Learn the best approach to doing customer research. The insights you collect will give you clarity on what to do next with your product and marketing efforts.

Ryan Hatch
Head of Product Strategy & Innovation
Andrew Verboncouer
Partner & CEO

Ryan Hatch:

When launching a new company, we kind of think of it like, Hey, the businesses at the center, the practice at the center, it's all about the business and the product. And the customers are kind of like on the outside of that. And I would challenge that viewpoint. I would actually invert that picture. I think it's actually the customer on the inside is the center and the market and the product and the business actually have to pivot around what the customer's needs actually.

So there's a word for that. We actually have some nomenclature for that. We would call it problem space and solution space. So before we dive right into the solution, right into building our suggestion is let's pause for a moment and let's actually unpack the customer, their, their life, what they're actually going through and, and dive into that.

There's a pattern for this. It's called design thinking. And you'll see here, here in the visual, there'll be actually have two diamonds just as I was saying, we have the solution space on the right and we have the problem space on the left and you'll come in and you'll say, well, I already know my customers.

I know the problem. And while that might be true, often what happens is we understand the problem in a general way. We have a general problem statement, but we need to get to, to actually solution correctly or solution, or very, very well. Is get to a specific problem. So how do we approach research? How do we go from a generic problem statement to a specific problem statement?

There are two categories of research. One is primary research. This is super valuable. This is what where we're talking to actual customers, unpacking how they feel, where they're struggling and, and their daily lives. We're really getting deep with customers. The other type of research is secondary research. This is also valuable in different ways.

This is traditional market research, looking at market report stats, Excel sheets, top-down Forrester reports, Gardner reports, trying to size the market in a way, or, or get some trend lines on where things might be headed. But, but the secondary research really isn't helpful to get down to actual specific problems.

What we need to do is talk to real customers and unpack their real, real life stories. And so we're going to suggest using primary research. Talking to customers is so valuable. It cannot be understated. You can see here talking with these people and seeing their faces. Having them tell their story where they're struggling, where they're succeeding, what's going on in their lives is so, so important.

We feel so strongly that the insights you can get from 10 interviews, vastly outweighs 10,000 people answering 10 questions on a survey. Some people would say, oh, let's do a survey. Yes. If we could get a thousand people to answer these 20 questions, we will for sure know what to do. Why? Because it will be statistically significant.

We can just put it in Excel. We can chart it and plot it and say, Hey, most people want this feature or that. Right. We believe surveys are valuable at certain stages and to answer certain types of questions, they're also extremely hard to do well, extremely hard to do well. Often what you think you're asking is not what they think you're asking.

And the problem with that is bad data in bad data out. We feel that bad data is actually worse than no data at all. We believe, getting 10 interviews and getting that rich storytelling on where, where my problem is, what my actual daily life is, how I'm pulling certain products in at certain times what the challenges are in, in all of that, we believe 10 really deep, well done interviews is way more valuable, way more insightful than doing a survey with a thousand people for 20 questions.

So you might ask what does a good customer interview? Well, it really depends on what you're trying to learn in this case. What we're talking about is a problem space and unpacking their daily life, what they're struggling with. And we'll talk in a minute about some great questions you can use, but talking about the problem space means that we're not talking about ourselves.

We're only talking about real behavior past behavior, because past behavior is reliable, but people say they'll do in the future is not reliable. So we're not going to talk about the future. We're not going to talk about what they would do, what they might do, what they could do. We're not going to talk about your solution.

We're only going to talk about past behavior and what their current problems and challenges are. The best customer interviews revolve around stories. You can see here, the people in the picture are just talking. They're just going, they're retelling and replaying these moments, these moments that made them happy in some cases, and they're laughing some cases, it made them sad and they're frustrated and they're retelling the pain.

So we're going to make sure that we unpack the stories in customers' lives. Now, if you don't have any customers, that's okay. We're using the word customer interview. We're using that term broadly. These are potential customers. They could be in your target audience someday, right? They don't have to be customers.

Now you don't have to have a product at all to do these interviews. This is just unpacking their stories and getting them to storytell and talk about where their challenges are and where they're struggling. So what questions can I use to really dive into these customer stories? There are so many. What I'm going to do is give you some to help you go in the right direction.

Now you already know that there's a general problem area that you're going to be exploring with these people. First of all, start off with context. Hey, where are you from? What do you do just to get to know them a little bit, a little bit of context is really, really helpful place to start. It's always really important to make them feel comfortable.

I always try to let the person know, "Hey, there's no wrong answers here. We're just going to unpack and talk about your story. And if you ever get uncomfortable, let me know." To really start  unpacking their story,one of the best questions and prompts you can do for them is say, When was the last time XYZ.

When was the last time this happened? What was the last time you had this problem? Right? Cause you know, you have a general problem statement. You want to start there, give them something to anchor, to, to latch onto and they will bring you back. And then you can use some, some words to, to elicit some clarity from them to kind of refresh their memory, kind of re jog them.

And you can ask things like, Hey, how long ago was that? Was that last week was that last month? Was that a weekday or weekend? Was that spring, summer or fall? Who was with you? Where were you? You're trying to jog their memory. Once they start talking about their story, let them go, let them go in a bunch of different directions.

It's okay for it to be messy. You don't have to follow a script exactly. Go where the emotion is. Go, where the pain is go, where their desires are. And then be curious, Hey, why'd you do this? Right. Ask them. Um, I don't understand. I'm confused. You said this, but now you're saying this really get curious and unpack their story and get them to clarify for you.

What's really going on. And then talk about the context. When does that happen? How often then talking about the impact of that, what, who is that hurting? What's the repercussions of that? Why is that a problem? Why is that so important to get solved? Who is that impacting in the business and. Trying to understand, well, Hey, how have you tried, if that's really a problem, how have you tried to solve that?

Which solutions did you consider? Well, I considered considered this and this and this, and I chose that. Well, why you choose that solution? How do you compare and contrast which one to choose? That's really valuable. When you get to understand the trade-offs between these solutions, you can also get into channels.

Hey, how'd you hear about this one and this one and this one? Well, my friend told me, oh, I heard about this through this magazine or, or whatever. Those are really important to understand how they're making decisions, how they're navigating the market space, because you have to realize that your product is probably going to be solution number four, right.

And to win there, you have to understand how they're selecting solutions. One, two, and three. Today. You also want to understand. What are they heading towards? Hey, what are you trying to accomplish here? If this problem were solved, what would it enable you to do? Right? You want to understand where they're coming from?

The pain they're trying to avoid, move away from. You're trying to understand how they navigate their way through that. And it really trying to understand what they're trying to achieve, what their, where they're trying to go, how they're being measured, what numbers they have to. Once you have those forces together, then you can really get to a specific problem and say, Hey, the competitors are really, they're really not fitting here.

There's an opportunity here for us. And you have messaging for the pain they're going through what they're trying to achieve and how you can win in the market. When you do a number of these interviews, you're going to want to put them all together. So how do I gather my insights? How do I collect all this stuff?

There are getting such great content out of these interviews. What we do is we actually take notes live. You can see day one, we did two interviews. And during those interviews, we are live note taking. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. And we're getting categories. You can think of some of these categories where, what they're trying to move away from what they're trying to move towards, how they're comparing and contrasting these solutions.

Those are all categories. And we have many more, depending on the exact interview and what the context is, but we're taking those notes live. Every card has a place to live. And we do that multiple times. You can see we're doing multiple interviews a day, day one, two interviews, day three, day two and three, three interviews each day for doing another one.

Right. We're getting here nine interviews in four days and we're learning so much. What this allows you to do. When you take notes in this way, it allows you to start putting them all together and coming into those insights and really deciding on, Hey, there's themes here. There's patterns here. And that's what you're going to need to go from a generic problem to a specific problem that you can take to market.


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