Sustainable Customer Discovery

Entrepreneurs need time for effective customer discovery. Create a sustainable model to fund exploration while seeking authentic demand.

A.T. Gimbel
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May 21, 2024

I was talking recently with an entrepreneur about how you can’t force the time it takes to do customer discovery. You have to get out and talk to lots of people, but true learnings and unique insights take time. In order to have that time, you often need to think about how to create a sustainable customer discovery model.

What does that mean?

Given you can’t always control the amount of time customer discovery takes, you need a sustainable model that can help pay the bills while you explore ideas. This way you can buy yourself enough time to let the process properly play out.

What are my options?

As I’ve written before, there are many ways to fund a business without raising money. Keeping another job, doing consulting services related to your idea, and having customers pay are all viable options. While some of these may limit the amount of time you can spend, they can buy you more time to figure things out.

How do I know when it is time to move forward/move on from an idea?

There is no specific time it takes, but here are some guidelines. To move forward on an idea, you must prove you are solving a must-have problem with authentic demand. Potential customers should be willing to pay to build the product with you as design partners. If you are not finding that and discovery has stalled, keep iterating based on your passion and market/customer feedback. However, in our Studio we usually put a hard stop after 4-6 months and move on to a new idea/space.

Give yourself a sustainable runway to be able to take the time it requires to do effective customer discovery and find those unique insights. One of the biggest mistakes I see entrepreneurs make is they move too quickly through customer discovery and set themselves on the wrong idea.

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