The curves are interesting and telling! Looking for producing real consumer values is the best way but to become a must have not nice to have, you need to do the homework to find out that the real pains are. He suggests a simple method of how long the potential customer is willing to spend on telling you the problem. That is fine, and the only caveat is to watch for commonality not particular person’s problem. In other words, if you can find several to tell you the same thing then you have a chance. That said, finding the problem may not be the hardest part but offering solutions is.
Those initial loops are unsuccessful attempts to create a product people want to use. The problem is those loops can take months and/or millions of dollars to get through, and many startups never get there. But a startup can get through at least one or two of those loops quickly, in a matter of a few short weeks, by using a new concept called Monetizable Pain.
The loops always start off sounding like a good idea full of possibility. But before long, after development and launch, it becomes apparent that while interesting, the product is somehow not necessary enough, or useful enough, to really build a business around, even if it’s well designed.
The Must Have
The part of the curve on the right, where things are finally looking up, is where a startup has figured out how to offer a must-have. This part arrives when the company gets two things right at the same time:
It is now focused on monetizable pain – a problem that Furr and Ahlstrom refer to as a “shark bite”.
It is offering a solution that provides a direct, meaningful level of relief for that problem. (Without adding too many new hassles in the process.)
Most of the good startup wisdom out there, from Lean Startup, to Customer Development, to Y Combinator, emphasize engaging customers early by building something that offers the product concept or a product feature and then measuring customer/user response.
Offering a minimum viable product is a fantastic way to learn what target customers want. I do it all the time. The only problem is the learnings you get don’t always lead to a breakthrough product focused on monetizable pain. The reason?
Monetizable pain is about the customer’s problem, not the startup’s product.
For that reason, the first step on the road to product/market fit for any startup is to go deep on the customer problem and test for monetizable pain before building anything.
One way to accurately measure a customer problem is to rely on this principle:
The value of a problem directly correlates to the time people will take to tell you about it.
Time and time again we find that if busy people, who fit your target customer profile, are willing to give you valuable time simply to discuss a particular problem, with no clear promise (yet) of a viable solution, then you have an important problem. The kind of problem a startup, with limited resources, no brand, an incomplete product and a small team can actually sell into.
Place a true cold call to your hypothetical target customer – meaning the actual role/title of the person in the big name brand you would actually like to sell to – and leave a voice message that does little more than ask, “Do you have this problem?”
probably the four most important words after your problem description – “I’m not selling anything.”