Customer Understanding

with Steve Blank

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Gains & Pains

What benefits does the customer expect or desire? What problems can you solve?

Steve Blank

8x Entrepreneur, Author, Customer Development Expert

Lessons Learned

Customer pains are the flipped version of the gains.

It isn’t enough to solve a pain; it should be in the Top 5.

You need to understand your customers’ fears: financial, social & technical.


Lesson: Customer Understanding with Steve Blank

Step #2 Gains & Pains: What benefits does the customer expect or desire? What problems can you solve?

Another key component of understanding customers is understanding customer gains which is a fancy way for saying what are the benefits that customers expect or desire? Besides the jobs that want to get done, what do they want to gain by using your product or service? Let's take a look. Sometimes gains could be what would make them happy? Is it saving money? Saving effort? Saving time? What do they expect and what would go beyond their expectations? How would you delight these customers? Is it quality? More of something? Less of something? And is it features that would delight them or performance or quality?

What would make your customer's job or life easier? More services? Lower cost of ownership? Flatter learning curve? Obviously this depends about whether you are selling to business customers or consumer customers but you will want to be able to make a list or a column of all the gains that they would get by using your product, and some more gains could be is it social consequences? Does it make them look good? Increase in power? Is it good design? Is it specific or more features? How do they measure success and failure? Is it performance or cost? And what would increase their likelihood of adopting your product or using it or using your solution? Again, is it about cost? Is it about lower risk? Is it about better quality? Is it because it's more fun? You need to come up with a series of hypotheses, just make that list now. But you can't guess forever. You have to validate these hypotheses.

Now the last piece in understanding customer segments is understanding their pains. We have been talking about all the wonderful stuff that we could do for them that makes them happy. What other things that we could get rid of that actually is kind of like they have been walking around with an arrow through their head and they have just kind of accepted that for a while but when you come about, you could say "Hey, we could solve these problems for you."

Well let's see what kind of problems we could solve. Is there something your customers find too costly? Again, is it about time and cost too much? This is essentially the flipped version of the gains. The pains are, what could we solve for these customers that they hate? There's something about their product or service that's underperforming, it's missing features, it's too slow, it doesn't work well, it's bugging. What are the main difficulties and challenges? One of the interesting things is that entrepreneurs come back and say, "Yes, customers said this was a real pain. Our product really solves these problems." Well one of the things you need to know is was this like problem number 47 on their list? Or is this in the top three?

Because most human beings whether they are in corporation or even at home tend to only worry about the top three or five. When you find out that this solves a pain, the question you need to ask is it in context, well what are the other pains you have? You really want to understand their top 10, top 20 and then if they find out you are number 32 or 47, I wouldn't be celebrating but I actually would be asking "Oh wait a minute, is there any way that our product or service can actually solve anything in the top five?" If not, maybe you are in the wrong customer segment. You want to understand what's keeping your customer awake at night or maybe conversely, maybe you want to keep them awake at night but you want to figure out what are their big issues, concerns and worries.

Finally, the last piece is what are the barriers to adopt your product? Is it cost too much upfront? Maybe you have a pricing issue to decide later. Gee it takes a long time to learn or we are happy with what we have and it's kind of okay and what makes your customers feel bad? Frustrations, annoyances etcetera and what do they fear? Financial or social risks. What could go wrong etcetera. You need to understand all of this.

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