Category Archives: Customer Development
A new idea that specifically solves all problems in the life of a student on campus.
A Yelp For Student Life
Our idea in a nutshell: A ranking and review website on all aspects of student life on campus.
We will provide a platform to rank and review:
1. Clubs and societies
4. Retail shops like hairdressers, KTV lounges etc.
5. Job offers
6. Graduate schools
We hypothesize that a typical chinese college student goes through the following cycles in his life in college:
Year 1: New to environment, need a handy guide to life in and around campus
Year 2: Figuring out his life and want a grasp on life, setting his education right, choosing the right courses that will bring him the job after college.
Year 3: Figuring out what is the best job, doing internships.
Year 4: Preparing for examinations. And after examinations, time to enjoy what’s left of life in college around campus.
Our site will provide relevant information to all college students regardless of the phase that they are in, and act as a destination site that allows college student to benefit from the wisdom of the crowd, their peers, in making decisions that will impact not just their social life, but their lives in the future.
We are really excited about this! Customer interviews will begin immediately and we will proceed with the pivot.
Once again, we are trying to pivot away from targeting both event hosts and event users, to purely improve the experience of hosting events for both public and private events. This makes everyone one an event host and we will be able to provide more targeted value propositions to relief the pains of organizing an event. Specifically, we would be a doodle with special features that appeal to the chinese population.
Main summary of results: (16 interviews)
1. Students – Express resonance with the pain point of scheduling of events and finding a common time to organize the event. There also exist students who express the fact that phone calling seems to be more sincere then doing online scheduling. Most important insight that we obtain from this is that it appears that there exists a plethora of methods for current students to organize events whether private and public, and it seems like using web to organize event ranks really low amongst all these methods. In fact some people express that provision of another method to organize events might complicate things more than simplify things.
2. Working adults – No such pain point. Most prefer to work with phone calls to organize any sort of events as that comes across as more sincere.
What we learnt:
1. Providing a web application that helps people to organize events, no matter how helpful in terms of efficiency, does not specifically target any pain point of event organization. Because not everyone wishes for efficiency, they wish for sincerity.
2. Events ultimately reside in a small portion of a person’s life in university. Its not big enough a value proposition for these students!!
1. Find the biggest value proposition!!!
Some of our interview transcripts:
Ruoxing Liu, 26 years old, working
Not very often, probably once a month, size of event range from 2 people to 10 people, not interested in using our platform since it’s better and more efficient to call. Not interested in Doodle like feature either, since it feels like distant to use web rather than call, also felt that it would be troublesome if some people in the party use it while others don’t. Not interested in posting public event on Sina Weibo, since most users follows hundreds of people and the news can be easily buried in the newsfeed. Show interest in the recommendation.
Xiaoxu Zhang, 23 years old, just started working
Often, organizing activities for collegues, 20-30. If our platform provides a lot of functions, she would like to use it. Likes the doodle feature and also interested in the recommendation. Seems like pushing to multi-platform is not very vital to her. Suggested some feature which allows people to split and pay the money for the party.
Shanshan Zhang, 23 years old, in school
Often in the past. Likes the doodle feature and also interested in recommendation but not that interested in the multi-platform feature. Suggested the push the map data as well to multi-platform.
Yi Yin, 23 years old, in school
Not often, two-three times per year. She would like to see more social element, like asking friends whether they would like to join a certain event. Suggested us to focus on Chinese students abroad.
With our big insight from the previous post, we will be engaging in a pivot. This pivot is inspired by the fact that we have found event hosts to be the ones constantly complaining of numerous pain points, but event users to be pretty ambivalent about our offering and their only interest is in our user interface experience. We aim to now solve the pain points enumerated by event hosts in our countless of interviews.
The basis of our pivot will be:
1. An offering where our customer will solely be event hosts, and we will not be caring about event goers anymore.
2. An offering where we will significantly improve the experience of hosting events, such as providing scheduling services, tasking responsibilities, multi-platform integration etc.
3. An offering that allows anyone to create an event, not just for public club events, but for the private dinner between friends, the basketball game that will happen on Thursday afternoon, or the hiking trip next week. Everyone is an event host.
We are currently undergoing intense phone callings, and once the above will be verified, we will engage in a quick pivot.
Following the disappoint results from demand creation activities and some insights from our hypothesis testing over last week, we arrive at the following big insight:
Acquiring event goers is a wrong move!!!!! We should focus instead SOLELY on event hosts!!!
1. Our site will never be a destination site for event goers on the onset. There is just no strong enough a pain point for these event goers to start picking up an app to visit to check for upcoming events. China college students currently have the luxury of too many media channels to be informed of upcoming events to care to use our app.
2. We can however be a destination site for event hosts.If we can hit the correct pain point of these event hosts (such as support for a multi-platform broadcasting and aggregation tool as discussed in the previous post), we will offer a strong enough value to attract these event hosts to our site!
What this means:
We can remove anything that benefits event goers, such as campus event aggregation, and focus solely on significantly improving our solution for event hosts. In fact, we see this manifest itself in many event sites in US, like doodle, evite, cocoDot to name a few. These sites purely focus on solving the problem for event hosts! We could have just hit on the biggest insight in our entire process of customer development. (finally!)
The team found out the following big insight:
1. Our initial value propositions in providing larger reach to the whole student body for event hosts, and providing an event aggregation page for event goers, are still valued. But these are long term value propositions. To get there, we really need a new set of value proposition that would quickly hook these people to our site.
A change in value proposition:
The team decided to test a few new value propositions that we think would be an instant hit to immediately attract event goers and event hosts.
Instant value proposition for event goers
1. Overseas exposure for event goers:
There were a couple of students whom we interviewed mentioned that they actually thought that our app would provide a window into the events organized by top colleges in America. They revealed that they were somewhat disappointed that this wasn’t the case, considering that the app was developed by a group of overseas college students. This clearly showed the presence of a market for overseas college information, perhaps most importantly for china college students who are looking to further their studies in foreign colleges.
We did a quick test of this hypothesis to see if it could act as a quick hook for event users. We posted links of our site with the caption: Visit us to find out more about events in top overseas colleges in America! in BBS, and our renren accounts. The result: Almost 0 click through. This was a failed test.
2. Inter-college events:
We needed also to set us aside from the offerings of BBS. Inter-college events offered a good way forward. Many colleges in cities like Wuhan and Beijing are very close in proximity, and there are usually inter college events which are hardly advertised. We figured that if we can get these events on our site, we would be able to instantly attract event goers interested in such a value.
To do a quick test of this hypothesis, we organized an event between WuHan University and Hua Zhong University for the upcoming cherry blossom festival. We marketed the event through our app and our renren account. The result: 2 click throughs to view the event. This was another failed test.
3. Celebrity events:
We figured that another way to set ourselves apart from BBS was to be the event aggregator of high-profile events. This have often been suggested to us by our interviewees, and we want to put this to the test to see if it can be an instant draw.
We found 2 high profile events in Tsing Hua university and posted them onto our site. These events are events where high profile speakers come to give speeches. The result: almost 20 click throughs to the event. Looks like this has great value!
Instant value proposition for event hosts
1. Offer a multi-platform aggregator and broadcast tool
Many event hosts that we have spoken to have given us this feedback: There are several existing channels for event promotion(e.g. BBS, qqGroups, renren, feixing SMS system) , using ours just increases the effort to broadcast but with little utility due to poor user base! So we figured that if we are able to help these event hosts easily manage their events promotion channels, there will be an instant value. We will provide the service that once they create an event on our site, these gets automatically broadcasted to their QQgroups, BBS, renren accounts and feixing SMS systems and any responses to any of these sites will be scraped and returned to them for easy viewing.
Quick hack: placed an easy import and easy export button onto our create events page. Spoke to several event hosts about it. Result: This is highly desirable and fixes a big pain point of event hosts.
Summary and thoughts
After going through all those new hypothesis testing, we obtained several disappointing results, and some encouraging results. It appears that it is extremely difficult to make our site as a destination site for event goers, and we need to start thinking of our site as not a destination site for them. However, it appears that we could do something to make it a destination site for event hosts.
Since the past 2 weeks, we have been doing the following to try to generate demand to our site:
1. Scraping events off individual college BBS over to our platform. For the 3 colleges that just started last week, we managed to scrape about 5 events per school to be posted on our site. For the college (Hua Zhong University) that started 3 weeks ago, we managed to scrape almost 20 events to be posted on our site. As of now, we have managed to scrape 30-40 events to be posted on our site.
2. Calling up events hosts who have posted on BBS. We called some of these events hosts and over the phone, taught them step-by-step the method to upload their events onto our site. We managed to do about 7 of these. The defining story was with one events host in WuHan University. Over a lengthy phone call, Li Lu managed to get the event host to upload his poster onto our site. She hung up, and waited eagerly for him to ping her on her QQ to inform her of success. But before she could receive the good news of him having uploaded the event onto our site, she fell asleep as it was already 5 am by then.
The team has put in tremendous effort to get events onto our site, the efforts above has given us about 10 more events hosted by events hosts themselves. This is somewhat disappointing, as we were expecting more events posts after we have filled up our site artificially with real event posters to try to portray the image of a site with high volume.
The team sat down and discussed, and we found that we really needed a quick hook to get event goers to our site. Perhaps our value proposition of our site for these event goers are not strong enough, and we really need to reevaluate our value proposition.