Clients don’t want to buy experiments

Posted on September 9, 2014.


When Josh Seiden, Giff Constable and I first launched Proof (now Neo NYC) we had a vision for a studio that designed and built meaningful, successful digital businesses for our clients. We would work with agile methodologies and incorporate lean thinking into our process focusing heavily on early experimentation, validation and course correction before committing our clients’ budgets in any one direction.

And then we had to go out and sell.

Client after client meeting ended with a lot of the same thing, “It sounds like a great way to work but I just need an iPhone app.” Reflection after these meetings began to bubble up a theme.

Clients don’t want to buy experiments. And they certainly don’t want to buy failure.

We were leading the charge in our sales pitches with the “fail fast, fail often” mantra essentially tattooed on our faces. Many of the clients we were targeting were large organizations where failure was frowned upon. We were a new, untested agency and our prospects were already taking a big risk simply considering us against known vendors. There was no way they could sell us to their bosses under these conditions. And our close rate reflected that.

Like any good learning organization we adjusted course. We tried new language in our pitches. The extreme end of the language experiment ended somewhere around “risk mitigation.” While that’s certainly something every buyer wants, it’s not a sexy selling point for a vendor. Most recently the language that I’ve been using has been around the outcome of failure – learning. Instead of “fail fast, fail often” I’m leading with “learn fast, learn often.” The vision is to get clients to think about the myriad of directions their product can take and then help them decide on the most success potential by learning fast and often. While this does come at a price of some delivery it ensures that what is delivered stands the best change of success in the market.

The tactics remain the same – experimentation, customer development, MVP’s – as do the outcomes – validated learning, course correction, better products and designs – which is something client do in fact want to buy.


2 thoughts on “Clients don’t want to buy experiments

  1. In my experience teams “buy experiments “when it’s a new market or there
    is significant technology risk. If they view the market parameters as
    well understood and the development risk as low then I agree they don’t
    want to buy experiments, but then Lean Innovation is not really targeted
    at the existing market / existing product (or proven technology)

    I do agree that “Fail Fast!” is the wrong message.

Comments are closed.