Deadline Tomorrow: join your Customer Acquisition Team

Customer Acquisition Teams CATs

Interest in Customer Acquisition Teams has been strong thus far, including some of our favorite Lean Startup friends:

The value proposition of Customer Acquisition Teams is straightforward:

- Focus
Nothing cuts through the startup noise (advice, hypotheses, options, experiments, etc.) like a new perspective. Your teammates will provide clarity.
- Accountability
Sharing your weekly plan with founders you respect, and reporting back on your progress will radically increase your productivity.
- Support
Nothing prepares you for the emotional ups and downs of experimentation better than helping others through it. And vice versa.
- Traction
Your teammates are there to help you get paying customers. Share your obstacles and you’ll all get further as a team than you will individually.



Who will be on your team?

We’ll be matching teams based on your preferred meeting time and your customer segment.

Customer development feels different for B2B companies vs B2C, so we’re going to create some mostly-B2B groups, mostly B2C groups, etc. As the groups grow we’ll subdivide into B2C mobile apps, B2B SaaS, marketplace groups, etc.

That said, it’s not going to matter much.

I’ve personally spoken, 1-on-1, with the vast  majority of CAT members and I can attest, they’re extremely talented. In addition, every team member, by virtue of reading this blog, understands the value of Customer Development and Lean Startup. Each person you work with will have an appreciation for these techniques and will be actively applying them. Your team, whichever you join, is going to kick ass.

I can’t think of a better group of founders to work with, than those who are successfully practicing Lean today.

Who’s on your team will matter less than what you bring to it.

Get Validation Faster

I’ve personally used these types of meetings to move my companies forward. I hope you take the opportunity to move your company forward. Please, join us.

Deadline to Sign-up: April 15th
Spots remaining: 3

If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to ask:

Customer Acquisition Teams CATs

Lean + Friends = Customers

I was overwhelmed.

I wanted to build my business the right way. I wanted to talk to customers, I wanted to test my assumptions.

But instead…I was doing nothing.

- Who are my “early adopters?”
- How do I find them?
- Should I survey or interview?
- How do I even ask for an interview?

I had more questions than answers, and the answers I did have, were scary…

- Talk to strangers
- Cold calls
- Troll LinkedIn
- Awkward conversations where I was asking for value, but providing none

Frustrated…disappointed…I wanted someone to ask for advice. Someone who understood Lean and could push me in the right direction. Someone I could ask “stupid” questions of.

And more than anything, I wanted someone to hold me accountable. I didn’t want a boss, but I wanted someone who I could make a promise to, and feel compelled to keep my promise. Someone to motivate me to do the difficult work of validating hypotheses.

Enter Mark: My Accountabili-Buddy

Mark Horoszowski - my Accountabilibuddy

Spinning my wheels, I reached out to my friend Mark, a fellow Lean founder, with a proposition:

Meet for coffee every week and share:
1. What we did last week
2. What we’re doing this week
3. The challenges we’re facing

During our meetings, we’d provide each other clarity, we’d brainstorm solutions to one another’s problems, we’d call BS on one another, and most importantly, we’d hold each other accountable.

“You said you were going to interview 10 customers. Did you?”

Just knowing Mark was going to ask me what I did last week motivated me to “get out of the building” – and changed everything.

Expectations Exceeded

I can’t attribute all of our successes to our coffee conversations, but some amazing things happened after we started them.

Mark launched Moving Worlds, won NWEN’s First Look Forum, and closed oversubscribed his funding round. His is the first social enterprise I know of to do so.

I pivoted hard from my app idea to helping other founders practice Lean Startup. Since then I’ve coached in Singapore, Serbia, San Juan, Seattle, San Francisco, and a host of other places that don’t start with S. I’ve mentored for Startup Weekend, Founder Institute, NEXT, Lean Startup Machine and I get to work 1-on-1 with 50+ founders every month.

In addition to our business success, Mark and I have become much closer friends. The highs and lows of entrepreneurship are unlike any other. Experiencing them with someone else makes the journey not only more successful, but more fulfilling.

"Wedding wine in yo' cup"

Last weekend I got to see Mark marry the love of his life. In Aspen. It sucked.

Introducing: Customer Acquisition Teams

I want every founder to experience what Mark gave to me. I want you to have the gift of:

- Focus: know exactly what to do next.
- Accountability: get more done…faster.
- Support: failure sucks, even when it’s expected. Talking with others helps.
- Traction: get customers faster.

Inspired by Mark, I’m proud to announce the availability of Customer Acquisition Teams.

Customer Acquisition Teams are small groups of Lean founders (4 – 6), who meet weekly via Google Hangout to provide the same kind of clarity, productivity, and motivation Mark and I found meeting at coffee shops.

Much more information here. When you’re ready to leverage other founders to get customers faster, join your team.

Deadline to Sign-up: April 15th
Spots remaining: 7

If you’re ready to practice Customer Development better, move your business forward, and get customers more quickly, it’s time to join your Customer Acquisition Teams.

Customer Acquisition Teams CATs


We’ll be there for you.

Getting Customer Interviews with Cold Emails

I recently started 1-on-1 mentoring sessions where one of the most popular questions has been:

“How do I ask B2B customers for an interview?”

Approaching a busy professional and asking for their time, so I could eventually sell them something, was a mystery to me when I started customer development. After some trial and error though, I found a workflow that converts pretty well.

We know Mechanical Turk can help with B2C customer interviews, but this post is all about B2B and the secrets of sending cold emails.

Step 1: Get their Email Address

There are quite a few ways to get cold contacts’ email addresses, all of which I can recommend:

And now there’s a new tool in town that I’m really excited about: Kimono.

Kimono is a free web scraper that doesn’t require writing code. If you find a web page with the contact information of customers you’d like to interview, Kimono can collect it for you automatically.  Here’s a quick video of how it works:

Kimono can do other cool things like traverse multiple pages in a results list for you (e.g. automatically click the “Next” button at the end of a list) and collect information from “subpages” (e.g. follow links on a page to gather more detailed info).  Details on those features here.
However you collect the email addresses, now it’s time to…

Step 2: Write the Email

There are 3 things a cold email must be in order to generate a response:

  1. Short
  2. Personal
  3. Valuable

Let’s take an example:

Cold Email Sample

Subject: Remote coding

Hi Sam,

I read your article on volunteering your professional skills in Guatemala – it was really inspiring. I’m looking to travel more and you’ve got me thinking about incorporating volunteering when I do!

I have a software company trying to improve remote medical record coding.

I’m not looking to sell anything, but since you have so much expertise with remote coding, I’d love to get your advice on our product so we don’t build the wrong thing.

If you’re available, I’d love to chat for just 20 minutes – Thur or Fri morning?

Thanks for any help,

Let’s see how we did:

Short? 5 sentences. That’s all you need. Any longer than that and you’re wasting their time.

Personal? This part is the most work, but it’s what’s going to separate you from the spammers. Plus, researching each of your customers to find something unique about them is going to give you incredible insight. Consider commenting on their:

  • Blog posts
  • Any professional organizations they belong to
  • Companies listed on their LinkedIn profile
  • Tweets they’ve sent

This is Important: Don’t skip this part. Without something personal in there you’re liable to get flagged as spam. If that happens enough times, you’ll forever be relegated to junk mail.

Valuable? In this case we’re offering to “improve remote medical record coding.”  Our hypothesis is that Sam has problems with her remote coding process and by hinting that we’re trying to solve them, we’re giving her a reason why spending 20 minutes with us will be worth her time.

Without this line you’re “offering” to take 20 minutes of her time, and giving nothing back. Why would she sign up for that?

Note: Be vague. You don’t want to seed your customer with the problem you’re hypothesizing. Note how the email doesn’t say anything about making “remote coding”:

  • Faster
  • Cheaper
  • More secure
  • More accurate

When we interview Sam, we want her to tell us what problems she has with remote coding – no cheating.

3 secrets to cold emails: keep it short, personal & valuable Tweet this

Bonus Secret: Ask for Advice. The line, “I’m not looking to sell anything. I’m just looking for your advice so we don’t build the wrong thing.” is not only true (you’re not selling anything), it lowers your customer’s defenses and appeals to their inner-adviser.

Step 3: Send the Email

You can send the emails one at a time, but it’s boring and monotonous to copy & paste the same email over and over again. Plus, its annoying to keep track of who has replied and who hasn’t – especially when there’s a kick ass tool like Streak.

Streak is a CRM embedded in GMail, and it’s great for a number of reasons:

  1. Mail Merge - Automate sending mass, but personalized, emails.
  2. Easy Follow-ups - Track which customers have replied and which have haven’t. Send follow-ups to those who haven’t.
  3. Scheduled Email Delivery - Write emails at 2 am, but send them at 2 pm.
Streak's mail merge is brilliantly designed.

Streak’s mail merge is brilliantly designed.

Here’s a video outlining exactly how to use Streak to request, and keep track of, customer discovery interviews:

Important: I’m no spam expert, but I’ve been told by those who are to use this tool responsibly. Make sure to personalize each email and I’d avoid sending too many of these in a 24-hour period.
Finally, be sure to consider the timing of your mail. If I’m sending cold emails, I’ll typically do so Tue – Thur early morning-ish, or Sunday afternoons. Any other times and it feels like my request will get deprioritized by other work.


With tools like Kimono, Streak and the 3 secrets to a great cold-email, I’ve setup interviews with a 50% success rate from complete strangers – you have everything you need to do the same!

3 Steps (and 2 cool tools) to get Customer Interviews Tweet this

If you follow these steps and no one replies, it could be back luck or…you could be solving a problem no one has.

What’s Next?

Want help getting interviews? Schedule a 1-on-1 mentoring call.

This is Part 3 of our series of on Interviewing Customers. Check these bad boys out:

  1. Which Customers Should you Interview (The SPA Treatment)
  2. How to Find Customers to Interview
  3. Getting Customer Interviews with Cold Emails
  4. How I Interview Customers
  5. You’ve Interviewed Customers. Now what?

Our next post will be…Please don’t build an MVP. Subscribe to get it via Email or RSS.

First time to Customer Development Labs?

Check out our other popular experiments:

  1. MTurk + Google News = Press
  2. Interviewing 100 customers in 4 hours with MTurk
  3. Testing your Domain Name