Many times the product market fit is ideal for you to build out your current solution in your market today. Let’s take a look at what happens when you work to leverage your best customers to evaluate the next generation product and how they can potentially become needy. This neediness can hinder you from getting to your end goal of a minimally viable product (MVP) to take to market as you build the next generation products.
Like you, customers have expectations for what success looks like. In most cases, these are entirely two different things. When dealing with needy clients you must understand the inherent risks they can bring to the company as well as all of the great things they can do for a company.
Early on it’s easy to initiate discussions with some of your top customers to help with the future state of the solution. However, before you broach these discussions its best to have some guidelines and rules for the outcomes of your asks. Customers do like working with organizations that can bring them value. But, for that value that you bring is there enough future value for you to move forward.
The first step in determining if you should proceed with this approach is to make sure that you have done enough market validation (See Go To Market Article) to understand if you are moving in the right direction. Countless mistakes are made by companies who believe that have the next great thing and are yet to ask customers about the detailed needs and pain points to solve before they go off and start developing a tool.
As in past posts, it sounds simple right, but the product-market fit is as important as asking that customer for help. When you do not complete the research and market validation you will inevitably build a solution you believe is the right one yet to find it was built in a vacuum and not at all what the clients wanted.
If you bring or sell a solution to a customer that you believed would be the panacea for the customer, you should place your bet on being wrong. As soon as you then engage with that customer you will understand why a client can be needy. You took money from them, so now you need to deliver on that promise. Customers in this scenario will have their expectations set whether you had it right or not. If you have not done your homework you will end up spending many additional resources and dollars to build a tool that nobody wanted. If you would have spent some time researching what the market really needed you would have avoided going back to square one.
But you are the experts, Right? In reality, you may have a really good understanding of the needs but the customer will be the expert. Asking the tough questions will save a lot of heartache along with time and money, none of which we all have enough of. And when you are wrong, they will be sure to let you know, many times justifiable but not in all cases.
Ok, say you have what you think is the right solution and you have not had deep discussions with those “partner” customers. You charge forward and tell them you will deliver on the solution.
It’s very important to contractually obligate that customer if they use this product they understand that they will pay for this solution or implementation services going forward. Many customers will play the development partner card and look to get this for free forever. Maybe it requires an upgrade to a new edition or maybe you are going to add more features. That all costs money and just being a reference for you today does not mean it’s free forever. Deals can be structured for a period of time. Today they may be paying you for a lower level of service but tomorrow they will need more service.
The customer will push back if you do not have an agreement up front about a term\timing on which they can get this solution at a reduced rate vs the paid for service later on. Not always an easy discussion but the customer needs to understand yes we worked on this with you but we do expect that you will pay for this at some point in time if they did not work to fund this upfront.
Another potential opportunity is when you are working with needy clients and you are trying to fill a gap in your solution where market research would have helped you forge a path instead of doing this. Partnering with a company you should have never partnered with in the first place.
In our next section, we will discuss what could happen when you make this choice.
Last modified: June 11, 2019