Are you a teachable entrepreneur?

A week ago, I wrote about the 4 keys to successful customer discovery, one of which is that customer discovery is not selling.  Here, I’m expanding on that specific thought.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting with 3 startup entrepreneurs, 2 of whom are pre-launch and still in idea stage.  Both of these 2 entrepreneurs had in their mind what they wanted to build, and were moving towards building it. Both of their ideas sounded very good, with large addressable markets, existing sales channels, and perceptible pain points in their industries.

The problem was that both were selling their product already, when their product had not been built yet.  NOTE: If you just read that sentence and immediately thought, “Well, what’s wrong with that?!?”, then I have the proper audience here. Keep reading.

They had an idea, and that’s great. But, as Eric Ries will tell you very clearly and repetitively, your best idea is a guess, and it’s most likely wrong.  The fun comes as the entrepreneur is willing to start with his or her idea, then take it to actual potential customers, and see if the idea is right, wrong, or indifferent before you build it (read “before dumping money and months into the wrong idea”). The entrepreneur must be teachable, no matter how “passionate” he or she is about their idea.

Ideas are a dime a dozen. In today’s internet technology economy, we can build anything. The question is, and this question can only be answered through the customer discovery process, should we build it? Customer discovery is not selling what you think you want to build. Customer discovery is research, finding out what your audience wants, needs, where it has pain on a daily basis, how big that pain is, is there budget to pay for a solution, and what should that solution look like.

In other words, customer discovery is necessary before you build your product, because what you want to build is a guess and it’s probably wrong.  If you’re not talking to your potential customers about what to build, then you don’t know what to build.

Let your customers teach you what to build, then go build it.

What do you think about that?