When Customer Discovery Goes Bad

Are you conducting Customer Discovery Interviews? How many have you done? How are they going?

I recently completed a few interviews, and let’s just say, it didn’t go to well. Many of the examples of Customer Discover I’ve encountered have a happy ending. In the examples the hypotheses are proven correct and products move ahead at full speed. What happens when your interviews don’t go well? I want to share how my interviews disproved my hypotheses and what happened afterwards.

What Is Customer Discovery?

cover-photo-smallDo you have an idea for the next big tech company? Fantastic!! Who is going to buy your product? Seriously. Who is going to be your customer? The Customer Discovery process helps you answer that question and develop a product that people are willing to pay for. It encourages you to “get out of the building” and talk to people. You can even conduct your Customer Discovery interviews before you create your first Minimal Viable Product. In fact, I would highly encourage you to conduct interviews as soon as possible.

Think of Customer Discoveries as Test screenings. The goal is to get information about your project from a small, pre-selected audience, before you release your product to the world.

You can find more info about Customer Discovery in the book, Talking to Humans. If you are interested in it, pick up your FREE copy today.

My Hypotheses

Whataburger-McDonalds-BurgerKing-tacobellMy idea was to create a tool that would analyze the content you post to social media and compare it to other users content. The goal is to give users tips to improve how they use social media. If another account engages directly with other users, maybe you should too. If you tweet more frequently that your competition then you are good to go, no need to post more content.

My Hypotheses was that  college students and small businesses would be interested in my product. I assumed that college students would be using social media to help promote themselves. They could compare the content they create to their peers and try to get a leg up. I had similar assumptions for small businesses. They could compare themselves to other business and my product could create a strategy for them to get the most out of social media.

I’ve included a screenshot of my product idea, analyzing What-a-Burger’s social media feed against other fast food competitors.

My Customer Discovery Questions

Here are a few of my questions I asked to quantify how successful my product could be:

  • Do you use social media? What platforms Do you use?
  • Would you describe the accounts you own as personal or professional? Are any of these accounts mixed?
  • What type of content do you post?
  • Do you have any rules for things you should or shouldn’t post? Does it depend on context / account?
  • Have you ever asked someone for a second opinion before posting something?

How Did It Go

Most of my interviews ended after the first question. When I asked, “Do you use social media? What platforms Do you use?” I was surprised by the input.

Students don’t use social media the way I thought they would. They do not post publicly. They’ve migrated to 1-1 and group messaging en masse. Students have been using Snapchat, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. They rarely make posts that are publicly available. If they do, they are carefully crafted and don’t say too much about them. Surprise, surprise.

OK, if students have changed, surely businesses are using social media. Wrong. Most small businesses don’t even have a website. I kid you not, even US census data reports that many small businesses don’t have websites. Again, the interview was cut off at the first question. When I spoke to small business owners they agreed that social media and a web presence is important. However, a great deal of small businesses haven’t even set foot on the web. It’s hard to analyze data that isn’t there.

Now What?

My Customer Discover Interviews went horribly, but I am glad it happened early on in the product development life cycle. Things could have been a lot worse. I didn’t create a 100% usable MVP. I didn’t invest in a marketing campaign. I didn’t create a product that no one was using. Realistically, my bad Customer Discovery Interviews were a HUGE SUCCESS.

I’ve put this product idea to the side for now to follow through on a few other endeavors. I will reevaluate who my target audience is and will tweak my hypotheses. I may put together a simplified version of the product and use it as a portfollio piece. I honestly don’t know.

Final Thoughts

Don’t fret if your Customer Discovery Interviews go bad. I participated in a workshop where multiple people were conducting Customer Discovery Interviews. It was hard for everyone when their hypotheses was proven wrong. Your hypotheses might end up being picked apart and destroyed. Keep in mind that if your hypothesis falls apart you are doing Customer Discovery the right way. Celebrate that fact, dust yourself off and take the lessons you learned to make better products.