A Contemporary Approach to Customer-Centric Growth: Deciphering the Customer Development Model (CDM)

Mark Bridges
3 min readNov 15, 2023

Numerous enterprises in the current business environment have not yet reached the stage where they are completely established. This situation is the result of several factors, including the failure of ideas to acquire traction, inadequate funding, and inadequate consumer analysis.

During their early phases, startups make speculative assertions about their Business Model. These assumptions include the identification of their target customer base, desired product characteristics, appropriate distribution channels, revenue strategies, pricing methodologies, customer acquisition and retention strategies, growth strategies, strategic product delivery operations, internal resource requirements, necessary partnerships, and total expenditures.

Until these hypotheses are tested in real-world scenarios and receive feedback from actual consumers and market interactions, they remain unverified. These insights are crucial for the survival of enterprises during their early stages of existence.

The Customer Development Model (CDM) is a valuable instrument for validating customer analysis-related hypotheses.

CDM exemplifies an iterative and adaptive process that recognizes the unpredictability of launching a new business and entering new markets. Each phase of the CDM has a unique objective and distinct deliverables. This method assists entrepreneurs in identifying plausible business opportunities and transforming them into successful enterprises.

The primary objective of the CDM is to gain a thorough comprehension of consumers and their challenges. An in-depth understanding of the CDM approach facilitates the entrepreneurs in enhancing the course of their product development, sales, and marketing efforts, thereby increasing their efficacy.

By adhering to this methodical model, it is possible to establish a cycle of learning and discovery, which expedites the prioritization of tasks and the launch and growth of enterprises.

Even well-established and well-funded businesses can introduce unsuccessful new market offerings. Motorola’s $5 billion satellite-based phone infrastructure is illustrative of this fact.

Regardless of a company’s scale or level of development, identifying consumers and defining markets is an ongoing necessity. The Customer Development Model is advantageous for both new and well-established businesses.

The CDM approach consists of 4 phases. Each of the four interdependent phases of the CDM has its own prerequisites and outcomes.

1. Customer Discovery

2. Customer Validation

3. Customer Creation

4. Company Building

Customer Discovery phase focuses on acquiring an understanding of consumers, their challenges, preferences, and purchasing behavior.

Customer Validation stage establishes a standardized sales process, a crucial aspect of a company’s expansion.

Iteration occurs between the 1st 2 phases in order to lay the foundation for the 3rd phase, Customer Creation, which increases demand and identifies potential customers.

Customer Building phase focuses on developing the enterprise in order to facilitate expansion and implement the Business Strategy.

Let’s examine the first two phases in detail.

Customer Discovery

To gain a genuine comprehension of consumers, extensive research is required, as opposed to determining product features or conducting focus groups.

The Customer Delivery Model suggests that CDM implementation teams be literally present on the ground in order to identify markets and consumers. Eventually, the Customer Discovery phase revolves around the product’s vision.

Customer Validation

Before beginning Customer Validation, it is essential to determine the prospective customer base and market.

This step follows Customer Discovery because it is designed to assist in charting the path necessary to reach those customers.

What distinguishes the Customer Validation process is that if it fails, the team must restart from the Customer Discovery phase.

Interested in learning more about the other steps of CDM? You can download an editable PowerPoint presentation on the Customer Development Model here on the Flevy documents marketplace.

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Mark Bridges

I blog about various management frameworks, from Strategic Planning to Digital Transformation to Change Management. https://flevy.com