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Emprendimiento digital, startups, Big Data Analytics y nuevos modelos de negocio

Including the time variable in Customer Development: from adventure to campaign

In previous blog entries dealing with the practice of Customer Development we focused on designing a value proposition answering the problems and needs of our potential customers, specifying the main features or our target segments and identifying examples of real people belonging to those segments, to be interviewed in order to validate our hypotheses. But, do these needs keep being the same over time? If we want our company or our products to adapt correctly we should keep an eye on the evolution of our customer segments, how their relationship with the problem we are trying to solve changes over time, and how new related problems may arise that, obviously, will need a solution too.

Antoni Flores proposes that one of the key drivers to maximize our brand's potential is its ability to evolve along with our customers, and defines the "opportunity territory" that changes constantly over time as our customers' features change (in terms of biological, cultural and economic evolution). The key would be not to improvise that evolution but to plan those movements in advance and -as it may not be our priority in this specific time- keep this analysis for its future use so that we could answer the opportunities that will arise in the future as our relationship with our customers evolves.

This approach is closely linked to the idea of "Customer Centricity" in marketing strategies. The thesis posed in this approach is that the real customer-orientation is not limited by the present time, but it should be able to "look beyond" and prioritize our actions with customers (or specific segments) according to the future value (not the present one, this is the key principle) that it is expected that those customers will bring to our organization. In the words of Peter Fader:
"In the old days, the basis of segmentation used to be simple observable things like demographics or geography, easily identifiable characteristics. But the real key is to segment customers on their value. I’m not talking about historic profitability. I’m talking about future-looking customer lifetime value, which might be related to profitability. We want to sort our customers based on what they will be worth to the firm in the future."

As I mentioned in a previous entry, Role-Playing Games provide us with a very useful tool to explain some of the principles in Customer Development methodology, by using the process of setting up a Role-Playing Game adventure as an analogy to the definition of the main features (filling in the "character sheet") of the main roles that our customers play regarding the problem we want to solve. In a very interesting comment in the Spanish version of that entry the concept was extended to the whole life cycle of a game so that it includes the progressive refining of the solution (the RPG adventure) that we propose to our customers. Following that path we could include the time variable using the RPG concept of campaign (a sequence of adventures over time with the same characters). Thus, our "featurization" of the main characters that play a relevant role in our solution would also foresee how they will evolve in the future. As a result, we would not only build a solution answering their problems and needs "here and now", but we could also gather very valuable information to predesign a whole set of solutions that will accompany those main roles in time, adapting themselves to fit our clients' long-term needs, and thereby reinforcing our brand and our future relationships with our customers.

[Haz clic aquí para la versión en español de esta entrada]

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