Customer development is a big change for most organizations. To many people, customer development sounds like saying, “Hey! You know that expertise that we’ve amassed over decades of experience, dozens of products, and millions of customers? Let’s shelve it and start from scratch.” Of course that’s not what we’re saying. But as a pragmatist, I recognize that it’s difficult to correct a mistaken first impression.
If your team doesn’t understand what customer development is and how it enhances (rather than replaces) your competencies, it’ll be far more difficult to get started. Customer development is admittedly the new kid on the block. Everyone knows about the role of product development, marketing, customer support, and even user research in an organization. But customer development? You’re likely to encounter some skepticism. Unless your team has been exposed to lean startup conferences or Steve Blank’s work, you may find yourself having to sell customer development to your organization before you can really get started.
This theory takes a step back, explaining what customer development is (and isn’t), why you need it, and who can do it. It also offers responses to some common objections. So let’s back up a minute and talk about definitions. What is customer development? What does it replace? What does it not replace?