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El blog de Mikel Niño
Emprendimiento digital, startups, Big Data Analytics y nuevos modelos de negocio

Where should I start modeling my business: customer segments or value proposition?

We have already discussed the relevance of characterizing the customer segments and the value proposition as two key concepts when we start defining our hypotheses about the business model we want to validate (using the modeling canvas that we consider the best fit for our goals and context, or tools which specifically focus on those two aspects, such as the "value proposition canvas"). I have often found myself in work meetings which start by trying to clarify which of these blocks should be the one to detail first. Although this debate might look like a "chicken-and-egg" dilemma (given that one is going to serve as input for the other as we progress in our modeling), I would start investing some more effort in detailing the definition of customer segments.

This choice is based on what I consider the most effective and efficient strategy to face a customer development process. When we want to undertake this kind of work, I find very useful to start with a more detailed reflection on the typology of customers we want to target and its exhaustive characterization. This allows us to be more efficient when trying to identify the contacts that match this profile. The customer discovery process will be planned around those contacts, with a certain starting characterization of the problem to be explored but only to an extent as to determine a "problem focus" beyond of which I don't want to explore. The reason for this is that the customer development interviewing process must be planned in a way that doesn't presume a specific problem I want to find. Instead, it should allow me to "watch for the opportunity", paying attention to potential problems to solve or benefits to provide (pains & gains) and with some criteria to filter them according their business potential, in order to explore them with more detail.

Besides all this, having 
worked thoroughly the characterization of the targeted customer segments (as well as the non-targeted ones) generates a knowledge we can leverage in order to limit the effort (for example in terms of the number of interviews to do) and to rethink the process depending on the kind of answers that we find. As Justin Wilcox very well points out in this blog post, detecting certain kind of recurring patterns and predictable answers announces that we are approaching the limit number of interviews for this first exploration, and at the same time the absence of patterns or repeatability in the type of problems that we find must lead us to reanalyze the customer segmentation and to consider additional criteria to create and differentiate some subsegments, a task for which it will be very helpful the extra effort we made when characterizing thoroughly the customer segments close to the one we were exploring.

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