Customer Validation

What Is Customer Validation?

Customer validation is an essential phase of the product development process (i.e., the steps needed to take a product from concept to market availability.) It tests assumptions and hypotheses about the customer problem, target market, and productInsights gained from the validation phase can then be used to iterate the product and find the right market fitValidation also connects the product with viable prospects and paves the way to building meaningful products people want and need.

What Is Customer Validation to a Product Manager?

Product managers (PMs) use customer validation to help inform product decisions by validating problems, solutions, and pain points. During the validation phase, PMs should focus on three areas: the market, the problem you’re trying to solve, and the product.

According to Steve Blank, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and customer development thought leader, “To build products that people want and will really use, founders first need to validate the problem/need, then understand whether their solution solves that problem (i.e., finding product/market fit).”

Unvalidated assumptions about customers, target markets, and products can easily lead to failure even when you have a great product. Customer validation doesn’t guarantee success. But it’s the easiest and lowest-cost way to reduce the risk for new products.

When Does Customer Validation Take Place?

Customer validation should take place as early in the product development cycle as possibleWell before a product team invests a significant amount of time and resources building a new product

Jim Semick, ProductPlan’s Founder & Chief Strategist, writes, “Your hypothesis doesn’t need to be right. It just needs to be concrete enough that you know who you might want to speak with and have enough of an idea of the problems they’re facing and an idea of how your product might address them.”

The validation process’s first step involves documenting assumptions, target audience, goals, and product value and assessing the target market.

Next comes creating a minimum viable product, or MVP, which is a product with enough features to attract early-adopter customers and validate assumptions and hypotheses.

When the MVP is ready, it’s time to reach out to target customers for insight and feedback. Surveys and customer validation interviews are two common methods.

Insights gained during the customer validation process are then used to inform product decisions and iterate the product.

You can still conduct interviews during COVID-19, read Steve Blank’s guide to interviewing customers during a pandemic.

Why Should a PM Care?

PMs want to build meaningful products that solve customers’ problems. Validation conducted early enough in the product development cycle enables PMs to iterate and build a product that has a good market fit.

Here are additional benefits of customer validation:

  • Provides evidence that customers will actually buy and use your product
  • Enables product teams to iterate early in the development process
  • It saves resources and development time that would otherwise be wasted building a meaningless product.
  • Builds confidence and support of a product with investors or internal stakeholders

PMs should approach the customer validation process with a curious mind and use insights to iterate and build a really great product people will purchase and use to maximize success.

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