging in terms of how you impact those key metrics. You may not be able to quantify your impact until the product is built and deployed, but you should be able to quantify the problem and you should be able to estimate the anticipated impact of your future solution.

    For example, Our calendar scheduling app is expected to save your sales reps 8 hours a week by removing frustrating customer back-and-forth emails so that your reps can set up more meetings faster and close more business.

    3) Is the impact of your solution material to your customer’s business?

    The more precisely you understand and can measure drivers of your expected impact, the more successful your business will be.

    Is the problem material enough that target customers are motivated to change from the status quo to an unproven solution from a new vendor? What constitutes material is, of course, something you need to know and will also be linked to the customer’s adoption effort and risk to their business.

    For example, would a VP Sales implement a new calendar scheduling app if it saved 1 hour a week? Would they implement a new solution if it risked dropping the odd meeting invitation? Or if it took 3 months for IT to integrate it?

    If target customers are skeptical or struggling with accepting your anticipated impact on their metrics or they’re concerned about the implementation effort/risk, then perhaps seek independent (paid) validation such as an academic research paper, customer review, consultant report or perhaps even reference the results from an adjacent industry.

    4) What key capabilities are you delivering that drive impact? Are they unique?

    What is unique about your solution that gives your customer confidence that you can deliver the anticipated impact on their business and that you can do it with manageable implementation effort and risk? As a product owner, this deep understanding can help you prioritize and direct your key features.

    For example, Our solution works behind the scenes to coordinate free/busy calendar availability for all participants and only recommends times when all parties are available. What’s more, it meets GDPR privacy requirements and can be implemented with one keyclick, so you can give it a try right now and then roll it out to your department when you’re ready.

    5) Can you support those claims?

    Once you reach MVP, you should work with your first customers to measure your impact and use those metrics to unlock an enterprise-wide rollout, assuming initial deployment was contained to a small group. The results should be a call-to-action that forms an anchor in your sales and marketing communications plan.

    For example: If we can reduce the time your sales reps spend on scheduling meetings from 8 to under 1 hour a week, would you buy a site license? Or if we can help you schedule 10% more meetings a week during a one-month pilot, would you buy a site license?

    By the end of this exercise, you should be able to clearly quantify your benefit in a compelling way that will excite and inspire your customers, investors and employees.

    The format and structure are simple:

    Our [SOLUTION] helps [PERSONA] save [QUANTIFIED METRIC] by [CORE CAPABILITY] so that you can [BENEFIT]. Contact us to find out how.

    Collecting the evidence to support your claims is always the challenge. Regular readers of our blog know this is done with a structured customer discovery process designed to uncover the evidence you need.

    Armed with a quantified, high-impact business-centric message and the supporting evidence, you will be well on your path to product/market fit.

    Adam and Doug

    www.evidologygroup.com

    You know your product. We can help you sell it.

  • Are You Bringing Innovation to a Laggard?

    Are You Bringing Innovation to a Laggard?

    The Technology Adoption Lifecycle is something we’re all too familiar with as entrepreneurs. Popularized by Geoffrey Moore in his landmark book, Crossing the Chasm, Moore, points out the importance of selling to innovators and early adopters first.

    But what if the industry you’re targeting is full of Late Majority and Laggards?

    McKinsey did a landmark study on technology adoption by industry, summarized in this excellent HBR video. The report measures technology adoption across industries. It goes further to break down adoption into three components:

    1. Spending on assets such as computers, software, networking and data management

    2. Use of software for digital payments, digital marketing, and social and customer relationship management

    3. The number of technology-related tasks and roles in each sector

    The report nicely illustrates that spending on information technology assets is an important component of a business’s technology maturity, but workforce receptivity, process changes and staff training are equally essential to a successful deployment. The report also shows that even within sectors on the left-hand side, adoption can lag based on the purpose of that technology. As entrepreneurs, we often overlook these considerations at our own peril.
     

    In the diagram below, I have overlaid some of the McKinsey findings on the technology adoption lifecycle to illustrate the situation. Many Evidology Group clients are trying to bring innovation to the right side of the curve or to a lagging area of adoption within a specific industry. Not surprisingly, they’re running into challenges.

     

    Below are five steps to help you gain a foothold and establish a customer base in late adopting and laggard industries. The Evidology Group can coach you through this process, adapting it to your specific situation. Contact us for our tools and best practices and we’ll show you how we can help.

    5-Steps to Gaining a Foothold in a Laggard Industry

    1) Conduct a rigorous customer discovery process

    Any new concept starts with building a solid understanding of your customer. A rigorous Customer Discovery Process is even more critical for these late majority and laggard industries so that you truly understand if/why/what/how these customers buy. If you haven’t done this already, I urge you to do this now.

    2) Find self-identified early adopters among those Late Majority and Laggards

    Through the Customer Discovery Process, look for people you speak with who self-identify as interested in a solution to their problem. Probe to confirm they are interested in implementing a solution and not just learning.

    To address inherent customer skepticism and to build trust, you need to reduce the perceived risk. This may require a realistic non-functioning demo and associated storyboard to demonstrate you have a solid understanding of their problem and how you intend to solve it. This will not only help them build confidence in your team but will also help them visualize and provide meaningful feedback on your solution. If your product is sufficiently mature, you may consider commissioning an academic research paper or independent consulting report that measures and proves your value proposition.

    3) Uncover a simple yet valuable problem to solve at the outset

    Start with a small but meaningful and quantified problem to show immediate benefit. For example “Reduce call center volumes by 10% while improving customer satisfaction by implementing in-app guided help.”

    Avoid messages that are chasing technology trends or that use terms like “disruptive” or “innovative”. Formulate a compelling argument that your approach is a proven technology that solves a real problem. Perhaps point to other industries that have adopted the same technology with great success and point to the inevitability of adoption in this industry.

    You may need to conduct a no-cost pilot and collect metrics that confirm your value proposition. Be sure to secure a commitment that if you hit those metrics, the customer will buy your solution.

    4) Implement a Design Partner Program to build a tailored solution

    Create a Design Partner Program to engage your lead customer in the design process.

    Consult with your internal champion and users at every stage in the design process. Design your solution to minimize user training and workflow changes to ease adoption – even if it compromises the design. Involve them in Sprint demos to get their feedback to help you stay on track and give the customer a strong sense of ownership and trust in the team. Help the customer communicate the operational benefits of your solution to internal stakeholders and users to facilitate adoption.

    Jointly agree on a roadmap to gradually roll out new functionality. Customers may expect a more complete implementation in the first release which impacts the scope of your Minimum Viable Product and product quality. Budget your time and money for deeper testing prior to implementation.

    5) Celebrate your lead customer as an industry leader that others should follow

    Promote your first customer as a showcase account and rely on your internal champion as the hero/spokesperson that others can see as a successful example.

    Selling to the Late Majority and Laggards is a slow process that requires a lot of patience from you and your investors. The barriers to entering these markets can be daunting but once you are embedded and trusted, your ability to add more value over time and reap the benefits of a stable customer can be lucrative for startups that survive the perilous journey.

    The Evidology Group has developed several tools and processes to help you achieve product-market fit. Contact the Evidology Group to see how we can help your business navigate the journey.

  • Customer Discovery: Do You Pitch, Use a List of Questions, or Follow a Script?

    Customer Discovery: Do You Pitch, Use a List of Questions, or Follow a Script?
    In an earlier blog post, we covered the five major elements of a Customer Discovery Conversation Plan. One of the elements was a Conversation Script. Our clients tell us this script has more value than they ever imagined prior to creating and using one.

    What exactly is a “script” and why is it needed? Isn’t a simple list of questions sufficient?

    Briefly, our version of a customer conversation script for concept validation has:

    1. A framework of topic areas and their planned order in the conversation
    2. Statements to set the context, for discussion, and to transition between topic areas
    3. A list of specific questions to be asked under each topic

    Sure, you could just make a list of questions but here are three reasons why you should consider creating a script:

    1. The context you set, the order in which you explore topics, and the way you ask questions can make a huge difference in the relevance and quality of information collected
    2. This approach is more likely to foster a true conversation, rather than a transactional Q&A exchange, and one that could become the first of many conversations with that individual
    3. Conversations easily go in directions never imagined. Suddenly your time is up and call goals have not been met. A script containing a framework or roadmap makes it easier to keep your goals in mind.

    So for this post, let’s focus on the starting point – a general-purpose framework you can adapt for conversations based on the evidence you need to collect from each target persona. For each persona and set of conversation goals, develop a targeted script by keeping the topic sequence but removing non-relevant topic areas, adding/deleting/altering the number and type of questions in each area, and updating how you transition from one topic to the next.

    For example, when talking with end-users about simulation-based training you’re more likely to focus on their priorities and problems: how they do things now (simulators being used), and what capabilities deliver value for them. And when talking with department heads (budget owners) about the same subject, the focus will be on their priorities and problems: how they do things now (how simulation-based training fits within the curriculum), and how they fund and buy these types of things.

    With that in mind, here’s a master framework you can adapt to your own needs:

    1. Conversation Expectations

    At the outset, you want to take a minute or two (literally) to set up the conversation for success. You want to demonstrate professionalism, establish credibility, and show respect for their time. This section is primarily statement-based where you:

    • Introduce participants on your end and their role in the call (conversation leader, notetaker, observer, etc.)
    • Restate the reasons and objectives for the call to reinforce prior communications leading to this moment
    • Tell the customer what to expect during the call (you’ll make statements, ask a series of questions, etc.) and how their feedback will be used
    • Confirm the available time

    2. Customer Profile

    In this section, you ask questions to understand the scope of their role and responsibilities, about their team – its size and structure, how long they’ve been in that position and/or the industry, etc.

    Your goal is to understand the basis of each person’s perspective and what might be shaping their feedback. Equally important, you want to be able to identify common characteristics about them and their organizations for creating segment profiles when looking across all conversations for patterns or trends. Additionally, this information informs a more granular Ideal Customer Profile.

    3. Problem Importance & Change Motivation

    Next, start collecting the evidence needed to answer the critical questions driving your conversation plan. We like to start with validating whether the problem you’re trying to solve exists in their mind and where it fits relative to your customers’ perceived priorities, problems, and their urgency to solve the problem.

    You want to know:

    • The order of magnitude of this issue; is it a 5-out-of-5 burning issue or a 1-out-of-5 nice-to-have?
    • How they measure the impact of this problem being solved or not being solved; the KPI or performance metrics impacted
    • Whether solutions to problems like this get funded

    4. Current State

    Once you know how your target problem fits in their world, it’s natural to shift the conversation to how they do things today, dig a bit deeper into how the problem manifests itself, and what current plans or projects exist to solve the problem.

    In this section, you uncover critical information such as:

    • Existing tools, systems, and processes
    • Competitive options with associated strengths and weaknesses
    • Current economic impact if not covered earlier
    • Solution compatibility considerations
    • Change management challenges
    • General background for interpreting responses in the next topic area

    5. Solution Value Drivers & Differentiators

    Now with an understanding of the problem from their perspective, how things are being done today, and what’s being considered for the future, the conversation easily shifts to getting feedback on your proposed solution.

    This part of the conversation is about getting their thoughts on each major capability that makes up your solution. Does each capability have value, how much value, how is that value measured, and which capabilities are more important than others? You want to know the “why” behind their answers and dig into what they believe to be meaningfully different and better than other available options.

    6. Future State.

    After receiving feedback and creating an understanding of your proposed solution, it’s time to probe a bit more on its relevance and overall value by assuming your solution – plus their view of the ideal solution – has been implemented. You want to further uncover the impact on their business, objectives, and goals.

    7. Buying Process

    After validating the target problem and proposed solution, it is critical to gain an understanding of how customers buy. What triggers the buying process, who are all the stakeholders, what decision-making steps do they go through, where does funding come from, how does that process work, and how long does it typically take going from “need identified” to “purchase order”?

    You may have the best product ever but there could be systemic barriers to it being bought that must be uncovered. At the very least, you need this information to develop a repeatable sales process and set expectations with investors.

    8. Closure & Next Steps

    A few minutes before the conversation needs to be wrapped up, shift into closure mode. Someone has just spent their valuable time with you. Make the most of the opportunity by showing your appreciation and adding a few final questions.

    Show appreciation by telling them how much you enjoyed the conversation (assuming this is true) and thanking them for their time. You should also note a few points that were especially helpful or informative that highlight the value of their contribution.

    The “asks” part is simple and embedded in three key questions we like to include with almost all customer conversations:

    1. Do you have any other thoughts or ideas that might be helpful for us?
    2. Who else would you suggest we talk with to validate/get feedback on this idea?
    3. Do you mind if I come back to you later for a follow-up discussion?

    As mentioned above, this is a master framework that can be adapted as needed for a wide range of discovery conversations. Concept validation involves several iterative stages talking to various stakeholder personas with different knowledge domains. In some conversations, your focus will be problem/solution validation, in others the buying process, and in many cases, it will be a blend of topics intentionally covered in different levels of detail.

    In all of these scenarios, by having the topic flow in mind throughout the conversation you will be able to better navigate unpredictable conversations. And when compared to a transactional Q&A exchange, you’ll obtain higher quality information and are more likely to initiate a relationship that could lead to them becoming a future customer.

    We hope you found this blog useful and invite you to contact us at the Evidology Group. We would be happy to send you our script template and help you validate your product or services concept.

  • Do You Practice Logarithmic Sales?

    Do You Practice Logarithmic Sales?

    Over the years, I’ve met many early-stage startups with a fabulous vision that includes dreams of a large and growing customer base. The pitch usually starts with a long discussion of the product and its capabilities, then transitions into how the product represents an innovation that is sure to become the way of the future.

    But what about the customers, I ask, trying to inject a question 10 minutes into the rapid-fire monologue. What do they think of your product? To which I get an enthusiastic affirmation that “they really like what we’re doing”. But when I probe, the lack of traction and spotty understanding of the customer situation becomes very evident. To make matters worse, the entrepreneur plans to hire a salesperson to figure it out for them. Sadly, there are no magic wands and these startups will falter without a major change in their approach.

    Many startup business plans include a “hockey stick” revenue forecast, but the mathematics behind that non-linear curve demands a deep understanding of the customer and impeccable execution.

    Startups need to practice logarithmic sales – or put another way, they need to crawl before they walk before they run before they sprint – collecting evidence, learning, adapting and evolving at each stage.

    So what do you focus on in each stage of logarithmic sales to set yourself up for success?

    The objectives, tactics and key business metrics are different for each stage, so be cognizant of which stage you’re in and what you need to focus on executing well today. Of course, knowing what to focus on and when, allows you to be more efficient with your time and resources, further improving your likelihood of success.

    Let’s break down these stages and ask yourself if you have truly nailed your current stage before advancing to the next. Skipping or short-changing a stage will inevitably come back to bite you, so ignore this advice at your own peril. Your advisor/mentor or the Evidology Group can be a good sounding board to challenge your assumptions.

    The following graph serves as a summary of the stages and a commensurate boost in your business valuation. Although the graph was designed for a B2B SaaS business, the parallels to other B2B businesses should be apparent.

    Stage 0 = Log (1) is about learning and planning
    Stage 0 is designed to collect evidence to prove that customers have an important problem that needs to be solved. It is intended to help give credibility to your strategic plan and financial model. This stage can be low cost and yet have the biggest payoff for the investment as it’s more about learning and planning rather than building and executing. In fact, no expensive product development or fundraising is required at this stage. Much of the Evidology Group best practices are focused on getting this stage right because it builds a solid foundation and evidence-based culture for future stages.

    In this stage you:

    • Conduct a comprehensive customer discovery process as we’ve outlined in our previous blog How Do You Know If You’re On The Right Path?
    • Establish credibility that can lead to early-stage partnerships based on two-way sharing of the customer’s real-world situation and your understanding of the art-of-the-possible as we described in our previous blog: Do You Sell or Partner?
    • Collect customer stories for investors and employees to clearly explain the problem you’re solving and how it will help customers improve their business
    • Three business metrics that matter: Number, quality and consistency of customer discussions.

    Stage 1 = Log (10) is about signing a handful of early-adopter, referenceable customers
    Stage 1 is designed to verify the accuracy of evidence collected in Stage 0 and prove you have solved an important customer problem. Note that at this stage, it’s less relevant how much the customer pays. What’s more relevant is that the product works and the customer is getting economic value in return for providing essential feedback and acting as a reference.

    In this stage:

    • It is the responsibility of the Founders to find the lead customer(s) and to own the customer relationship
    • The Founders need to build a deep understanding of the customer’s problems, environment, and solution requirements
    • You need to collect evidence to prove your product works effectively and that you are delivering the intended economic value
    • Marketing needs to be able to package and communicate customer stories
    • Three business metrics that matter: customer usage, customer economic value and customer satisfaction as well as the Stage 0 metrics.

     

    Stage 2 = Log (100) is about getting to 100 customers
    Stage 2 is designed to show product/market fit and ensure each sale is low-friction and profitable.

    In this stage:

    • A professional salesperson takes over responsibility for closing new business while the Founder remains in an executive sponsor role, supporting the sales process and ongoing customer satisfaction
    • Building on reference customers, Marketing takes responsibility for amplifying customer stories and generating qualified leads
    • Based on established best practices, a repeatable sales model is documented in a sales playbook to streamline the onboarding of new salespeople
    • Three business metrics that matter: revenue, customer Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) and churn, as well as the Stage 1 metrics.

     

    Stage 3 = Log (1,000) is about getting to 1,000 customers.
    Stage 3 is designed to prove you can scale the business with a sustainable, repeatable sales process.

    In this stage you:

    When you evaluate your stage, are there gaps you need to address? Are there some initiatives you can defer to a later stage?

    If you follow a step-wise “logarithmic” approach to your startup with a focus on execution excellence appropriate for your stage, you can dramatically increase the potential for exponential growth and realize that legendary “hockey stick”.

    Contact the Evidology Group to see how we can help set your business up for success. And as an added bonus for those who are at Stage 2, here’s a link to a video presentation from David Skok at Matrix Partners who is highly regarded as the thought leader in SaaS metrics and best practices. Whether or not you’re a SaaS business there are lots of great learning points in this video and his website.

  • Customer Discovery means talking to customers. Do you have a plan?

    Customer Discovery means talking to customers. Do you have a plan?
    In a prior post, we looked at what makes a good Value-Positioning Statement where we suggested using this classic template in a powerful new way – using it to guide a more rigorous thought process and as a starting point for customer discovery.

    By taking this approach you can articulate a hypothesis to be validated, as well as create a living document for internal alignment, product and go-to-market planning, and investor pitches.

    Ok, so let’s skip ahead. Now that you have a solid Value-Positioning Statement that describes your business concept, it’s ready to be tested. What’s next? It’s time to have customer discovery conversations with stakeholders in your target market.

    Before reaching out, however, it’s important to have a call plan. What answers do you need? How are you going to ask them? How are you going to put the “customer” at ease, get them open up to you, and have a meaningful conversation, not just a transactional question/answer session?

    Sure, conversations rarely go as planned. It’s impossible to know in advance what direction it might go. BUT, if you want to increase the odds of gaining critical insights, collect valuable evidence, and establish a connection for what could become a future customer, there’s a systematic approach you can take.

    Here are four major elements that should be included in each Conversation Plan. They are:

    1) Key Questions to be Answered – What are the 3 to 5 highest priority questions that need to be answered? What are the fundamental unknowns that are critical to your Value-Positioning hypotheses? Be sure to make the distinction between what answers are needed and what/how questions are asked to obtain the answers (creating those questions comes later in the Conversation Script).

    2) Target Personas – Who can likely answer those questions? Who are the primary personas to contact? Identifying those personas and getting their agreement for a call or meeting can be tricky, so for more guidance have a look at these two posts:

    Who/Where/How Do you Recruit for Customer Calls? and How do you ask someone you don’t know for a “Discovery Conversation”?

    3) Conversation Script – This is the heart of the plan. Each conversation must be tailored to the questions you need answered, the domain knowledge of the persona being targeted, and how much time is available for the conversation.

    You need to consider things like:

    • How are you going to frame the conversation?
    • What questions are you going to ask and in what sequence?
    • How will you phrase questions without injecting your views?
    • How will you cover everything in the available time?
    • How are you going to make this an open and flowing conversation?

    In concept validation discussions, we like using a “challenge statement” approach. In this scenario, you make a statement about the problem or the proposed solution. That statement may be slightly provocative to elicit a response but not to the extent to potentially impact your credibility.

    An example challenge statement would be: “The process of scheduling meetings with people in other organizations wastes my time, is a significant source of frustration and must be improved.”

    Once that statement is put forth, the stage is set to obtain an initial reaction. First ask for their immediate thoughts from which you can ask probing questions to peel back the layers. Your goal is to see the world through their eyes and specifically as it pertains to the answers you need.

    There is both an art and a science to developing a good conversation script so ask your company advisors for assistance if they have experience in this area or feel to contact us at the Evidology Group for a copy of our detailed Conversation Planning Guide.

    4) Logistics – Every good plan has well thought out logistics to ensure your call goes smoothly and objectives are achieved. Who will be on the call from your team and what are their roles? Are they leading the call, assisting, taking notes, or just observers? What is the exact timing for everyone gathering on the call (don’t be late!), exactly how long is the “customer” available, and if using web/video conferencing, what’s the plan for dealing with technical issues?

    While working on your plan here are a few other important things to keep in mind:

    1) Be flexible – Having a plan doesn’t mean being rigid. As mentioned above, conversations rarely go as planned. Think of having a plan as giving yourself a framework: a clear understanding of the questions that need to be answered, the preferred order you wish to progress through the conversation, and a set of specific questions. Having this framework in mind you can more easily adapt as the conversation unfolds.

    2) Do a post-call debrief – Get back together with the participants from your team right after the conversation while it’s still fresh in everyone’s minds. At a minimum, discuss the following questions:

    • What were the key learnings and their significance?
    • Were there any missed opportunities for learning?
    • What adjustments, if any, are needed for future conversation?

    3) Constantly iterate – Employ a highly iterative process. With each conversation, the Key Questions List and Conversation Script will evolve based on learnings, the need to cover different topics in various degrees of detail, for different Target Personas, and of course tailoring for each individual person.

    I hope you found this blog useful and invite you to contact the Evidology Group. We would be happy to provide a copy of our detailed Conversation Planning Guide with instructions for creating a Conversation Script, best practice tips, and other practical information.

  • How do you know if you’re on the right path?

    How do you know if you’re on the right path?

    In our last blog we talked about what makes a good value proposition. Continuing with that theme, let’s explore some critical success factors that can increase your chances of achieving commercial success.

    At the Evidology Group, we spend a lot of time and energy guiding our clients through a rigorous customer validation process – a process designed to set you on the right path early in the life cycle of your new product journey or to guide a course correction if needed. Being on “the right path” makes it easier to find lead customers, raise money to reach critical momentum, attract high-quality talent, and chart a shorter path to success. Moreover, it’s a much more fun journey for everyone involved!

    But how do you know if you’re on the right path?

    The Evidology Group customer validation tools and process are designed to help you collect sufficient evidence to support the following seven critical success factors:

    1. A significant, high priority, unmet need exists
    2. There’s a large and sufficiently homogeneous market to pursue
    3. Current options are unsuitable. Competitors cannot or will not meet this need.
    4. Customers are willing to pay an amount that supports the business model
    5. There is an effective direct/indirect path to reach them
    6. There are no systemic barriers that prevent buying
    7. Purchase process and decision-making can be navigated in a repeatable way

     

    This evidence comes in many forms, but the best way to stress-test your vision, enthusiasm and assumptions is with cold hard evidence provided in large part by your prospective customers themselves. Done effectively, you will acquire the insights to set you on the right path.

    A Critical Success Factor Test can help you measure if you’re on the right path and setting yourself up for success. Of course, the evidence listed in this test is intended for guidance only. If you have other sources of evidence, that’s great too!

    Setting aside your assumptions and beliefs, how many of these questions can you answer clearly and concisely with supporting evidence? What is your score?

    Often, it’s hard for Founders to dispassionately grade their vision and plan, so turn to an external advisor or the Evidology Group to give you a candid assessment of your evidence and what you need to do to strengthen your business strategy. Are you set up for success? Where are your most vulnerable points?

    I’m confident that if you can compile hard evidence, you’ll be well on your way to building a wildly successful business. Contact the Evidology Group and we can help you do just that!

  • What makes a good Value Positioning Statement?

    What makes a good Value Positioning Statement?

    Many of you are familiar with the “Value Positioning Statement” template or its many variations. Geoffrey Moore first introduced this concept and template in his influential book, Crossing the Chasm back in 1991. Since then, it has been widely used by entrepreneurs participating in bootcamps, incubators, and market validation courses.

    Widely used, yes, but not always to its full potential. One of the common uses for this tool is to generate an elevator-pitch description of your business.We advocate another very powerful use for this template– to guide a more rigorous thought process on who you’re targeting, for what reasons, with what solution, and why your product or service is meaningfully different. Obviously, the Evidology Group are big proponents for the latter objective with the former being a later step.

    In more cases than not, the template is quickly filled out, the box is ticked, and it sits on the shelf. Why? I have a few theories:

    1. It’s human nature to get things done and move on
    2. The power of this tool is not fully understood or communicated when introduced
    3. Completed examples and best practice guidance for “having done it well” are missing, and finally,
    4. It’s really hard work. Unlocking the value of the Value-Positioning Statement, no pun intended, takes hours of deep thinking, multiple iterations, and revisiting on a regular basis. It is a living document.

    You may be asking yourself, is it worth the effort?

    Done right, the outcome of your efforts provides a massive return on investment. First, using the Value-Positioning Statement this way is the starting point for customer discovery – it articulates the hypothesis to be validated. And second, it provides a foundation for internal alignment, product and go-to-market planning, and investor pitches. You will have thought deeply about and more clearly articulated:

    1. Target customers and their characteristics
    2. Product capabilities and associated benefits
    3. The linkage between the identified problem and proposed solution

    By now, I hope you’re thinking it might be worth the time and effort and wondering about best practices or an example that helps understand the ideal end goal. So, let’s go there.

    Using a hypothetical business here’s what an example Value-Positioning Statement (henceforth calling it a “Summary” since it goes beyond a “statement”) and a Capabilities-Benefits Summary look like.

    Wait? What’s with the second template?

    The “Capabilities-Benefits Summary” is my favourite tool for figuring out the “That” and “Unlike” sections of the Value-Positioning Summary. I use them to identify the top 3-6 capabilities and what value (key performance indicators, personal or business metrics, etc.) they drive for target customers.

    This means my typical approach is to complete “For”, “Who Need/Want”, “The”, “Is a” sections in Value-Positioning, then switch to the Capabilities-Benefits before coming back to summarize that content in the “That” and “Unlike” sections. Got that?

    Following best practices is where the really hard work happens. The example provided (link above) has callouts and embedded notes but let me provide some key points here:

    In General

    1. Complete one set of templates for each “For” (Ideal Target Customer)
    2. All entries must be concise and specific
    3. Avoid any terminology that is vague or open to interpretation


    “For” (Ideal Customer Profile) Section

    1. Identify the target customer based on relevant defining characteristics such as activities, responsibilities, seniority, titles, type of organization, geography, etc.
    2. This section identifies the expected buyer. However, when doing concept validation, you must engage with a variety of stakeholders and value chain participants. For a more detailed explanation refer to this blog on Who/Where/How Do You Recruit for Your Discovery Calls?


    “Who Need/Want” (Problem Statement)

    1. Clearly describe the problem or opportunity from a customers’ perspective. In other words, how would they describe their need or want?
    2. The need or want must be measurable or quantifiable in some way


    “That” (Proposed Solution)

    1. Use an elevator-pitch format to succinctly capture the WHY, the WHAT, and the HOW for significant and unique capabilities. Think of this as a concise summary of the Capabilities-Benefits content ranked by impact.
    2. Be sure to address all items identified in “Who Need/Want”


    “Unlike”

    1. Again, from a customers’ perspective, identify alternative approaches or types of solutions they currently use or have available as a solution AND how these options differ from your proposed solution. This, more likely than not, includes the status quo option which means staying with what they currently do.
    2. “That” and “Unlike” combined should produce a “WOW”! This combination should have the potential to receive a “Wow, you can do that? I need it!” from target customers.

    I invite you to check out the above example and this template to see these guidelines in action. As mentioned above, this approach should be thought-provoking and challenging but you’ll be well rewarded. The reward is greater clarity for communicating your vision to drive customer discovery efforts, fundraising, and business planning.

    I hope you found this blog useful and invite you to contact us at the Evidology Group. We would be happy to help you with unlocking the value in these templates.