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Lighthouse customers are the ones critical to understanding your business. It is the customers you want to work with first. It is the customers your will learn the most from. It is the customers you will spend most effort on. So how do you select a light house customer that maximize your potential
What characterize a light house customer
Your first customers for a new offering will be your hardest. They are the light house that will guide your development. For understanding customers, evolve the solution and development of business models. Light house customers can be of the following different natures.
- Match your critical development needs – Customers sharing your vision to a point where you can place big bets.
- Maximize your customer learning – support you to understand jobs to be done in detail.
- Open to work with you as a partner – guide the development of first product releases.
- First mover in new markets – stakes in digital game is high, with few winners.
- High customer reference value to other customers – Provide you with a reference for business expansion.
- Buyer of large volumes on their own – a customer carrying a big share of your business case.
Support you to understand jobs to be done in depth
The first value a light house customer provide is to help you understand the customer jobs to be done in detail. The fundamental reason why customer hire you to get their job done.
The starting point for such an engagement is your jobs to be done hypotheses. Articulating the business outcomes your solution must deliver.
I would suggest you avoid thinking needs and requirements in the early stages. As neither of them is well defined nor accurate for a novel area. And can lead you into solutions before you have validated why you have a role to play. Consider the Jobs to be done method as the framework for conversations with your light house customers.
Guide development of your first product release
Light house customers will be first to take your prototypes and pre-releases of your offering. Starting as a minimum viable product with feedback loops validating you are on the right development track.
Based on the input from your light house customers you will reach a product suitable for market launch. After validating demand, expected outcomes, solution and business model.
Provide a reference for business expansion
The light house customers will represent your first revenues. A critical milestone towards bigger things ahead.
Successful orders and deliveries allow you to leverage your light house customers in the next phase. Where they will be reference customers for expansion.
Hedge your bets with 1+1 customers early on
Selecting just one light house customer is risky. They might lose excitement along the road. Or their jobs to be done are too specific and differentiate you out of the main stream market. Select your light house customer to secure you get to the broader market as fast as possible.
Questions for you and your team
- Which criteria do we use to select lighthouse customer candidates – aspire to know what you look for.
- Which candidates meet our lighthouse customer criteria – consider selection a 2-way choice.
- Which drawbacks do you see with each lighthouse customer candidate – don’t expect an all rosy picture.
- How many lighthouse customers do we need – 1 is too big risk, 2 allow focus, 3 or more divert attention.
- Which lighthouse customer candidates represent large risk – avoid the high-risk candidates.
Additional reading suggestions
- Leverage “lighthouse customers” for insight [BLOGPOST] – by Partners in excellence blog
- The first customers are the hardest: Top founders discuss the challenge of getting initial traction [ARTICLE] – by Forbes
- How to build an early customer base for your start-up [BLOGPOST] – by ProductHunt
- Your first 10 customers can make or break you [ARTICLE] – by TechCrunch
- Customer development model: Understanding customer validation [BLOGPOST] – by Cleverism