This is part of a series:

  1. Behavioural View of Product Development - Part 1
  2. Behavioural View of Product Development - Part 2
  3. (this post) Behavioural View of Product Development - Part 3

The Action Section

What “Customer Action” are you trying to improve?

Instead of thinking of the problem, think of the process or action. This action is taken by the target customer base to achieve the desired outcome. No matter how ground-breaking your product is, there HAS to be some action that people already do, that you are going to improve.

Let’s take the infamous Ford quote (Ford never actually said this): “if I asked the users they would want faster horses.” Nevertheless, the action Ford improved was “daily commutation of people and goods”.

Thinking about the action helps in two ways. First, you distance yourself from the problem. This makes it easy to handle multiple Cognitive Biases, which are makers’ worst enemies. And second, when you think of actions you need to be specific. This helps you define things in less subjective and hazy terms.

When you say “We solve the problem <X>” it’s very likely that you are being too biased and actually not making much sense.

For example “Dropbox solved the problem that people forget pen drives”. On the other hand, when you talk about action, you end up getting into specifics. The action that Dropbox improved is: “sharing of files”. “Pen drives” was just one of the solutions to it, which wasn’t enough.

While this seems to be a subtle difference, it does change the way you think about things. Let us, for a moment, take a look at some of the actions improved by groundbreaking technologies, that were rejected by experts.

Intended outcome of the action

Why do the users take this action in the first place? What is it they are trying to achieve or avoid?

The intended outcome helps you associate a “worth” with the action. The greater the worth, the leaner the MVP you can get away with. What we mean is this — all things being the same, users are more likely to try out even a buggy solution when the action that means a lot to them. This is to be contrasted with the situation that the action is not super relevant, in which case even a polished solution might not get adopted.

Try to answer this — what happens if they do NOT take this action at all, and no solutions in this space exist, even the work arounds? If even your early adopters can live without solving it, you are likely trying to create a new market — you need to be aware of this.

Eg. for LightCat, I would say “ in the absence of quantifiable customer discovery, they WILL build a misshapen product, and will eventually get into a Feature Creep AND Discounting game which will kill them”

Cost of the action today

Problems arise out of current solutions. The way people take The Action today, is obviously sucky according to you. In this section, we define what’s wrong with this. Usually, there is a problem in one or more of the following dimensions
1. Time taken:
2. Cash spent:
3. Satisfaction with desired result:
4. Brain cycles (too confusing)

Putting numbers to it is important. The Maker Poll will take you to quantification anyway, but it’s better to be clear upfront. The cost of the action, multiplied by the value of the Intended Outcome gives you a sense of something important — how likely are the customers willing to pay — with money or attention.

Psychographics Section

1) Internal Triggers to take the action

Think of what they are doing just before they take the action. Read Hooked to dig deep. We have borrowed this section from the Nir Eyal’s hooked principles. We have added some layers to it for so that it’s easy for you to keep an objective view (remember, our goal is to make this more scientific and process driven — objective measurement is paramount).

Positive Trigger: is there a moment of happiness when they take the “action”?
Eg: “eureka moment: they just found some evidence that their product is a good fit for a market they hadn’t intended it for”. How “happy” is this on the Likert 5-point scale?

Negative Trigger: is there a moment of pain when they take the “action”?
Eg. dejection: they just pitched their idea to a collaborator who felt that no one needs it, and the makers had no real data to prove otherwise. How painful is this on the Likert 5-point scale?

2) Best time to place an external trigger (CTA)

This is connected to the “internal triggers” above. Think of the time when they need your product the most.
Eg. Right after they had a meeting with an investor or a partner, they have lots of new thoughts that need validation.

This also helps you plan your communication architecture — when should you send a notification? Should you integrate your product with a calendar, so that you know when to send reminders?


Our goals here are simple —

  1. We want to dig deeper into the Problem Identification piece of CustDev
  2. We want to be scientific by measuring everything on a scale
  3. We do NOT want to replace the Face to Face interview, but augment it.

The process we recommend is this — first you conduct some secondary research to SCOPE the problem. Second, create your problem hypothesis with the Problem Canvas. Third, share a Maker Poll to validate the hypothesis to 30 respondents. Also ask them to OPT-IN for face to face interviews in the Poll itself. Fourth, conduct really deep customer interviews to get to the root of the problem.