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Stop Hoping People Will Buy Your Stuff. Know They Will By Using This Customer Discovery Technique.

As a small business owner, you spend a lot of time hoping that people will buy your products, but what if you didn’t have to hope, what if you could know? To take it one step further, what if you could not only know they will buy, but at what price. Life just got a lot easier. To do this, we’re going to review a customer discovery technique that’s called, “Willingness to Pay”.

What is Willingness to Pay (WTP)?

Just like it sounds, ‘willingness to pay’ refers to the maximum amount of money, ie. the maximum price, a customer is willing to pay for a particular product or service. And believe it or not, you can just ask people. Crazy, right?! But, to get the best results, you need the right approach.

“If people aren't willing to pay, or not willing to pay enough to cover your costs and provide a healthy, but fair profit margin, this is a giant red flag.”

Use Customer Discovery and WTP to Find Out if Your Business Idea Has Potential

This willingness to pay is not just going to help you zero in on a price point, but will help you determine the overall viability of your business idea before spending too much time and money on the development of your product. You’re trying to discover if potential customers see enough value in the benefits of your product to be willing to pay for it. This is critical because when there’s no, or little, willingness to pay, it tells you that your business idea is flawed somehow.

If people aren’t willing to pay, or they’re not willing to pay enough to cover your costs and provide a healthy, but fair profit margin, this is a giant red flag. Something is off and the sooner you figure this the better. So with this real life feedback, you can know, even before you have started to even build your product, whether or not your business has a chance. You may have to improve your product, or even start over, based on customer feedback, but in either situation, you’ve stopped yourself from wasting thousands of dollars and hours of your time making a product that nobody wants.


A Simple Survey Technique to Discover a Customer’s WTP

One approach to finding out what potential customers are willing to pay for your products or services is to use this simple survey technique.

Step 1: Start with an assumption or hypothesis about how your product can fix a specific problem, or make life better, for a specific group of people.

This group of potential customers has one specific problem in common (ex. parents of small children with no babysitter). Find out where those potential customers spend time online and offline so that you can ask them if they would be willing to talk to you about this particular struggle. This sounds tricky, but it’s not. You just need to be willing to put yourself out there.

Step 2: Introduce yourself and tell them you’re working on something and that you’re not selling anything, but are looking to talk to people for 10 to 15 minutes about the problem they're experiencing (ex. no babysitter).

Step 3: With a good understanding of the ‘job’ this particular group of people needs to get done, think about all the potential solutions that would help them overcome that struggle.

Step 4: Piece all this information together into what’s called a value proposition statement to ensure the pieces of this puzzle make sense together.

Step 5: Next, you can begin to talk to people about their willingness to pay. This survey method is just one way to do this. Ideally, you’ll need to find 60-90 people in total for your results to be reliable.

Customer Discovery Willingness to Pay Survey Technique | Best Kind Consulting | Smart Pricing for Small Business
Customer Discovery Willingness to Pay Survey Technique


Common Outcomes

People aren’t willing to pay

If all three survey groups say they would not buy the product (ie. most answers are scored at 4 or 5), it’s indicative that something is off. Maybe they don’t view the problem as a problem that’s serious enough to pay for a solution. It could be that you diagnosed the wrong problem. What to do: go back to the jobs-to-be-done again. It could be that there is a problem, but your solution is not the right/best solution in the customer’s eyes. Talk to more people about what the ideal solution looks like.

People are willing to pay, but the results are split

People are willing to pay, and there’s a clear winner


While it's not perfect, the outcome of this survey will give you much more clarity on your potential customers willingness to pay for your product, ensuring there’s a market for your product, and giving you a more concrete starting point for pricing your products to maximize your revenue, customer lifetime value, and profit potential. If you need clarity around how to set or optimize your prices, incorporating ‘willingness to pay’ into your customer discovery process is the way to go. It may take time and even some money to find these things out, but it will be far less time and money than if you create a product that no one wants or price your products too low and end up with a business that loses money.

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