Building a data product is no different than building any software product in that you have to really know your customer and value proposition before you go to market and scale. The process of getting to know your customer and how your proposed solution can help solve a problem is most commonly known as customer discovery. As you’ve seen in our other blog posts about the Blueprint product, we went through an extensive customer discovery process prior to developing our go-to-market strategy.
If the customer discovery concept is new to you, I’d recommend reading the following two books before diving head first into new product development:
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank
We’ve adapted what we’ve learned from these books to a process that we can use to test the viability of other products that we’ve built on the Juicebox Platform such as JuiceSelect (a product that helps chambers of commerce communicate data and drive to action), and now we're sharing it with you.
Step 1: Craft your value proposition hypothesis. Before you start having conversations with potential customers, you need to have an idea of the problem you believe you are solving with your product. Once you have a basic outline of the problem and your solution, you’re ready to test your hypothesis. Here’s how we structured our initial description of the JuiceSelect value proposition:
Target audience - The primary audience is lawmakers and chamber members/investors
Urgent need - Chambers need to publish data to support important policymaking decisions and track progress against strategic plans
Ease of setup - To turn the website on, it requires minimal effort from chamber staff
Step 2: Set up phone calls and in-person meetings to test your value proposition and demo your product (if you don’t yet have a minimum viable product [MVP], wireframes are good enough at this step). You should set up meetings with potential customers in your market and with organizations affiliated with your potential customers. For JuiceSelect, this meant reaching out to small, large, state, and regional chambers to make sure we were testing all aspects of our market. We also reached out to an Association for Chambers of Commerce and to a few vendors that sell other products to chambers to get a better understanding of our potential clients.
Step 3: Compile feedback and re-asses product-market fit. Now it’s time to pull together all of your findings and figure out if your original hypothesis about the problem and your solution were correct.
After completing these three steps, you’ll often find that you didn’t completely understand the problem and/or that your proposed solution is really only a partial solution. For instance, when we started our customer discovery process for the JuiceSelect product, we had made an assumption that the product would be valuable to all 2,000+ chambers of commerce nationwide. After a few weeks of demos and conversations about our value proposition, we discovered that the product was really primarily suitable for state chambers of commerce. State chambers of commerce need a public website to display all key economic metrics to help drive public policy decisions, while regional chambers only want to display data relevant to helping them attract new businesses to their region.
Good thing we didn’t sink tons of marketing and sales dollars into a market for which we didn’t have the right fit! However, all is not lost. We can still sell the original product to the state chambers while developing a related product that will fit the needs of the remaining 1,950 regional chambers.
If you’re interested in seeing how Blueprint or JuiceSelect can help your organization, we’d love to hear from you. Send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org or tell us about yourself in the form below!