Lean Canvas—Clarity About Customer Problems

Here is a Google doc of the Lean Canvas you can use for yourself or to play along at home.

When you complete a Lean Canvas, Ash Mauyra recommends that you work on Customer Segmentation and Problem Statements simultaneously. You know who you customers are now. What are their problems?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mauyra recommends that you first list your customers’/early adopters’ top 3 problems, the problems you are going to help them solve. In order to do that, he recommends the 5 Whys method of seeking the root cause.

In the scenario from yesterday’s post, a 5 whys analysis might look something like this:

Problem: Bill Johnson hasn’t found a job.
Why? Because he hasn’t convinced an employer to hire him.
Why? Because he hasn’t had an opportunity to speak to a person with hiring authority and present the value he offers to potential employers.
Why? Because he hasn’t been able figure out who the people with hiring authority are.
Why? Because he doesn’t know how to find the pertinent information.
Why? Because the employers set up road blocks to keep job seekers away.
Why? Because employers don’t have time/don’t see the value in talking with potential job applicants.

There is nothing magical about the number 5, of course. It could be the 4 whys or the 8 whys. The important thing is that you dig until you get a clear sense of what the problems are (or at least a reasonable hypothesis regarding the problems).

Using the example above, we might hypothesize that Bill’s 3 biggest problems are:

  1. Bill doesn’t know how to find the contact information for the appropriate person with hiring authority.
  2. Bill doesn’t know how to get over or around the road blocks employers set up to thwart job seekers from contacting them directly.
  3. Bill doesn’t know how to communicate the value that he offers a potential employer.

The good news? At this stage you could be dead wrong. These might not be your potential customers’ biggest problems. But if they aren’t, when would you rather discover that you’re wrong—today or after you’ve invested countless hours and dollars to create a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist? Finding out you’re wrong that this stage is inexpensive and instructive—you can learn, pivot and grow.

Another way of looking at this, Clayton Christensen says, is to consider the question, “What is the job the customer is hiring you or your product to do?” The premise is that customers hire your product to get a job done. They may already be solving or attempting to solve that problem without you. Alternatively, they may not be doing anything about the problem because addressing it is relatively less stressful than not doing anything.

Given his predicament, Bill might do any or all of the following:

  • Ignore the challenge he’s facing and go to the movies.
  • Go to the library to look up company contact information in the white pages.
  • Pretend he is friends with the hiring manager if he gets the gatekeeper on the phone (“Is Bob there? Tell him it’s Bill.”)
  • Try to make the hiring manager look/feel stupid for not considering a job candidate with Bill’s qualifications.

You get the point. People can do anything. The question you need to ask and answer is, “What are my current prospects doing now (or not doing now) to solve their big problem?”

Soon we’ll be discussing the next components of the Lean Canvas: your solution, your unique value proposition, and your revenue streams.

In the meanwhile, what are your customers’ top 3 problems? How are they addressing (or not addressing) their top 3 problems currently?


2 responses to “Lean Canvas—Clarity About Customer Problems”

  1. […] solve our hypothetical job-seeker Bill Johnson’s problems, he may need something like career coaching, but perhaps needs assistance with resume and cover […]

  2. […] almost done with your Lean Canvas. So far, you have a great idea about your customers, their problems, your solution, your unique value proposition, and your price. Guess what! If you can’t get […]

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