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8 tips on how to conduct a productive customer validation interview

The popular customer validation mantra, “Get out of the building” that is coined by Steve Blank, is the most fundamental and core process to discover and validate a great product idea, as well as to find your early adopters. Although talking to customers and getting their feedback sound like an easy feat, but do it effectively so that we maximize our learning objectives takes a lot of practice. Most entrepreneurs fall into the trap of pitching their solution to the customers prematurely. In a pitch, you do most of the talking, and you learn very little about the customer behavior. It’s also very easy for them to agree with you. (Or they pretend to be agreeable.) The flaw in starting your customer validation with a pitch is that you assume you have the “right” solution for them. For that, you have to understand the “right” customer problem first, which is the first phase of customer validation interview. (Or problem interview to be exact.) Asking the right questions is key to make sure you have problem worth solving before investing months or years of effort into building a solution.

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Minimum-Viable-Product Demystified (Part 2)

I wrote the Part 1 of this article last year and a lot of people was requesting me to write a step-by-step guide for planning and designing Minimum-Viable-Product (MVP). I also notice there are still some people who are confused on the concept of MVP. Some of the common misconceptions are, “MVP is the final product with some features taken out,” “MVP is a smaller or cheaper version of the final product.” To clarify once again, MVP is not about quickly putting together some interesting features over the weekend and release it, see what happens, and then see if you wish to proceed. MVP is all about validated learning. The goal of building MVP is validated learning about your product-market fit.

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5 ways how non-tech companies can leverage on start-ups for innovation, growth, and talent

This article is specifically for business owners of non-tech companies. Start-ups are commonly perceived as young companies that build and sell new gadgets and other cool technological products, where they are often seen as operating in its own world (tech industry) and irrelevant to the non-tech companies. This is a big misconception, and if you understand that innovation is not only for tech companies, then what I am going to share here can probably inspire you on how you can work with start-ups for accelerating your company’s innovation, growth, and talent acquisition. Otherwise, I suggest you to read this article first, “Seven myths and realities of innovation.” (Just to be honest and give you a fair perspective, there are some uncreative organizations survive and even do well.)

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Minimum-Viable-Product Demystified (Part 1)

There are a lot of buzz on the “lean methodology” lately, such as Lean Startup, Customer Development, Agile Development approach, etc. Every now and then you will hear startups discussing about their first Minimum-Viable-Product (MVP) they are building. You had probably asked around what is actually an MVP, and heard many interesting variations on the definition of MVP. Some define it as “the product with the smallest imaginable features set,” some said “product with the minimum features required for it to function as intended,” or “cheapest way to develop your product,” etc. There is nothing wrong with these definitions. The problem lies in the challenges to interpret it correctly.

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Contact Management vs. Relationship Management

“I hate managing contacts, but I absolutely love meeting new people and establishing relationships.” That’s the phrase that hit me to write this when I come across this article Evernote Contact Manager written by Adam Boettiger. He articulated in a very systematic manner the differences between contact management and relationship management that I found many people often misunderstood them. I won’t be repeating the specific solution that Adam wrote in his article. (As you can click on the given link and read further.) What I wish to recap here are some of the excellent points that Adam mentioned in keeping contact management and relationship management as a separate process. This is something that business owners should understand well if they believe that relationship management really matters in their business, i.e. you recognize the long term value of customer and not just boosting sales by concentrating on single transactions. (If you believe in the latter, you can save your time from reading further, and Google for articles on “transactional marketing.”)

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Choosing eCommerce platform for your online store

Happy 2013 everyone! This is my first article for the new year. If one of your goals for the new year is to build an online presence for your business, this is an article might come at the right timing. (Still haven’t planned what to do for your business in the new year? Take our Innovation Scorecard Test if you have an existing business; Or Startup Checklist Test if you are starting up a new business.) Good news is there are abundant of solutions available to you in launching your online store today. Just to name a few, they are webShaper, Shopify, Magento, PrestaShop, and many more. Although the widespread of choices is hardly a bad thing, but many business owners are swamped with options. They aren’t sure about “the best” solution for their business.

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How to embrace innovation

This is a continuation of my previous article Why We Don’t Innovate. This was excerpted and summarized from the original article Why You’re Blind To Innovation, where the author shared his experience after 25 years of working with the world’s leading companies on successful innovation, which included spearheading an innovation best practices study with first-ever findings. These are the tips facilitate the innovation process:

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Why we don’t innovate

This is an interesting article excerpted and summarized from Why You’re Blind To Innovation, “Top people at leading companies often fail to respond to new innovation even as it threatens their very existence. There’s the U.S. auto industry’s lack of response to the onslaught of Japanese cars in the ’80s, or IBMs failure to shift from mainframes to PCs, an oversight that nearly sent them into bankruptcy in the late ’90s.”

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Test your business idea when you don’t know your customers

I enjoy mingle with visionary people. I like their constant flow of great ideas and energy. But more often, when they see me with new ideas, they will ask, “Thomas, I think I have a great idea. Can you help me to develop it?” My standard response to them is usually, “Yes sir, I can.” I will pause momentarily and continue, “But do we really have to develop it?” Most of the time, they will respond to me, “Why not?” Though I know you may feel that this sounds a little vague when I said, “Have you thought of perhaps there are other shortcuts to do it?” My objective is at least trying to get their attention to listen and avoid the common misconception of “build and they will come” experienced by most entrepreneurs. Especially those with the technical skills (like me), we tend to take our capabilities for granted, where it is always seems counterintuitive why we shouldn’t just do it.

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How technology enables business model innovation

I am a strong advocate of using technology (IT to be specific) as an enabler to business model innovation. It’s important to understand that innovation is not limited to technological innovations by high-tech companies, but also includes marketing innovation, management innovation, process innovation, and product innovation. To put it simply, regardless of what business or industry you are in, if you are trying out different way of doing things in your business and not following the conventional wisdom, then you are innovating your business model.

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