How to Find Customers to Interview

We know we need to “get out of the building”, but where do we go? From personal experience, finding customers who are willing to be interviewed is daunting.

Turns out, that’s one of my favorite things about interviewing customers!

The harder customers are to interview, the harder they’ll be to monetize

The process of finding customers to interview is a preview of what it’ll take to sell to our customers. Will we need to stand out on the street, do cold calls, create meetups? Just getting customer interviews is a test in-and-of-itself!

With that in mind, Customer Discovery Hack #2 is all about finding customers to interview, whether you’re B2B or B2C. This video, in partnership with Startup Weekend NEXT, will explain it all but the text version is below:

Prequil

Before I get into the hacks, let me say introductions are almost always the quickest way to get customers. If you can, get introductions for the first couple interviews. Once you run out of introductions, give these a try.

B2B: The Webinar Honey Pot

The idea here is simple:

Solve customers’ hypothetical problems with a webinar. Then hit ‘um up for interview.

Building a service to help small businesses with online marketing? Put together an SEO webinar.
Selling accounts receivable software? Hold a Google Hangout on the Top 5 SaaS Invoicing tools.
Building a Social Media Analytics tool? Host a webinar devoted to the right times of the day to tweet.

Keys to this technique:

  • If it’s easy to get people to show up – you’re solving a problem. If it’s not…you’re not.
  • Know what you’re talking about and blow attendees away with your knowledge of the space, and the generosity of your time.
  • Make sure you get attendees’ names and email addresses. Don’t use LiveStream, YouTube, etc.
  • Don’t pitch a product, try to solicit feedback, etc. This is entirely about you earning trust by providing value – free of charge.

Once you’ve impressed the pants off your potential customers, send them a personalized email a couple days later:

Hi Susan,

Thanks for attending our Facebook for Photographers webinar. Your question about getting permission before sharing pics was really great – spawned an interesting discussion.

My partner and I are thinking about building a service to help Photographers share their photos online (<– note: vague) and we’re hoping to get your input.  Do you have half and hour to chat next week?

We’re available at 10:30 am Wed, and 2:00 pm Thursday if either of those work for you.

Thanks again for attending, and please let us know if we can help you at all with your Facebook page.

All the best,
Justin & Steven

I’ve done this before it worked well. In addition to getting attendee interviews, because I’d earned the trust of the people who attended the webinar, when I ask for referrals to their peers to interview, I almost always got them.

The downside of the Webinar Honey Pot is simply that it takes time. Time to know the space, time to get the word out about your webinar, etc. That said, everything in a B2B play takes time, so it’s good to get used to it now before you bet the farm.

B2C: Mechanical Turk Interviews

If you’re a new reader of the blog (welcome!), this is the hack that put us on the map: How to Interview 100 Customers (in 4 Hours).

Read it. It’ll change your business.

Bonus Hack: Cold Emails

I’m too scared to do cold calls (tips anyone?), but cold emails I can do…and I love doing them.

Why? because they’re an indicator as to whether I might be solving a problem.  I once sent out a set of 10 cold emails asking for meetings and as a result, got 5 meetings (that’s a better conversion rate than birthday party RSVPs).

Cold email tips:

  • SPAM Warning: if your domain gets associated with spamming, it’ll haunt you for the rest of your life. Don’t do it.
  • Personalize each email with a specific comment about the company, the person’s twitter profile, etc.
  • Highlight the problem you’re trying to solve quickly (2nd sentence) but keep it vague
  • Keep it short (4 sentence max)

For example:

Hi Susan,

I saw your picture of a train crossing a tunnel at dusk [link to pic] on Facebook and was blown away – absolutely gorgeous lighting. I shared it on on my wall. (<– don’t lie)

A friend and I are trying to help photographers share their photos, and were wondering if we could talk to you about the hardest part about doing that today.

We’re available at 10:30 am Wed, and 2:00 pm Thursday if either of those work for you.

Thanks (and thanks too for your beautiful photographs),

Justin & Steven
[Optional link to your good looking website with vague value proposition]

Summary

Finding customers to interview is a challenge, but one that will immediately tell you if you’re on the right track.

Can’t find customers willing to talk about their problems? You can’t find customers. Startup weekend customer development

Tried any of these before? Any tweaks or suggestions?

Join the experiment – subscribe via Email or RSS. Our next post will be: Everything that’s Wrong with our Press Hacking Post!

What’s Next?

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

This is Part 2 of our series of on Interviewing Customers. Check out the rest:

  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?

First time to Customer Development Labs?

Check out our most popular experiments:

  1. The Hacker’s Guide to Getting Press
  2. Interviewing 100 customers in 4 hours with MTurk
  3. You’ve interviewed customers. Now what?
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One comment

  1. Adam Berk

    That’s a better conversion than birthday rsvps

    Such a great line for so many reasons

    Been in Europe basically since you dropped me off – catching my breath lets touch base this week

    Pardon the brvty and errrrrrs Sent from my iPhone

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