Lean Experiments

Launching a startup is about more than just building a great product or service.

In fact, in the early days it is as much about making hypotheses and testing assumptions as it is about actual product development. Many a talented entrepreneurs have embarked on journeys that led nowhere because they failed to ask two simple questions:

  1. Am I solving a problem that people actually want/need solved?
  2. Can I build a solution that people will actually use?

At ChatterJet, we are dedicated to understanding how small businesses currently use social media. Most importantly, we are interested in uncovering their biggest challenges and frustrations small businesses face online.

On a recent Skype call with my founder, I alluded to the fact that I didn’t feel like we were tracking “enough” and that we should consider some other metrics to ensure we were making progress.

The problem: I didn’t really know what else to track.

Later that night as I was browsing through Running Lean, I learned that my suspicion was at least partially correct.

Ash Maurya, author of Running Lean and founder of the Lean Canvas,  takes a scientific, actionable approach to launching a startup. The Lean Canvas is not only a one-page tool that keeps teams on the same page (pun intended) but something to base your experiments and/or interviews off of. Each of the boxes on the canvas represents a portion of our business that you can make a hypothesis about, run experiments on, and track results for.

This discovery helped me extract the following:

Problem- Our hypotheses (in order):

  • Small businesses don’t have time to do social media every day.
  • Small businesses don’t know what to do/where to start with social media (lack of experience).
  • Small businesses don’t have the budget to do social media properly (dedicated staff member/can’t afford to pay someone else to do it).

With the goal of uncovering the main issues small businesses face, our job is to make hypotheses about the Problem, share our hunches with those we interview, ask them to rank them, and then look at the data. We might discover our guesses were correct, or we might uncover there are other/larger problems to solve (that lead to new solutions).

The Problem was built into our survey, but the next item on the Lean Canvas (Customer Segments) was not. As a result, we added the following questions to our survey to validate our assumptions about the types of early adopters who we were targeting.

Customer Segments

  • How many employees work at your company?
  • Do you have anyone dedicated specifically to marketing, lead development, or sales?
  • How many locations (offices or storefronts) do you have?
  • Is your business location-specific, or can you do business anywhere (i.e. – Internet)?
  • How much technology do you use at your office? Websites, email, social media, etc.?

If our assumptions are right about the problems they are having and the type of organization they are, we can start to feel more confident how we deliver the solution (through our Unique Value Proposition and Solution).

After we solidify our solution and start moving into the true testing phase, we can then set up metrics to track our progress on acquisition Channels, Costs, Revenue Stream, Key Metrics (Product Usage Rates), and Unfair Advantage.

If you’re a startup, what other questions are you asking your prospects and users? What actionable metrics are you tracking to ensure you’re on the right track?