Tech start-ups – whether a new division inside a larger company or a company that blossoms out of a bedroom – tend to follow a series of steps which can eliminate a lot of twiddling of thumbs. Following these steps can help anyone start a business.
The customer development model as explained by Steven G Blank in his study The Four Steps to the Epiphany (Cafepress 2010) separates all the customer-related activities in the early stage of a company into four processes:
- customer discovery
- customer validation
- customer creation and
- company building.
Customer discovery is about finding out how good your idea really is by going out and consulting potential customers. Donna Bonello from Winit.com.mt talks about this first stage.
“As with all the products we develop at Untangled Media Winit was born because we had identified a gap in the market we believed needed filling ” Bonello says. “After researching the potential of the idea we developed the site and quickly launched it getting an immediate and positive response from the public.“
“As soon as we started our marketing we were inundated with subscribers at levels that far exceeded our predictions. Along with the subscriptions came unique visits in their thousands – the key to any successful site. Companies also realised that using Winit to promote themselves and their products was quick powerful and highly cost-effective.
“You realise you are on to a good thing when a site starts to sell itself and that is exactly what has happened with Winit. Once you get there the next step is customer validation ” adds Bonello.
“At 8am.com.mt we are knee deep in the customer validation stage ” says Stefan Debattista. “In the one month since launch we have attracted top Maltese employers such as HSBC Panta Lesco ICON Farsons and 6pm who are all advertising their jobs in Malta on our site. Talking to our customers helps us improve our product to make sure it is beautiful to use as well as solve our customers’ problems as much as possible ” says Debattista.“Should there ever be parts of the business plan that we realise are not correct then we refine our assumptions and revisit the first step that is customer discovery. Once we are satisfied that we have found a group of repeatable customers with a repeatable sales process and then find that those customers yield a profitable business model we will move to the next step – customer creation ” says Debattista.Customer creation is about creating end-user demand and driving that demand by ramping up marketing spending. For Krista Decesare at Ooii.com.mt the customer creation stage is about creating awareness and establishing a powerful brand.“If it is not a totally new concept then you are likely to face stiff competition ” says Decesare. “Once you establish your competitive advantage you need to focus on how you are going