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When working on customer discovery it’s important to establish your core set of questions that will provide you with structure and direction when looking for your target customer.
Who do you want to learn from?
First off, who do you want to learn from? Asking questions to a person who is not your desired customer really won’t provide you with any valuable feedback, because what you are working on doesn’t apply to them, right?
A few important questions to ask when beginning customer discovery are:
Who is the typical customer you envision,
Who is the early adopter, and
Who will be the critical partners?
In the early stages, it is crucial to have a defined customer or group of customers. Knowing this will be valuable in giving you direction for where to begin talking to the people who are going to use your product.
What do you want to learn?
Second, what do you want to learn? If you were trying to bake a cake, and you went to the grocery store without looking at the ingredients you need, your trip to the store wouldn’t be very productive, would it?
The same applies to customer interviews. It’s important to have a list of non-leading questions to provide structure and direction to the conversation. Having these questions will help to promote a productive conversation.
The most important questions to ask are going to be the areas where you need insight most URGENTLY.
Use the BMC to identify:
Your most important hypotheses/assumptions
My target customer is…
My customer can’t solve this problem today because…
Hypotheses/assumptions you have that, if proven wrong, would cause this business to fail (e.g., market size)
Use the Business Assumptions Exercise on page 70 of Talking to Humans as a starting point
Your assumptions will drive your research approach and questions.
Talking to Humans (page 40-41) discusses how to:
Test for price
Get feedback on a prototype
Magic Wand Question
Design Pass/Fail Tests
And remember, observation can be as powerful as questions. Can you ask your interviewee how she would complete a specific task using her computer or mobile phone? Can you observe how people shop and make their purchase decisions?
How do you find interview subjects?
Connect with people at the moment they experience the problem/pain point. Where is this for your product?
For example, if you’re creating a babysitting app for parents, can you meet them at the moment they schedule a “date night” in their calendar?
And set a goal of ending every interview with 2-3 new referrals. Keep your interview pipeline full!
How can you ensure an effective interview session?
Interview in person when possible – on phone/over Zoom is okay
Talk to one person at a time
Add a note taker – have another person join the interview or Zoom call
Start with a warm up and keep it human
Get them to tell a story
Disarm your own biases
Look for solution hacks
Listen, don’t talk
How do you make sense of what you learn?
Take good notes
Quantitative measures from lots of interviews (get enough data points to trust the patterns)
Dump & sort exercise on observations
Look for patterns & apply judgment
Don’t abdicate your role as product designer
Expect false positives
Mind the truth curve (conversation → MVP = ↑ truth)
How many people should you talk to?
If you asked Steve Blank this question, he would tell you that you should interview over 300 prospective customers in two months. Set the bar high. Customer feedback is how we (in)validate our business ideas, so it is vitally important to talk to them…and continue talking to them…and on and on.
Interviews / observation
Ethnographic Studies: contextual inquiry and observational usability – observe your customers and ask open-ended questions; learn what solutions they are currently using to solve their problems
How you can do it right now:
Identify your target market (e.g., people who process payroll for small businesses)
Ask them to (a) show you how they currently perform some tasks that relate to the problem you’re trying to solve (how they process payroll); (b) why they do things in a particular way; (c) what other things have
Goal: to understand current practices and problems, spot patterns
Surveys are a great way to follow up on patterns you spot in your qualitative research
Goal of surveys should be to validate or invalidate hypotheses
Surveys should NOT be a replacement for listening to customers talk about their needs or watching people use your product
How you can do it right now:
Determine what specific questions you want answered
Create a survey using SurveyMonkey or similar
Remember to cover survey best practices, such as including screening questions to make sure you’re getting answers from the right users. For example, if your product is for women, you would need to include a question about the participant’s gender
Additional Types of Early Validation
User tests vs Usability testing
Wizard of Oz
Customer Development Interviews
Landing page tests
Clickable Prototype Tests
Main takeaways from Customer Discovery
Do not assume you know what the customer wants.
Test business model hypotheses through continuous customer discovery and research.
Invalidated hypotheses have implications on entire BMC
For example, if you remove a customer from Customer Segments, you need to recalculate market size
(1) Create a list of your top hypotheses/assumptions – those that are most critical to your business model. These are assumptions that, if proven wrong, would cause your business fail. Be super critical of your business here…try to find all the holes and weak points. Note: a lot of your critical hypotheses will be about your target Customer Segments and your Value Propositions.
(2) Create a list of the questions you’re going to ask in your customer interviews. You should have at least 15 questions. These questions should start with Who, What, Why, How. A lot of these questions should specifically help validate your Value Propositions and Customer Segments.
(3) Create a plan for how you’re going to reach these potential customers.
For your face-to-face interviews, who are you going to talk to? How are you going to reach them? Be specific.
For your surveys, who are you going to survey? How are you going to reach them? Be specific.
If you can’t think of someone in particular, you can identify them by demographic information. Include a sentence or two explaining why they are a good target for customer discovery.