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Five similarities between forming habits and deep customer development


I spend a lot of time thinking about new companies finding, nurturing and winning over their first lot of customers and I’ve realised that there are a lot of similarities with forming habits. Here are five…

  1. Patience.
    It takes time. It doesn’t happen instantly. Some things do, like a click or a visit or reading a tagline, but real engagement and commitment takes time. Same with habits. For them to become a part of your life, and not just something you occasionally, intentionally do, allow plenty of time. You can’t ‘cram’ customer development.
  2. Repetition.
    Linked to above, but importantly different. It’s not a smooth, linear experience. Ever. The customer will always have to do a few things over and over again before they form the habit. Before it becomes normal.
  3. Unprogram.
    It is rare that something valuable isn’t already being fulfilled some other way. Even if it’s just a use of time, it’s still a substitute. But that’s good. It’s much, much easier (though still hard) to get a customer to switch to you, than it is to get them to adopt a new thing for new value. However, the reality is that you have to get them to unlearn the old solution/habit and learn yours. That’s not easy. People call it the “switching cost”, but it’s not a once off transaction. Inertia is against you.
  4. Distractions.
    Habit forming doesn’t happen in a vacuum. 1,000 other things are happening at the same time. You have to be aware of the realities and work with them. Customer development is the same. It’s not a lab where you control the elements. Everyone is busy. And unless you are food, water or sex, it’s unlikely you’re going to command immediate and significant investment.
  5. Variance.
    “You’re unique, just like everyone else.” It’s true. Every single situation is different and herein lies the focus challenge. You need to focus on a small segment and a simple value creation point, but you need to allow room in there for the person’s own life, needs and timing to ferment into a commitment. Habits are the same. That’s why time management tools have to be rigidly rubbery.

I’m sure readers will have a few more.

Mick Liubinskas is one of Australia’s leading web strategists, having served in head marketing roles at Kazaa, Zapr and Tangler. He now runs Pollenizer, the business incubator he co-founded with former-Kazaa colleague Phil Morle.