Conduct Customer Discovery and GOOTB
Updated: Nov 22, 2019
I was talking to a group of aspiring entrepreneurs the other day and the topic of customer discovery came up. It brought me back to when Evan and I founded Gimme. Before we wrote a line of code or prototyped our first piece of hardware, we started with over 200 in-person interviews with potential customers in the vending space. Based on our experience since and the feedback of other startup CEOs in the Village, successful and struggling, I believe that thorough customer discovery is the most important part of launching a new endeavor.
In response, I’ve heard others quip something attributed to Henry Ford, “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” My takeaway with this meme is not that you should not talk to or learn from your customers. I think the meaning is your customers won’t articulate the final answer to the winning solution to you — they will describe their pain. Understanding their pain is what gives you, as the innovator, clarity for creating the solution. It is how you ensure you’ll build something people want to buy.
In conducting customer discovery, I subscribe to Steve Blank’s thinking. You cannot outsource this critical education about your customer to a focus group or email survey. You have to “Get Out of the Building” and talk to them first hand — “GOOTB”!
With “GOOTB” you get the opportunity to ask open-ended questions, “What’s your life like on an average day? What parts do you look forward to? What keeps you up at night?” The last question is my particular favorite when trying to learn more about where someone might act with most urgency to solve. The million-dollar insights come when you’re able to follow it up with “why?”.
The million-dollar insights come when you’re able to follow it up with “why?”
If you’re an entrepreneur at the beginning of your journey, before you invest the tremendous energy and stress into your new endeavor, you would be well served to “GOOTB” and talk directly with your potential customers.