When building a new product, there is a natural flow you must follow. Customer validation should be a vital part of your product development checklist, and we will tell you all about it in this customer validation guide.
Understanding who your customers are and whether or not they need your product is crucial to your product’s success in the market. After all, they are the ones who will be buying, using, and, luckily, recommending your product to their friends.
In this ultimate customer validation guide, we will tell you the best customer validation definition, introduce you to the product development process, give you a tutorial on how to validate your customers, and much more.
Keep on reading through to learn all about customer validation.
What is customer validation?
First things first, let’s talk about the definition of customer validation. So, in simple terms, customer validation is the process of verifying your assumptions about customer needs and preferences. Since you want to create a product that’ll be as useful to its users as possible, you’ll need to understand what they want.
Before we dive deeper, let’s understand the answer to “what does validation mean.” Validation is a form of approval you get. It essentially tells you that you’re on the right track.
Whether you decide to run a customer validation survey or get feedback from potential users in other ways, this validation process is crucial to your product’s success.
In many cases, the customer validation process reveals insights that cause product creators to pivot. Thus, you can think of customer validation as a process with a couple of iterations until you land on the best version.
Usually, product managers are responsible for carrying out the customer validation process. If you’re new to product development and want to get customer validation yourself, you should know about the key focus areas of customer validation:
- The problem
- The solution/product
- The market
The whole concept of customer validation was brought up by Steve Blank. He always stresses the importance of product/market fit. He also has a famous quote that says: “To build products that people want and will really use, founders first need to validate the problem/need, then understand whether their solution solves that problem.”
If you think about it, customer validation is a way to reduce your risks regarding the usefulness of your product. If you learn what your customers want, you’ll be able to create a product that fixes their problems.
There are many tools you can use to get customer validation, and we’ll talk about the essential customer validation steps later on in this guide. Until then, let’s take a step back and discuss the whole process of product development and what it means.
What is a product development process?
The process of product development consists of 4 phases. The whole process starts with identifying your customers to be able to build a product you had in mind around their needs. In other words, the purpose of the product development process is to understand whether or not a product fulfills a customer’s needs.
Before we jump into the step-by-step process of customer validation, let’s understand the product development process.
The 4 phases of the product development process are:
- Customer discovery – learning about your customer
- Customer validation – ensuring that your customers and your product are compatible
- Customer creation – understanding demand and starting the product-building process
- Company building – identifying project requirements and moving out of the “startup” category
Customer validation is a vital part of the product development process. It is often confused with the customer discovery phase, so let’s move on to the next section of our customer validation guide and set these 2 concepts apart.
What is the difference between customer discovery and customer validation?
Customer discovery and validation are 2 of the 4 steps in the product development process. Customer validation comes after customer discovery, often leading to a pivot and going back to the discovery phase. So, how are these 2 processes different from each other? Let’s discuss their definitions and differences deeper.
The customer discovery process is a preliminary phase of hypothesizing your product as a solution to a certain problem. It revolves around building initial MVPs to test out your business model, assess the profitability of your idea, as well as understand the market along with customer needs.
As for customer validation, it revolves more around building a prototype, preparing to sell it, understanding your customers’ willingness to pay, developing your value proposition, and finally testing it all out.
In the end, you will either decide to pivot and do another iteration of these 2 processes, or you’ll validate your business model and move on to customer creation and company building.
Essentially, customer discovery and customer validation can be considered stages of hypothesizing and testing, respectively.
Now that you have an idea of what the product development process is, let’s dive deeper into our customer validation guide and understand how to execute it.
Customer validation steps
As the core topic of this customer validation guide, let us show you the essential steps you’ll need to take. We’ve created a step-by-step tutorial you can follow when executing your own customer validation phase.
From customer validation surveys and interviews to “test selling” your product, we’ll tell you all you need to know. So, without further ado, let’s jump into our customer validation steps.
Phase 1 – Preparation
Planning and preparing for your customer validation process is just as important as its execution. You’ll need all the necessary materials and copies to start “test selling” your product. We’ve divided the 1st phase of customer validation into 3 steps, so let’s jump in.
Step 1: Craft a value proposition
First, you’ll need to craft a beautiful value proposition. This sentence or paragraph concisely conveys the main value of your product.
As the product creator, you already know the problem that your product solves. When it comes to consumers of your product, their perceived value points can greatly vary from your assumptions.
Running a survey and gathering insights from your target group is an amazing way to arrive at your value proposition. We will discuss the questions you can ask during your survey later in this guide.
Step 2: Build a sales funnel/roadmap
Understanding your sales cycle is an important task you should include in your customer validation checklist. Essentially, you need to map out your sales strategy for each target group and identify your sales channels and the resources you’ll need to get there.
Don’t forget to consider your budget, market size, and industry specifics when building your preliminary roadmap.
Step 3: Prepare all necessary sales materials
From product pictures to sales pitches, you need to prepare a sales kit to wow your customers. In this sales kit, you’ll include all the materials that can help bring in sales. Other examples include price lists, presentations, etc.
Phase 2 – Start Selling
You’ll start “test selling” to your potential customer base in the second phase of your customer validation process. During this exercise, you’ll learn how to find your target groups and how to talk to them.
Since this will be a trial-and-error test, be ready to learn both from successful runs and failures. In the end, you’re going to find out if you’ve achieved product/market fit.
Step 1: Approach potential customers (earlyvangelists)
The first batch of users you’ll want to approach should be early adopters of new products, not those chasing after the newest things.
The ideal people for this experiment are sometimes referred to as earlyvangelists. They already have the problem you’re solving, and they’re actively looking for a better solution. They are open to new solutions, and it’ll be easier for you to approach and learn from them.
Whether you find them on social media or go out into the streets to survey strangers, you should go in with an open mind.
Step 2: Learn and enhance your sales roadmap
When you begin test selling your product, remember that you’re selling a theoretical product. The whole experiment will be aimed at enhancing your sales roadmap.
Once you approach your ideal customer, try to land a sale. Don’t compromise on price, and present your product as it is. Due to the open-ended nature of this experiment, there’ll be a lot for you to learn.
Apply the insights you gathered and improve your sales roadmap. After that, you can move on to the next step – positioning.
Phase 3 – Understand Your Positioning
Understanding the positioning of your product and company is crucial when entering a new market. Essentially, you need to find your spot in the market, identify the gap you are filling, and customize your company to appeal to the market in that gap.
Let’s discuss the 2 steps we’ve identified for the penultimate phase in a customer validation process.
Step 1: Company positioning
The positioning of your company answers a couple of simple questions.
- How does the company stand out (against its competition)?
- How is it solving a problem for the customer?
Essentially, you’ll highlight the key traits of your brand’s personality when going through the company positioning process.
Step 2: Product positioning
The process of product positioning can go 2 ways, depending on your market.
- If you’re entering an existing market, your product positioning should describe how your product is better than those of competitors.
- If you’re creating a new market, you’ll want to focus on the problem/solution phenomenon and your product’s benefits.
Understanding your positioning will help you better pitch your product to potential users or influencers you wish to collaborate with.
Phase 4 – Verify & Validate
Last but not least, you need to set everything in stone. This will be a double-checking phase to understand if you have enough data and learnings to move on to the next stage of product development.
Step 1: Finalize your learnings
The whole process of customer validation has been about your product, business model, and sales roadmap. You’ll need to review these points again to assess if they are ready to be finalized.
Step 2: Iterate or move on to the next step
During this last step, you will either choose to pivot and iterate the whole process again, or you’ll validate your assumptions and move on to the next stage of the product development process.
Since gathering feedback can be tough, we’ve decided to include another small guide in our customer validation guide. Let’s talk about survey questions in the next section.
Questions that product owners should ask when getting customer validation feedback
Now that we’ve covered the theoretical part of the customer validation process let’s get down to the nitty-gritty details. You already know that holding customer surveys and interviews are on your checklist for customer validation, but what questions should you ask during those interviews? The last section of our customer validation guide will answer exactly that.
The customer validation phase of your product development should leave you with an optimized sales process, so your questions should aim to generate useful insights.
Now, you won’t necessarily be selling your product during this stage, but you’ll try out ways to do it. In the end, you’ll gather the feedback you need to enhance your sales funnel as well as your product.
We won’t keep you waiting any longer, so let’s jump into our list of relevant customer validation questions you can use during your interviews.
What do you find most useful in the product?
People buy products because it enhances their life. Whether you’re solving a problem for them or simply providing entertainment, it’s crucial to know which aspect of your product is most valuable to the buyer.
Understanding the strongest feature of your product will help you understand your customers better. But most importantly, it can help you understand what your unique value proposition (UVP) is.
What do you find least useful in the product?
Having a feature-packed product is great, but overcomplicating it can backfire. If there are any worthless features in your product, this question will help gather that info from your potential customers.
Having said that, you should remember to gather considerable feedback before making changes to your product.
Gathering feedback about specific features can also help you identify different tiers of product prices you should adopt.
What feature is missing from the product that we should add?
Similar to the first 2 questions, this one will help you understand what else your customers need from your product. You’ll know if you see a pattern to pivot or update your product’s features.
Does the offer explain the product well?
When you have a final draft for your sales copy, it’s crucial to test it out. At the end of the day, the copy should work for your customers, not you.
By testing out your “pitch” on your customers, you can find out if there’s anything unclear in your copy. If anything is missing or is left incomplete, you’ll know to fix it.
Pro tip: Keep your sales copy simple. Clarity in your copy will yield much better results than creativity will.
On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to purchase the product?
A popular question in the startup world says: “Is your product a vitamin or a headache pill?” A vitamin is a good-to-have product, but a headache pill is something users simply need.
You’ll find interesting insights when you ask your potential customers about their willingness to purchase your product.
Spoiler alert: Even if someone answers with a 10, they still might not buy it. Nevertheless, you can better prioritize interviewees’ answers and give more weight to those who are more likely to purchase your product.
How much would you be willing to pay for the product?
Figuring out your customer’s willingness to pay (WTP) is not so simple. One question will not cut it, but it will help you gauge an approximate perception.
Bonus: What other feedback would you like to give us?
At the end of your surveys, leaving an open-ended question where potential customers can leave more feedback is crucial. The more feedback you get, the better.
And that’s it! With these 7 customer validation example questions, you can run your first customer validation test.
There you have it – the ultimate customer validation guide! We covered everything from the definition to the 4 phases of customer validation.
As promised, we also introduced you to the product development process and pointed out the differences between customer discovery and customer validation.
If you’re new to gathering feedback from customers, you will also benefit from our list of questions you should include in your customer surveys.
Feel free to refer to our customer validation step-by-step guide whenever your PM is at the second stage of product development, and good luck!