Imagine investing time and money building a product that no one wants.

What if it took only getting out of your office to talk to your customers to launch a product that will make you money?

Listen to your customers: launch the right products

A California-based startup, SnapTax in 2009 had a tipping point because they listened to their customers. We all know that tax return paperwork is one daunting task.

This startup’s value offering was to liberate taxpayers from expensive tax stores by automating the process of collecting information typically found on end-of-year statement that most employees receive from their employers that summarizes their taxable wages for the year. The value offered was great, however their end users had difficulty operating the device/system.

As Steve Blank writes in the Four Steps to Epiphany on customer development, entrepreneurs must take time to get out of office and talk to their prospective clients.

SnapTax team did that, and after numerous conversations with potential users, the team came up with an idea of having customers take photographs of their (tax) forms directly from their phones to assist them on how to use the system.

In the process of testing this idea, users asked a question that became an ‘aha’ moment if not a breakthrough for SnapTax, “Would it be possible to finish the whole tax return right on the phone itself?” They asked.

Oftentimes when you introduce a product in the market and customers “tell you what to do”, it is not easy to receive the feedback well. However, it is important to listen to your prospects because they’re the ones who know what they need.

And SnapTax listened. Instead of having customers fill out complex form (we all know that the paperwork has a lot of questions that need to be answers and informs), they allowed the customers to use their phone’s camera to take a picture of their forms and from that single picture, the company developed the technology to compile and file their returns.

By 2011 when the company launched nationwide (initially it was serving citizens in California), they had more than 350 000 downloads within the first three weeks – surely customers loved this!

That’s what happens when you listen to your customers.

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