How Startups Build Products That Customers Will Pay For

Six steps to establishing a successful customer-driven build process

Joe Procopio
7 min readJul 20, 2020


image by pikisuperstar

Why are some of the simplest products successful while more complex products never find traction?

It’s actually kinda easy to build products your customers will love, you just have to let your customers build your products for you. Simple enough, right?

But while every expert will tell you to listen to your customers and build what they want, none of those experts stick around for when you’ve done exactly that and those same customers aren’t buying what you’ve built for them.

In 20 years of growing product-based startups, it took me a while to learn that when you’re building your product, a sharp knife is good, a Swiss Army knife is bad. Your customers will tell you, loudly and often, that they want the Swiss Army knife, and the more tools on it the better.

That’s going to lead to failure. Here’s how to establish a customer-driven build process without drowning your company in complexity.

Why the customer is (almost) always right

When I first started out as an entrepreneur, I had the young-person’s mindset aligned with that Henry Ford quote: “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” I built products and companies that I imagined into existence, regardless of their viability in whatever market I was choosing to ignore.

It took two failed self-founded startups, not to mention several aborted attempts at founding those two startups, to realize that I could build the best damn product in the history of mankind, in my own mind, and watch it all collapse again. Or I could start listening.

That’s when I became a disciple of the problem/solution method of entrepreneurism. This method of developing both company and product is based on building from the market opportunity in rather than from the product feature set out.

But listening to the customer doesn’t escape Ford’s gravity. Customers just want their problem solved, they don’t care about solving every variation of the problem for every variation of themselves. Thus, they will…



Joe Procopio

I'm a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. NLG pioneer. Building & GROWERS. Write at and More at