Having a great solution alone is not enough for a startup to succeed. New ventures also need to understand the customer-buying process. The customer-buying process is more than just a sales process. It is the map of your customers’ activities from the moment they find out about your product through the purchase and use to the ultimate disposal of your product. Even for the most well-trod markets, understanding the customer-buying process can be powerful. The customer-buying process is defined by the job your customer is trying to get done and all the relevant activities that surround that job. The figure below provides a typical map of the customer-buying process, or consumption chain, as it has been called by others.
The best way to discover the customer-buying process is to ask your customers about each of these steps during the Virtual Prototype Test. Simply take a stage and phrase a question or two around it. For example, you might ask questions such as “How do you find out about new products?” If your customers respond that they read magazines, you’ll want to drill deeper. Perhaps ask, “Which magazines do you like to read?” and “What part of the magazine do you find most informative?” Ask customers these four categories of questions and then drill down until you feel comfortable. As you do so, make sure to take note of how the buying process may differ when customers are buying from a big company versus from a startup.
At this stage, you shouldn’t expect to fully master the buying process (you are making preliminary observations that you will want to reinforce with more data). Throughout the rest of the process, you should continue refining your understanding of the buying process. However, as you make observations, begin to think about how to turn the buying process into a repeatable sales process. It may be helpful to draw out your target customers' buying process and try to identify leverage points at which you can influence purchase decisions. Leverage points are all the points in the buying process that could influence your customers to make a purchase decision.
If you haven't already done so, we encourage you to download the following interview guide, which will help you with customer conversations as you go through the Nail It Then Scale It process.
(See Nail It Then Scale It, pgs. 137-139)