You Don’t Design Customers, You Understand Them (Or Not)

Added on by Alexander Osterwalder.

The key to great value propositions is understanding customers first, and then designing value with products & services accordingly.

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I did a mini workshop in Latin America for a company’s digital team. One of the participants was asked to present the Value Proposition Canvas for their digital payment solution. He presented the customer profile with the jobs, pains, and gains, and then explained the Value Map.

It was immediately clear that the team had never met their customer segment. What he had done was retrofit the customer profile against the digital payments solution they’ve worked out.

Now, it’s ok to sketch out the customer profile for a customer you’ve never met in a meeting room. However, you then have to immediately go and verify (and get a reality check) if your assumptions from the meeting room were true. From those tests you adapt and modify the customer profile based on what you’ve learned. Only now,  armed with this verified information, you are ready to design the appropriate solution.

You can’t shape your customer. You can only understand the customer. The value proposition is where you make choices: you decide which jobs, pains and gains you want to address with which solutions. Get out of the building to understand your customer, then shape your value proposition around them. While this might sound like common sense, it’s still not common practice.