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Customer Research for Lean Startups

Learn more about customer research and how to understand their needs.

In this video, we introduce you to the idea of customer needs, and techniques to identify them.

At first, a clarification is warranted: We have used the words “customers” and “users” interchangeably, and often the customers are the users. Where then are the differences? Basically, a user is the one that is actually using your product. A customer is one that is buying the product. Consider a kids’ bike: The user is the child, and its needs may be addressed by “cool” looks and ease of riding. The customers are likely the parents. Their needs may revolve around safety, environmental issues, and pricing. When you know about this difference, you will realize that you need to investigate your assumptions about users and customers, in case the two differ.

User/customers are seeking a solution for what they are seeking to accomplish – their “job-to-be-done”. They may want to get from A to B, they may want to have a hole in the wall, or they may want to have a good night’s sleep when they are abroad. However, many users/customers may not look beyond the obvious existing solutions. They will buy a drill, buy a car, or book a hotel room. If your entrepreneurial idea is about offering something that formerly had inadequate solutions – or no solutions -, you may have a great opportunity (Christensen et al. 2016).

It is difficult to identify the job-to-be-done, respectively the underlying needs that users/customers have. They themselves may find it difficult to make them explicit, and they are rarely in a position to realize what a product or service based on a new technology can do for them. When you want to identify the underlying customer/user needs, you can resort to qualitative market research techniques.


Belk, R., Fischer, E., Kozinets, R.V., (2012). Qualitative Consumer and Marketing Research. Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Christensen, C.M., Hall, T., Dillon, K., Duncan, D.S., (2016). Know your customers’ “Jobs to Be Done”. Harvard Business Review, 94(9), 54-62.

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