Talking with customers from the initial phases of product development is essential. Yes, communication is the most powerful, informative and the cheapest tool. Use it to validate the assumptions of the user segments and their problems. Conducting customer discovery interviews is crucial. You can use it to equip yourself with great insights. These interviews will help you in determining the unique value proposition for the product. You will understand the actual market need better after this session.
Following this, you will have the opportunity to develop ideas or hypothesis which you can test with successive quantitative research. Make sure to utilize the precious time you have with customers to learn the truths they can offer you. The only significant risk that you will encounter during the process is collecting false positives (“it’s an excellent idea”) and false negatives (“this is not going to work”).
Big players such as Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and others do customer research before launching their products.
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Organize the Meeting
When you are planning to meet customers, take enough time to prepare well for the interviews. Know your objectives, write them on the sheet of paper and find the right way to achieve them. The first thing you will need to understand is that you are going to ask them questions to learn more about the problem that they are facing. By being part of this research, they are going to help you come up with a solution. People usually are not just happy but are excited to be part of research that helps others succeed.
Be kind, courteous and smile throughout the interview. Create an environment that assists the customers to open up about their problems. Remember, that the more comfortable they are in the meeting, the more information you can draw out from them. Ensure that the interaction feels less like an interview and more like a conversation between the friends.
Your primary goal is to learn a lot about the problem rather than trying to sell your product. Learn more about the new features that they want in the product. Reveal to them only the intention of the meeting and nothing regarding the product. Work with your team on preparing questions that might help you to better understand the problems the customers are facing.
The Right Questions to Ask
You should understand the difference between good and bad questions. There are some questions that you can ask that will help you understand the customer’s problems better. Some questions can contribute to collecting false positives and false negatives. Here is a list of the questions that you may choose to ask or avoid:
Tip 1: At Least One Question to Check the Potential of Your Idea
Not many people will truly grapple with this idea. And, it is crucial for you to know if the product will really work. But, there is no point in wasting time developing a product that has no market need. If there is a flaw in the idea, it is wise to realize it sooner than later.
Tip 2: Avoid the Following Questions
- Do you believe it is a good Idea?
- Are you willing to purchase this product?
- What is the amount you are willing to pay for this product?
- Are you okay to pay $x for the product that has this particular feature?
These are some questions that you for sure need to avoid as they are not good. Since we are not presenting the core idea to the customer, it does not make any sense why we should seek their opinion. Even if the customers say he will buy the product, it does not mean they will for sure do it. Mainly as it is just an opinion about the future and not a behavior that has occurred in the past. You should realize that a comment like this is a big fat false positive.
Tip 3: Questions You Should Ask
- How did you learn about the product? By posing this question, you are trying to understanding the customer acquisition mechanisms that are working well for the company. You will also know if the customer acquisition mechanisms are consistent with the perception of the company.
- What is the process you picked to choose this product over the competition? By asking this question, you are going to learn more about their sales process and most prominently the key stakeholders and the ultimate decision-makers for buying your product. This question will assist you in clearly understanding their sales cycle length.
- What is the reason you choose this product? You are now digging into the product differentiation. The best way to identify different customers segments that are in the market who might pick a different product to meet their needs.
- Who are the teams that use this product in your company? Did this change over a period of time? This inquiry will reveal a lot about the principal users, the growth potential of the product and negative churn if possible.
- How important is this product when you compare with other software? As per Paul Graham, this is a hair on fire problem. If your product does not end up in the five most essential needs, the sales cycle will lag mainly because no internal champion will promote the product.
- How much are you paying for the product? Do you find it worth more or less than X product? This inquiry will assist you in ascertaining if the customer feels that he is getting a return on investment wildly in his favor. You are also checking to identify if the company is doing everything possible to match the price point with their branding.
- Is the product evolving quickly? Are you content with the customer support and working with the company? These questions show churn risk. Customers will be happier when they receive excellent customer service and fast evolving products. They feel that the startups care about them and do everything possible to delight them. It is one of the best diagnostic tools that can expose overselling of the product. You will also understand if the sales team is overpromising to attain quota. This action will lead to customer disappointment for the product.
- To whom are you planning to recommend this product? This inquiry will assist you to understand the breadth of the potential customers that you can get for your product. You will also know if the existing customer has the vigor to promote the product. It is a qualitative proxy for the market size.
In conclusion, all of these questions are customer and product discovery questions. They are identical to the ones that product managers use to know if the company has product-market-fit. In addition, the interviews that you do will help you surface insights about the current market positioning of the product. You will understand the true perception in the market, the effectiveness of customer support, overselling and the product importance. You should also realize the fact that the potential investors will use the same data to evaluate your product in the future.