Monthly Archives: August 2009

#1 First Customer Contact

This weekend I had my “First Friendly Contact”. Surprisingly the conversation didn’t take about 20 minutes, it took about one hour and a half.
This was a quite interesting experience for me, facing people and not telling them about your idea. Instead you try to get their ideas and thoughts on the topic.
This is a quite difficult task. I often switched back to telling and justifying mode, where I was justifying my idea. The ultimate goal in customer talks is listening, this is harder than you think.

What went well

  • It was easy to get the potential customer telling about the problems.
  • I learned some new insights about customer problems and feelings.
  • I was easier than expected to get the customer telling his insights on the topic.

What went not so well

  • I did not listen enough.
  • I was arguing to much, how good my idea would be.

What I learned

  • Listen, listen, listen! It’s harder than you think.
  • Programmers and Geeks need to earn money with their software, too.
  • Distribution channels in the free software world can be improved.
  • A lot software projects lack good centralized documentation.

This was my first official Customer Development conversation.

FrOSCON 2009: Expanding Market Knowledge

Last weekend I was at FrOSCon in St. Augustin, Germany.

The FrOSCon is one of the three greatest open-source conferences in Germany. I thought this should be a good place to meet influencers and learn about the open-source market in general.

I got to know Dries Buytert the project lead of Drupal CMS. He held a very interesting key note about growing a (oss) community. Dries is a very nice guy, he finds a good balance between being a geek and being a great communicator. Dries is an entrepreneur also, he founded Aquia, a Drupal based startup, that wants to be to Drupal what Redhat is to Linux. I have no doubt that Dries will succeed with his company.

Dries Buytaert FrOSCON Key Note
Dries preparing his key note (shot from my Nokia N810)

I learned a lot about the my customers, that they:

  • have the problem I assume.
  • are a strong Tribe, that has clear symbols and guidelines that they live by.
  • have the same needs and desires that most people do.
  • are mostly men. Connect that to the bullet before.

Besides that I got to know a bunch of people that work in neighbor markets that could be helpful in the future.

At the end the FROSCON was a very interesting event for me, that was fun, too.

Making the First Friendly Contacts

Now my job is to get contacts to people that could be my assumed customer. To learn more about their lifes, needs and feelings.

The List

The List is how I call the 50 contacts you want to meet in person.
At the moment The List has 9 entries. But now I am a bit lost to find more people to put their names on The List. I hope to get more names for The List after meeting with a few guys that are already on The List.
If I am lucky, somebody will eventually join me and my business idea, what would be of great help. At the moment I find it very hard to go on my own.

Return Rate

I tried to contact four guys on The List and three agreed to meet.
We will meet in a bar in my hometown Wiesbaden, Germany.

Kurhaus Wiesbaden Germany
Kurhaus Wiesbaden, Germany. Photo: marfis75

I chose a casual place (No, not that one in the picture!) to reduce tension, that people don’t hold back with their oppinion and to save some money :).

I will try to present them my problem and my product hypothesis and then step back. I assume that it is key to let them tell me their opinion and their feelings about the problem and my solution.

I will write about my experience from the First Friendly Contacts in a later post.

Dear Mr Taperia

Dear Mr Taperia,

my Name is Marco and I want to congratulate for your wine bag.

winebag

I was buying your wine bag at the grocery store and were thinking “A wine for two bucks where the costs for packageing aren’t that high, com on let’s try it.” There is more money left for production of the wine itself.

Did you know that a bottle with label, cork and capsule costs up to two Euros and more? Of course you know. That is probably the reason you use this wine bag.

The thing I like most, is that wine bag reminds me of The Sun Also Rises where they drink the wine in the bus to Pamplona.

I hope the wine purists won’t go mad over your wine bag.

Best regards,

Marco

Entering Phase Two

Phase 2
Photo: mockstar

After the hypothesises are done, we are now entering phase two. This is were I have to get out and try to prove my hypothesises about the customer, the product, etc.

What I will do

Mr Bank splits phase 2 in four different parts:

  1. Friendly First Contacts
  2. “Problem” Presentation
  3. Customer Understanding
  4. Market Knowledge

Normally you execute every part till it is complete and then move on.
For example in the Friendly First Contact part you are trying to establish a list with 50 persons you do wanna speak to and get as much appointments as possible. In the appointments you would present the problem and so on.

I will mix this up!

Until we will enter phase 3, I will write posts that are dealing with one of the four parts of phase two.
I won’t follow a specific order. I will go on to phase 3, if I think that all parts of phase two are completed.
My next post will deal with Market Knowledge.

Demand Creation Hypothesis

The ideas for demand creation are rather immature of course, but you have to start somewhere.

How will customers hear about us?

We will have four pillars for marketing.

  1. Conferences like OSCON, Linux Tag, etc. (I was at one conference this weekend. I will write about it later.
  2. Fairs like the CEBIT. I think this is less important than conferences, but it is a way to find industry influencers.
  3. Word of mouth. I hope points one and two can support word of mouth.
  4. AdWords. This is a no brainer. I want to get people who search actively for a solution that I want to offer.

Who are the players in neighbor markets?

  • Redhat, Suse, Canonical, etc.
  • Linux specialized consulting companies.

Who are the key influencers in the industry/Linux community?

  • Linus Torvalds
  • Alan Key
  • Richard Stallmann
  • (Robert Basic)
  • Eric S. Raymond
  • YOU?

This was the last boring “Hypothesis”-post. I will quit phase one now and will move on to get out of the building. So stay tuned…

Channel & Pricing Hypothesis

The Channel

The only channel will be just a central webshop. The strategy is to have Germany as test market and then if it works spread over Europe and maybe the United States (But this is more dreaming, first things first!). We sell directly to the customer.

The Pricing

The price is based on competing products that do things in a different way. It ranges from about € 800,- to € 2000,-. Our price should be one grand (€ 1000,-)

How many copies could we sell at once?

Normally just one per household, maybe two or three if more Linux enthusiasts are present. Basically they numbers shouldn’t change if the product were free.