We are makers. We want to make things. We want to make things which are useful and which people will pay for. So we read about doing Customer Development. We read The Four Steps to Epiphany and start talking to people. Then everything goes wrong.
The Mom Test tells you how you should be talking to prospects during customer interviews. This is a book which every maker should read.
Don’t ask about the future, talk about the past.
Makers always do this. I have done it. We go to potential customers and ask - “If I build this, will you use this?” This is the wrong question because the answer is always yes.
The questions to ask is “How are you doing this today?”.
If the problem is worth solving, your potential customers are solving it with kludges, workarounds or brute human force.
Never let them give you compliments
It is human nature to seek validation, it is human nature to give compliments. If your customer interviews moves towards compliments like - “This idea looks great, I will buy it when you are done”, you need to deflect it.
Go back to asking about how they go about their day, or how do they are solving their problems today, or ask for a commitment for the next steps.
There are only three good outcomes from a meeting - learning, refusal or commitment
A customer meeting should have one of these outcomes.
- You learn about how they solve their problems today, and so you know how you can help them.
- You have a (partial) solution to their problem, but they are refusing the nexts steps. The next is not necessarily commercial. It can be anything which “costs” them something - like a meeting with another decision maker. If you get an assurance like - “lets talk when you are ready” - the problem is probably not as important to them.
- A commitment, not necessarily commercial, but something which has some kind of cost to them. A meeting with stakeholder in another department, a letter of intent, a signed check. These are the only problems worth solving.
The best place to meet people for customer development might be a bar
Or a coffee shop. Or a sub-reddit. Or twitter. Don’t make these meetings too format, you will not get answers to the questions you are looking for.
Be where you customers are to find representative sample of your customers and let them talk to you in an environment they are familiar with.