So you’ve landed the interview. After a few back-and-forths with your target customer, industry insider, or thought leader, you’ve set a time and date to meet. This is what you’ve been waiting for — your opportunity to dive into the problems, wants, and needs of your customers. In other words, it’s go time.
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Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.
Although this conversation should be treated casually, it’s also extremely important to get this right in order to grow your idea. As so, we must be absolutely prepared for the conversation.
Put together a comprehensive list of questions to dive into the customer’s deepest thoughts and emotions. Questions along the lines of: What types of problems are you encountering? What do you think the solutions to the problems are? What would you pay to solve this problem?
Take time to write out this list — it is very important. Be as thorough and specific as possible. We want to make sure we cover everything.
Lastly, before you go into the conversation, shorten that list to 3 questions that you absolutely need to know before you leave. (Of course we want to answer all of our questions, but sometimes circumstances take us elsewhere. Having these 3 questions in our back pocket will guarantee that the interview will not be a waste of time.)
For more tips on how to reach out to, schedule, and talk to your customers, check out this post.
*Suppose I’m creating an app that analyzes the daily weather and automatically provides the user with an outfit to wear. Disclaimer: I’ve never used such an app, though I believe some do exist.*
First off, I ask myself: who would be the ideal user for an app like this? Those are the people I need to go talk to, and the answer seems to be a little ambiguous at the moment, I would start with those within my own circles for feedback. Otherwise, I would go ask random people on the street that seemed to have dressed poorly today. Two great places to start.
Let’s suppose I decide to stand out on the street. I’m looking for those who might be wearing too light of a jacket on a cold day or heavy pants on a warm day, and who look like they have a minute or two to spare briefly chatting with me.
I approach with a smile on my face…
Me: Good afternoon! My name is Andrew and I’m building an app that analyzes the day’s weather and provides you with a perfect outfit to wear for the day. Do you have any problems with choosing what to wear?
*In my first question, I immediately qualify or disqualify them as someone I should or shouldn’t be talking to. If they say no, that’s okay — I’ll move on to the next one. I’ll become more accurate with my judgments over time.*
Customer: Yeah, actually, I never know what to wear. Some days I even read the weather myself and still fail to put together the right outfit. You don’t know the frustration!
*They’re qualified. They’re frustrated. Now it’s time to dig deeper.*
Me: Besides being unable to choose the perfect outfit, are there any other problems you experience?
Customer: Yes, in fact, compared to the average person, I feel very cold in environments where others feel fine, even warm. I’m a special type of person, and I have a specific set of preferences when it comes to clothing. If you’re making an app to dictate my outfit, it would need to take my own personal needs into account — in order to provide me with the perfect outfit.
*I write that down. “Personal needs must be accounted for.” I would never have known that if I hadn’t asked about additional problems they experience.*
Me: Interesting, I had never thought of that. What you’re telling me is that you feel that you have unique needs for your day-to-day clothing choices and thus have difficulty in choosing the right outfit.
*Something to remember. Maybe, people with unique clothing needs will become your new target market. Also, maybe not. However, keep it in mind.*
*Also, repeating and paraphrasing what they tell you provides an opportunity to ensure that you understand them correctly. If not, they will correct you.*
Me: Great. In terms of dressing yourself every day, if you could wave a magic wand and change anything about that process, what would it be?
Customer: Wow, that’s a tough question. I would make it freakishly easy and quick to know exactly what to wear, at any time of the day, at the press of a button.
*Bingo. I’ll have to make this app super simple and super quick — duly noted. Now let’s dive into some more exploratory questions. Don’t be afraid to follow up any of their responses with: Why do you say that? or How come?*
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Me: If you had a way to do this, how often could you see yourself using it?
Customer: Are you kidding me? It would be the first thing I used every single morning!
Me: Is there anything that would hold you back from using it?
Customer: If it took me a lot of time, needed constant attention, or otherwise slowed my day down otherwise. I’m a very busy person and I can’t have this holding me back!
*This app needs to be as hands-off as possible. After initial setup (which should also be brief), they don’t want to touch it ever again.*
Me: I understand. Now, say this app was free, would you use it?
Customer: Uh, yeah!! Have you not been listening to me this entire time?
*You always want to confirm that they would use the product if it were free. If they wouldn’t, that’s a problem.*
Me: Haha, just making sure. Now imagine it’s not free. Let’s say I charged you $20/month for it, would you still buy it?
Customer: Whoa whoa whoa, Andrew. That’s ridiculous. In all honesty, I couldn’t justify spending more than $8/month on an app like this.
*This is another necessary question to ask. After they agree to using it for free, you want to find out the maximum amount they would pay for it. How do you do that? Ask them if they would pay a ridiculously high amount for the product. They will of course say no, but they’ll come back with an amount that they would be willing to pay. Write that amount down. It is crucial information.*
Me: I see. Well, thank you for taking the time, I really appreciate it. A few more quick questions before you go:
Me: Are you aware of anyone else who has these similar problems?
Customer: Yes. Tons of my coworkers complain about the same thing.
Me: Would you mind putting me into contact with them?
Customer: Of course. I’ll give them your information today.
Me: Thank you. I will be continuing to refine and perfect this app, and I’d love to stay in contact with you to ask additional questions in order to improve the overall experience. Can I have your email address?
Customer: You bet!
*Grabbing their contact information is critical. As you grow, you’ll want to constantly tap into their feedback. Who knows? Maybe they’ll be your first paying customer.*
Me: Super. Again, thank you so much for taking the time, I know you didn’t have to and I really appreciate it. Please reach out if there’s anything you feel like I ought to know and I’ll do the same for you. Have a great rest of your day.
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Record & Review
As you can tell, it’s difficult to accurately provide a real example of a customer interview. Why? Because these conversations can go in so many different directions. Which is totally okay. Sometimes it’s best to follow them down their tangents in order to uncover what they’re true opinions are. (Be careful though, don’t get too off topic.)
Following each conversation, write down the three most important takeaways as well as any exact phrases they used to convey their deepest thoughts or feelings. We want to be able to recall this information far into the future.
Additionally, with all interviews, do NOT take one customer’s response to be the final word. The goal is to have hundreds of these types of conversations and be constantly on the lookout for trends in their responses. Review your summaries often, and make iterations from there.
For more information on the Customer Interview process, read our other blog post entitled: How Do I Talk to My Customers?
Grow Your Idea helps first-time entrepreneurs talk to and understand their customers, establish their business model, and plan their growth strategy. Our mission is to empower anyone with a great idea to take action on their big idea.
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