Customer Development Interviews How-to: Finding People

“OK,” you say, “I’m convinced – I need to talk with potential customers to make sure my startup/product/service idea has potential.  But how do I find those people?”

Finding People

AdWords / Facebook Ads / Tweets.

Summarize your idea, invest some money in getting it in front of people who have expressed intent by searching for that term, clicking your ad, clicking a link.  (Read the original SEM on $5/day post for details.)

I haven’t used Twitter for this much yet, but my theory is that it may be a more effective way of reaching people (I am much more likely to click on links that appear in my hashtag saved searches than I am to click on an AdWords or Facebook ad.)

Twitter Search.

Look for people who have already discussed a similar product, problem, or solution and address a tweet directly to them:

@username Would love yr feedback on [product/problem/solution] – shd only take 2mins [URL] thanks!

Some people will ignore this, but many more will feel a bit flattered that they’re being asked.  Use this judiciously – more than one or two of these tweets per day and you’ll look like a spammer.

Google Alerts.

Set up Google Alerts for your product/problem/solution (you should have done this already anyways) – and when it finds relevant blog posts or comments, email those people and ask for their feedback:

I read your [post/comment] about [product/problem/solution].  I’m currently trying to validate a related idea and I think your opinion would be very valuable to me – could you take 2 minutes and check out [URL]?  Thank you – I’d be happy to return the favor any time.

Ask for introductions.

People are generally happy to make introductions for you, provided you do 3 things:

  • Provide the exact text that they can copy and paste into a tweet or email (They’re doing you a favor! Make it as easy as possible for them.)
  • Tell them exactly how you are going to communicate with their contacts (They’re risking a bit of social capital for you – if you are a jerk to their contacts, that will reflect badly on them.  Be very clear that you won’t spam or annoy people.)
  • Tell them your goals (What do you think you’ll get/learn if they make this intro for you? People want to know that they’re contributing to a bigger picture!)

Email Request Template

I have a quick favor to ask.

I’ve got a product idea that I’m trying to validate with [type of customer]. My goal is for them to visit my splash page at [URL] and indicate their interest (or lack thereof).  I will only contact them if they explicitly give me permission to do so.

Could you send this message along to people you know who fit this target?  (Feel free to change it a bit if you like):

[Message - be sure to include the goal, the URL, and your contact information]

Twitter Request Template

I have a quick favor to ask.

I’ve got a product idea that I’m trying to validate with [type of customer]. My goal is for them to visit my splash page at [URL] and indicate their interest (or lack thereof).  I will only contact them if they explicitly give me permission to do so.

Since you have a number of followers who are the type of customer I’m trying to reach, could you tweet this for me? (Feel free to change a bit if you like):

[Message - include the URL, the topic, and keep it under 115 chars so it can be easily retweeted]

Asking for the Interview

You may be wondering, “so what is this URL I’m sending people to?  Can’t I just have people email me?”

You have three main goals with your splash page:

  1. Communicate your idea in 10 seconds or less (seriously, that’s about how much time you have to grab someone’s attention)
  2. Offer something interesting to the people who visit
  3. Get contact information so you can ask for the interview

    #1 is up to you (there’s a whole other blog post I could write about that…).

    #2… when I say “offer something”, people generally think that means a tangible incentive.  You can, but you probably don’t need to – people like being asked for their expert opinion, they like the feeling that they’re contributing to something, and they like being part of a select group who gets a sneak preview at something.

    You can cover #2 and #3 with a well-written survey template.  You can see the one we’ve used for the Survey.io beta, or here’s a partial screenshot:

    FYI – I’ve used surveys with these 2 questions for multiple products, and so far, overall less than 20% of ALL respondents to this survey leave these blank – the vast majority choose at least one way in which they’d like to give feedback, AND give an email address.

    Coming next week:  I’ve got email addresses – now what?

    64 Responses to “Customer Development Interviews How-to: Finding People”

    cindyalvarez:

    #Customerdev how-to: Finding People to Interview – new blog post: http://bit.ly/byBMvo #prodmgmt #leanstartup
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

    matthendrick:

    RT @cindyalvarez: #Customerdev how-to: Finding People to Interview – new blog post: http://bit.ly/byBMvo #prodmgmt #leanstartup
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

    Paul Marshall:

    Good post Cindy and as someone who participates in this type of stuff on both sides I can support that Twitter is a useful medium…clicking on something in my twitter stream isn’t WAY easier but I am WAY more likely to do it because I am engaged there I am not engaged on Ad clicks.

    Great job as always
    ~Paul

    Paul Marshall:

    Good post Cindy and as someone who participates in this type of stuff on both sides I can support that Twitter is a useful medium…clicking on something in my twitter stream isn’t WAY easier but I am WAY more likely to do it because I am engaged there I am not engaged on Ad clicks.

    Great job as always
    ~Paul

    chriskjennings:

    How-to: Finding People to Interview – new blog post: http://bit.ly/byBMvo #prodmgmt #leanstartup (via @cindyalvarez)
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

    niallsmart:

    RT @cindyalvarez #Customerdev how-to: Finding People to Interview – new blog post: http://bit.ly/byBMvo #prodmgmt #leanstartup
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

    leanbot:

    @santoshmaharshi: RT @cindyalvarez #Customerdev how-to: Finding People to Interview – new blog post: http://bit.ly/byBMvo #prodmgmt
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

    hkrnws:

    Customer Development Interviews How-to: Finding People http://bit.ly/cbQVei
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

    kicauan:

    Customer Development Interviews How-to: Finding People – http://su.pr/7aoMGs
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

    YCHackerNews:

    Customer Development Interviews How-to: Finding People: http://bit.ly/9CxpaP Comments: http://bit.ly/aTrpVU
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

    miz_ldreader:

    【Hacker News】Customer Development Interviews How-to: Finding People: http://bit.ly/buNiIC
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

    MichaelZipursky:

    How to find people to interview about your product/service http://ow.ly/142nY
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

    miz_ldreader:

    【Hacker News】Customer Development Interviews How-to: Finding People: http://bit.ly/buNiIC
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

    brentcappello:

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    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

    tek_news:

    HNews: Customer Development Interviews How-to: Finding People http://bit.ly/aFLEcR
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

    kevnd:

    Customer Development Interviews – Its not as easy as you might think – How to Find People http://ow.ly/14fDR by @cindyalvarez
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

    JonathanNelson:

    RT @hnshah: Customer Development Interviews How-to: Finding People http://klck.me/AZJ #leanstartup #custdev #startup
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

    leanbot:

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    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

    jamesspittal:

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    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

    leanbot:

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    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

    BenBook1:

    RT @hnshah: Customer Development Interviews How-to: Finding People http://ow.ly/15Ink #leanstartup #custdev #startup
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

    Luosheng Peng:

    Are there some real use cases and results you can share with us? You talked about ideas (which is great), it’ll be even better if you can also show actual performance through exmaples.

    Luosheng Peng:

    Are there some real use cases and results you can share with us? You talked about ideas (which is great), it’ll be even better if you can also show actual performance through exmaples.

    Cindy:

    Luosheng:
    “Results” in this case = people responding. As I mentioned, using a good splash page for beta.survey.io and other projects has yielded dozens of people willing to give feedback. (I’ve done well over 50 customer interviews for KISSmetrics since October.)

    Last year at Startup Weekend, I used Facebook ads and email requests to get feedback on our startup idea (www.professionalpoke.com) – resulted in 20+ survey respondents in less than 24 hours.

    Cindy:

    Luosheng:
    “Results” in this case = people responding. As I mentioned, using a good splash page for beta.survey.io and other projects has yielded dozens of people willing to give feedback. (I’ve done well over 50 customer interviews for KISSmetrics since October.)

    Last year at Startup Weekend, I used Facebook ads and email requests to get feedback on our startup idea (www.professionalpoke.com) – resulted in 20+ survey respondents in less than 24 hours.

    santoshmaharshi:

    RT @cindyalvarez #Customerdev how-to: Finding People to Interview – new blog post: http://bit.ly/byBMvo #prodmgmt #leanstartup

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

    David W. Locke:

    I love this Thanks!

    My preference is that I have clients, but I can see how I can use your methods once it is time to move from clients to customers.

    paraschopra:

    Hey Cindy, the case of using Facebook to gauge interest for ProfessionalPoke looks interesting. Can you share what Facebook ad worked for you? And how many people actually agree to get interviewed (out of 20 respondents)?

    Also, since you mention email requests, it will be wonderful if you could share a template (is it similar to what you have mentioned in the post)? I ask this because email requests almost border on being considered spam – so how do you manage to make you email look non-spammy?

    Doug Camplejohn:

    I've also had great luck working my LinkedIn network, and asking advisors to make warm introductions to handful of folks in their LinkedIn networks.

    cindyalvarez:

    @Paras – The ad is here: http://skitch.com/cindyalvarez/namb8/facebook-a

    3 of the 20 who filled out my survey agreed to be interviewed. That's not a huge number, but remember, this ad was only running over a single weekend.

    HOWEVER, I think that FB ads are becoming a less good way to find people – they keep redesigning, and the ad placement for non-big-name-sponsors is getting worse.

    Emails & how to not sound spammy… that sounds like a good topic for my next blog post! The short answer is: write like you'd say it if you were having a casual conversation with a friend. More next week…

    Paras Chopra:

    Hey Cindy, yes 3 out of 20 indeed looks low.

    I will be awaiting your post on how not to be spammy. It could be an interesting topic for all.

    cindyalvarez:

    Actually, for 3 complete strangers to volunteer to be interviewed on the basis of a very simple splash page and survey alone — I think that's GREAT!

    I only had to set up the survey once — and the other 17 did provide me with some useful information as well simply by filling out my survey. Had I let the ad continue to run and continued to get 15% of respondents agreeing to be interviewed, I would easily have gotten enough folks to validate an initial hypothesis.

    » FAQ: Customer Development for Product Managers The Experience is the Product | Better product management and products:

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    Aaron DelSignore:

    Twitter Request Template is a bit long. Can't it be made in two steps? This form doesn't attract the attention.

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    There are some cases of actual use and results you can share with us? You talked about ideas (which is great), will be even better if you can show exmaples actual performance.
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    Scott Gavin:

    Yep another +1 for LinkedIn

    Anonymous:

    love your post, do you do pro bono work with startups ?

    cindyalvarez:

    Since originally posting this, I would add Quora as a good source for identifying people who have self-identified as being interested in a specific topic.

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    Marc Abraham:

    Hi Cindy, I was wondering if you had any thoughts about the best way to approach people on the streets with more generic research questions around e.g. online behaviour?

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    Was definitely looking for such a content. Happy to read. Thanks.

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    Tony Berk:

    Hi Cindy, Did you manage to write the post, “Emails & how to not sound spammy…”? Thanks.

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    It was descriptive. I am looking forward to gain business through twitter…

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