Following the voice of the customer

Customer centric startups solving the real painful need of the end user, be it in B2B or B2C market, tend to put the needs of the customers in the heart of the product organization, and for product first startups that is the core of the startup itself. From research to discovery to user testing, customers are essential to be included into the process. Yet do not be confused and misinterpret this information – solving the real need with core features and following every small hint of the feature from every customer are two rather different approaches. So how, in the craze of the building mode, do we not get mixed up in confusing those two?
Keep your value proposition for each user type visible to all the team

If you are yet to reach the PMF – prioritize one (rigorously) and concentrate just on this user type and the core value proposition to your audience. This should not be guided by where it is easiest to reach the user, but by where it is most promising to bring the maximum impact to the user. This would serve as a guiding star to your team. You may be tempted to deep-dive into a different core value prop to a different audience at the same time – be mindful of your budget here. Pre-seed and seed-stage startups alike have a strong budget constraint to follow. Research, prototype, test, and only then build should be your motto. Keeping your value proposition open to the full team and staying open to the feedback allows you to stay on rails.

Core offering vs ancillary features

Based on your core value proposition you will arrive at 1-2 core offerings that you have to your users. Example: Xero helps you keep your bookkeeping in check, solving the pain of having to dig through the purchases and invoices each month, via allowing you to invoice from the platform and sync your expenses into one nice dashboard. A variety of invoice templates and color options for dashboards are ancillary to the core offering, which is substantially withholding the tedious task of keeping one’s books.

When in doubt, subdivide the feature requests you are getting to core and ancillary. Your user base is likely to move elsewhere if you are not solving their actual pain, yet giving multiple options to bring some color to it.

Balance short term and long term product vision

If you’ve managed to find the substantial pain point of your user base and hit the core features that help solve this pain, you might think about improving those to the maximum level before shipping new features. Each product team takes a necessary pause and improves the core product somewhere at the series A stage with a long term perspective of the core offering being supported by the solid infrastructure and security to make the product scalable and in turn allow you to replicate the success with other user types or in other geographies. Do not be afraid to pause and reevaluate if you are hitting your objectives and impact level with the user type you decided to concentrate on – sometimes this is exactly what is needed to help you grow and scale. Your core offering should be (somewhat) perfect, giving you a strong fundament to further build on.

Building the culture of customer centricity

Moving the team to the mindset of putting the customer is the center of all the decision-making is definitely a tricky task. Especially when we consider the need to listen and hear yet not be swayed by each and every product feedback you get as a team. This tough balancing act is better performed in the team of trained customer service agents, researchers, and product managers, closing the loop on essential feedback and customer satisfaction level and making your product iterate as fast as it needs to.

This productboard infographic further adds to our core points.