Tagged: Customer Discovery Hacks

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?

We want to Help

If you want help finding customers to interview – you’re not alone :)

There’s a group of us who are asking, and answering, questions about interviewing every week:

  • Will your customers be on MTurk?
  • What’s the best way to tell businesses about your webinar?
  • How do you ask for an interview?
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Join a Customer Acquisition Team to trade tips with other founders who are actively interviewing their customers.

You’ve Interviewed Customers. Now what?

One of the challenges of interviewing customers, is analyzing the results. I’m typically left with a pile of terse notes, and a handful of questions:
  • What were the most common pains?
  • If my assumption was invalidated, what do I do next?
  • Were there any major themes that I missed?

My solution? Post-It Notes. Video walk-through below.

Example

The Lean Startup Conference recently asked me to run a workshop on the Science of Pricing. As I started to write the workshop’s description I realized I knew what I wanted to teach, but had no clue what entrepreneurs wanted to learn.

So I got out of the building and I interviewed a handful of founders about the difficulties they had pricing their products.

Here’s how I use Post Its to organize the mess of interview results:

Step 1: Find the Nuggets

Customer Interview Notes

The first thing I do is go through my notes and bold the salient points.

Step 2: Create One Post It per Nugget

Then I wrote up an (online) Post It note for each of the nuggets in one of my interviews.

Then I write up an (online) Post It note for each of the nuggets in one of my interviews.

Step 3: Repeat, with a Different Color

2013-08-15_1200

Then I repeat the process for another interview using different colored Post Its (you’ll see why later).  This is why I use electronic Post Its – I don’t have enough real-life Post It note colors.

Step 4: Group Notes as you Go

2013-08-15_1954

As I create the Post Its, I group common themes together.

Step 5: Keep Only Groups of Post Its

2013-08-15_2010

Once I’m finished creating the Post Its, I usually have quite a mess. To clean that up, I get rid of any Post It that was only mentioned by one customer and keep everything that was mentioned twice+.

Step 6: Sort by Popularity

2013-08-15_2010_001

Next I prioritize the groups of Post Its based on how many customers mentioned those concepts. This is where the different colored Post Its come in handy.

Step 7: Harvest your Learnings

summary

Finally, I create a summary with the core concepts and screen shots of the Post Its. Now I have an easy to read report of the findings, in order of importance, complete with real customer quotes!

This is the shit. What's comes after interviewing customers? A Post It cloud to sort the signal from the noise.If you create one of these, whenever you have a question about what problem you’re solving, “features” you should add to solve it, order to do things in, etc., you can turn to this report and instantly recall your customer’s needs. Bonus: you can easily share it with team members, advisers and potential investors.

For me, all that was left, was to combine what I learned into a description.

What’s Next?

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

This is Part 5 of our series of on Interviewing Customers:

  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?

Customer Development Made Easy…

How to Pick your Customer Segment

We all know, “everyone” isn’t a customer segment.  But what do you we do when we’ve got a bunch of potential customer segments?

It’s an issue we all face at one point or another, in fact, as we previously noted, Bounce has a pile of potential customers:

For Real Estate agents, sales people, event planners, founders, general contractors, etc…
We could offer appointment reminders plus Salesforce integration!
For florists, caterers, utility installers/repairers, plumbers, electricians, etc…
We could provide on-time metrics for each employee! 
For long distance commuters, van pools, people who commute over a bridge, etc…
We could make an alarm that lets you sleep in or wakes you up early based on how bad traffic is!
For single people who are dating, busy parents, the “chronically late”….
We could gamify punctuality so they’re late less often!
For fusiness travelers, people who have just moved to an area.
We could offer additional information about sporting events, concerts, etc. that could be causing worse than normal traffic congestion.

If we target all of these customers, not only will it take forever to build this product, it’ll be a complete mess. So which group of customers are our ideal targets?

We could interview 20 of each group, but I think there’s a more efficient way.

Gut Check Prioritization

Lowest priority customers
Lowest priority customers

Let’s just gut check prioritize the segments we know about:

  1. First, add each customer group as a column in Excel
  2. Assign each group a value of 1-3 (1 = low, 3 = high) for the following criteria:
    1. Market Size – how “many” of this type of customer exist
    2. Pay for value – how much we think they’ll pay for this value
    3. Accessibility – how easy is it to find, contact and sell customers in this segment
  3. Multiply the scores together and sort them from highest score to lowest
  4. Start testing hypotheses with the highest scoring segment, and work your way down until you’ve got something people are dying to pay you for
Highest priority customer groups
Highest priority customer groups

Why I love this process

  1. It’s fast. Takes < 10 minutes.
  2. It’s okay that we don’t know the real values, we’re going to test our guesses anyway. This is just a way to prioritize our customers so we don’t get stuck in Lean Startup Paralysis, or start building a product that does everything for everyone.
  3. We don’t need to interview everybody. If our first couple rounds of  testing reveal a lot of interest from our top “gut check” customer segments, but in reality “VP of Sales” were the ones most willing to pay for a product, I hypothesize they’ll make themselves known once the product is launched.  No need to stress out testing all of our potential revenue sources – find one that meets our minimum success criteria and go with it.
  4. I was wrong. Before I did this process I had thought initially thought “VPs of Sales”, the “Chronically Late” and “Regular Commuters” would all be ideal customer segments.  This quick process hinted otherwise.

What’s Next?

This is Part 1 of our series of on Interviewing Customers:

  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?

Join the experiment – follow along via Email or RSS for updates on our next post: Help Investors Believe you – show them Customer Quotes.

Customer Development Made Easy…