How to discover new growth opportunities

When was the last time you really talked to your customers? I’m not talking about typical business chats — saying hello and how you can help them or commenting on the weather or sports teams. I’m asking: When was the last time you had an in-depth conversation with your customers about their needs — about the different tasks they have to do, the things that cause them problems or annoy them and the outcomes they desire? My guess is it’s been a while, if ever. However, understanding your customers’ needs is the key to identifying new growth opportunities.

Grounded in famed entrepreneur Steve Blank’s theories of customer development and detailed in Alexander Osterwalder’s book “Value Proposition Design,” the Value Proposition Canvas is an excellent process tool to help you discover growth opportunities based on the needs of your customers (or potential customers). This process involves you interviewing your current and potential customers to learn about their problems, their desired outcomes, and the product or service features and benefits they want to solve their problems and achieve their outcomes.

It’s a simple process. First you conduct Customer Discovery interviews with customers about the jobs or tasks they do, their pains (problems) and gains (desired outcomes), and what matters most to them. Then, based on what you learned from the interviews, you develop a Customer Profile to clarify your understanding of the customer. Next you create a Value Map that describes what features or benefits your products or services could provide to create value for your customers. Then you identify the features and benefits that would relieve your customers’ pains or create gains. Those features and benefits that best fit the customers’ pains and gains are your opportunities for growth. These opportunities may be new or updated products or services, communication or customer service capabilities, distribution or availability options, etc.


Sally Williams is a technology development and commercialization consultant at the UMKC SBTDC.

You may be thinking, “That sounds great, but I’m really busy and think I’d need some help to use this tool.” No worries — in Missouri, small businesses can get help using the Value Proposition Canvas with their business at no cost. The Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Centers (SBTDC) have business counselors with special training and experience in using the Value Proposition Canvas. Through one-on-one consultations or classes, the business counselors can help businesses use this terrific tool to identify and plan growth opportunities.

If your business needs help with a growth strategy, please contact a center near you. A directory is available here.

Contact Sally Williams at or 816-235-6074.

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