Guide to customer interviews

Customer Interviews: A Step-by-Step Guide to Validate Demand

Nathan Wade

Nathan Wade

Managing Editor

If you build it, will they come? Maybe. But why take a risk you don’t have to. Before you build a product or start a business, test your ideas with potential customers. Use customer interviews to gain powerful insights on demand and more.

So you have an idea for a product?

How can you find out if it will be worth pursuing?

Customer interviews are the answer.

Customer interviews are a strategy from the Lean Startup Methodology developed by Eric Ries.

Doing customer interviews allows you to create and sell your product a lot faster because you already know what customers want.

The Lean Startup Methodology will save you money, but more importantly, it will save you TIME.

Don’t be afraid to talk to customers. This is the key to succeeding in business.

Don’t be afraid of putting your ideas out there.

Talking to potential customers about your product will give you invaluable insights on your product, your marketing strategy, and the economics of your business.

You don’t want to wait until product launch to find out your customers are only willing to pay half of your asking price.

Customer interviews can be the driving force behind your business decisions.

Here are six steps to help you have successful customer interviews that will give you valuable information about your business model.

Step 1: Figure Out Who You Should Interview

Create customer avatars for interviews

Interview people who fit your target customer avatar in gender, age, race, income, psychological factors, or any other defining characteristic.

Create multiple potential avatars for each product you’re testing. It’s hard to know who the product will be the most helpful for.

Get in touch people in your personal network that fit your customer avatar profile, and start a conversation.

Quick Side Note: If you already have a product out on the market reach out to your current customers.

Step 2: Determine How Many Interviews To Do

Use customer interviews to validate demand

Determine how many interviews you are going to do.

You need enough data to make an educated decision that will help grow your business. No more, no less.

At a minimum you should to talk to five people per customer avatar.

Remember, you should have more than one customer avatar per product. The point of customer interviews is to test those avatars.

Step 3: Brainstorm Valuable Questions

Ask valuable balanced questions in customer interviews

Ask the questions that will bring value to your business and validate your business model.

There is no right or wrong amount of questions.

Follow your gut.

Consider having balance in the questions you ask to avoid interviewer bias.

Here are examples of questions that you can ask.

Ask questions that confirm or deny an assumption.

  • “What’s your biggest problem with _____?”
  • “How do you deal with it now?”
  • “Would you pay to get rid of this problem?”

Always end your customer interviews with the following questions:

  • “What did I fail to ask?” Never assume that you have the right questions right off the bat.
  • “Who else should I talk to?” Make the customer feel included in what you are doing and ask for personal recommendations on who else they can talk to.

These are examples of questions that you should avoid.

Avoid questions that can lead to subjective answers.

  • “Do you think our product is doing a good job solving your problem?”
  • “Do you think our product can be better?”

Don’t ask about your product’s solution.

  • “What do you think about our breakthrough product?”

Avoid talking about prices because you aren’t ready to go there. Instead, focus on the customer’s budget.

  • “Would you buy our product if it was cheaper?”

Don’t offer them a multiple choice survey to fill out because you don’t get out of the box or honest answers that way.

  • “Would you mind taking a few minutes to fill out our online survey?”

Step 4: Draft A Script To Assist With The Interview

Use script for customer interviews

Use a script as a guide for your interview because it will give you structure and remind you of what needs to be discussed.

But try to stay in the moment. Having a script handy can be a negative thing. Don’t let it distract you from listening to the customer.

You shouldn’t make this interview feel like an employment interview.

Let them talk.

Truly listen to what they have to say.

Show genuine interest in what they have to say.

It should be like you are having a conversation with a long time friend over a cup of coffee at the local Starbucks.

If you build a relationship with this customer based on trust, you will get more value out of the conversation because they will be more likely to open up to you more.

Remember you aren’t selling them anything.

When you are doing your interview make sure it doesn’t sound like you are reading your script word for word.

Sometimes, it is best if you aren’t following the script the entire time because things may pop up that you didn’t think about. These are the precious golden nuggets of information you’re looking for.

So don’t beat yourself up about it if you don’t ask every question IF you were able to get valuable insight about something else.

Step 5: How You Should Do Your Customer Interviews

How to do customer interviews

Find customers anyway you can, but perform your interviews in person or over video chat software.

Quality is more important than quantity.

You will get high-quality customer interviews by chatting with them in person, or on a video call.

By building a relationship based on trust you with the customer, you will get deeper emotional insights that you won’t get from a survey or social media poll.

Customers can tell you everything from how they use your products, strengths and weaknesses of your product, how they felt using your product, and even make suggestions on how to make the product better to address their problem.

Just by listening to them you can get a better understanding of your customer - you can copy their tone and word usage for later marketing copy.

This is all valuable information that you can apply to improve your business.

Step 6: Record Powerful Insights Gained

Record customer interview insights

As you are conducting your customer interviews, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have someone with you taking notes, so you can focus on talking with the customer.

Another option is to record the interview with the customer’s permission and reassure them that their identity will remain anonymous.

Highlight the trends or any patterns that your customers may have mentioned.

Don’t single out answers that aren’t popular. You should still take that information into consideration because it could possibly be a trend in the near future.

With the powerful insights that you have gained, brainstorm ideas that will help improve the current product or create a new product that’s worth pursuing.


Now It’s Your Turn To Take Action

What are you are waiting for?

Start networking and begin having conversations with your customers, so you can gain valuable information that will drive your business to stardom.

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Nathan Wade

Written By

Nathan Wade

Nathan is WealthFit’s Managing Editor. He's previously worked as an attorney in entrepreneurial law and venture capital.

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