Mind-map customer needs

I have 20 years of professional experience. It took me longer than I would like to admit to learn how much we all lie to ourselves. I am a smart person. I am particularly good at constructing convincing narratives which keep me happy and oblivious to reality. It was only when I was working with incredibly smart people, during my PhD, that I was finally forced to write my ideas down. And then I didn’t need the other people to point out the flaws in my thinking; they were there in black-and-white, clear for me to see.

From this experience, I now encourage teams which I work with to make knowledge explicit. This is even more important the more intelligent the team are. The following is an example of how I did this with a team for their Customer Needs mapping, but the same advice applies equally to the Business Model and the Go-to-market Strategy.


I use miro.com [affiliate link] both with all of my own projects and with the teams who I mentor. Which tool you use is irrelevant. The point is to do the exercise in a manner which facilitates collaboration and makes the information explicit rather than implicit.

​​​​​​​My suggestion, use the mind-map tool to create a number of individual maps on a whiteboard. Each map corresponds to one of your three main business models and has the following structure.

​​​​​​Layer 0 (root node):
​​​​​​​Who is the customer? Create some notes on the side and be as specific as possible here; if you have time I suggest you look into personas.
eg. Pharma, Head of R&D

​​​​​​​Layer 1:
​​​​​​​What is the problem they have which you are solving? First write down all of your ideas, then rank them from top-to-bottom (most important to least important) – remember this is the customer’s perspective, not yours!
e.g. Reduce costs

​​​​​​​Layer 2:
How are you solving that specific problem? This is now per problem, how do you address that problem with your solution?
e.g. Digitalisation reduces human involvement

Layer 3:
​​​​​​​How do you demonstrate your ability to solve that problem in the manner which you specified in layer 2?
​​​​​​​e.g. Demonstrate we can replace the human (entirely!!) via X, Y, Z.

​​​​​​​If you have time, then everybody on the team should do their own mind-map before collaborating on a common one. You must work on a common one at some point.

​​​​​​​The customer needs, relative rankings, etc. should at some point be backed up by data (i.e. stakeholder interviews). But for now just use a colour tool to highlight which bits are missing and keep moving forwards.

​​​​​​​You really need to be precise and explicit in this exercise. There is no point in saying, “We will help them to run better studies,” this is vague and generic.

​​​​​​​In any pitch-deck (also in presentations to the customer) you probably don’t want more than 3 items in layer 1, but you should do the exercise by listing all of the potential benefits. This will allow the team to gather evidence for all of them and not get overly anchored on favourite positions.

​​​​​​​When this is all done, you can try and see if you can combine the three mind-maps. The basic goal there is to rank the three business models (and their implied customers) and decide which is easiest to address. But that’s a story for later.

​​​​​​​The main value of this exercise is, (i) making sure you are all telling the same story, (ii) keeping the separate stories separate, (iii) making the assumptions explicit, (iv) making the vagueness more precise.

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