Innovation Within

Innovation Within

Innovation Within

Asking the Right Customer Discovery Questions​

When it comes to the customer discovery process, a critical aspect of the lean startup methodology, there are a few key things to keep in mind to ensure that your interviews are engaging, helpful, and successful.

1. Don’t Pitch (Focus on the Customer’s Needs)​
Your customer discovery interviews are not about pitching your idea. Instead, they’re about identifying and validating the problems and needs of your potential customers as part of your business model validation. Keep the conversation focused on understanding challenges and how you can help solve them. Save any mention of your specific idea or solution until after the discovery conversation has ended.

2. Keep it Casual​
Scheduling lengthy, formal interviews can be intimidating for potential customers and may not be the most effective way to gather valuable insights for your value proposition. Schedule interviews between 15 and 30 minutes. Don’t be afraid to let the conversation flow naturally if it feels productive. If time runs out and you have more questions you want to cover, ask if you can speak to them again. To keep the tone even more informal, call it a “chat” rather than an interview.

3. Start Small​
Finding people to interview can be a challenge, so it’s often helpful to start with individuals who are more likely to be open to chatting with you and who fit the profile of your target customer segments. Toward the end of each interview, ask the interviewee if they know anyone else you should talk to. This can help you expand your pool of potential customers and gather a wider range of insights for your lean startup.

4. Ask Open-Ended Questions​
To get the most out of your customer discovery interviews, it’s important to ask thoughtful, open-ended questions that encourage detailed responses. Start by thinking about the problem you are trying to solve and the actions that lead people to experience that problem. Do they mention the problem specifically? If not, they might not see it as an important issue. Then, ask questions that help you understand the behaviors and motivations of your potential customers. Try to anchor your questions in specific past experiences and get concrete examples.

Dig into interesting and unexpected answers to understand the behaviors and motivations behind them. Questions to ask are about your customers’ lives: their problems, cares, constraints, and goals. Modify your questions to best fit the interviewee.

Compliments: You can avoid compliments by withholding your idea from the conversation.
Fluff (generics, hypotheticals and the future): Use questions that anchor back to specifics of the past. The deadliest fluff is: “I would definitely buy that.”
Ideas: Find out what the underlying motivations behind feature requests (ideas). Ideas and feature requests should be understood, not obeyed.

5. Have a Clear Goal in Mind​
The ultimate goal of customer discovery interviews is to determine whether you have product/market fit. Once you have developed an understanding of your industry and customers you can begin showing the product, this is the time to cut through false positives and ask for a commitment.

Commitment: They are showing they’re serious by giving up something they value such as time, reputation, or money.
Rejection: Asking for a commitment is not failure, not asking is.
Advancement: They are moving to the next step of your real world funnel and getting closer to purchasing. (Always know your next step after the meeting).