First in a series on pilot project strategies for B2B startups
As a startup with a B2B idea, you “think” you know who your customer is, but, you don’t really know. If you have an EdTech startup, for example, how do you approach the market? You may think your customer base is comprised of let’s say “universities” but is that true? Not all universities are the same. There are big ones and small ones. There are rural campuses and urban campuses, What about international? Are all universities organized and structured the same? No. Which unit would you approach? Who in the organization most has the pain?
To help you figure this out, the evolving Lean Startup movement and its associated customer development techniques put B2B startups squarely in the world of the customer as soon as possible. Getting a “minimum viable product” very early into the hands of the customer becomes a top priority. You need to do this to get feedback, not only on usability, but on the overall elements of the business model including revenue model, go-to-market strategy and customer relationship approach. This means that you need to organize “pilot projects” with your customers and develop a pilot project strategy.
(Even if you don’t follow the lean startup approach and you are going for more of a “build-then-sell” approach, you still need your early potential customers to work with you on testing out the product and getting feedback on what works and what doesn’t.)
With a properly-formed pilot project strategy, you are focused on testing your solution concept with early-adopter customers while also testing your assumptions about your channel strategy, sales processes, revenue model and many other elements of your proposed business model. You are using pilot projects to get solution feedback but just as importantly to develop your business model and using the results of your project to inform your future.
Customer development becomes a journey of not only validating certain high-level assumptions but also drilling down into detailed and critical assumptions analysis that are going to be important to your startup journey. A well-formed pilot project strategy will help you as it’s not going to just be about the perfecting the solution – you’re actually piloting your entire approach to the market.