The startup I am working on currently has pivoted more than most. When I say pivoted more than most, I’m not talking about the slight changes to the product kind of pivots. I’m talking about completely re-directing the company time after time and spending 500k on market research. (I will do a whole post on this at some point because it is a great story and we learned A LOT about finding market fit)
I was just writing a medium post about the automated solutions I have come across after interviewing hundreds of people about how they organize their files and I realized something. Because we have pivoted so many times, I have, for all intents and purposes, become a professional idea validator. Here are the three most important lessons I have learned about interviewing potential customers:
**See if they have already created a solution to the problem.** This is the single most important lesson I learned after doing so many interviews. If potential customers have a pain point that is strong enough for them to have already thought of their own DIY versions of your product, you are on the right path. This is exactly what we noticed while validating the latest iteration of our product and coincidentally this is also the only iteration that is showing signs of market fit. In our case, we are building a file manager for all of your cloud files and learned that many people are already trying to homebrew a solution mostly using Zapier but also sometimes Trello and Slack. Pay attention to these moments and study the solutions potential users have already created.
**Write down goals, not scripts.** Scripts can make you sound robotic, impersonal, and they can prevent you from listening actively, but more importantly, they aren’t dynamic. If you are in the validation stage, you aren’t yet confident that you are solving a legitimate problem that many people face, and you certainly aren’t confident that you are solving it in the most efficient way. If you don’t already know exactly the pain you are solving, exactly how you solve it, and common issues and objections users have there, is no way you can write a script in the first place. Instead, just write down a list of questions that you need to know the answer to at the end of each call. You don’t ever need to ask these questions explicitly, the answers can be implied, but you need to walk away knowing the answer to each one.
**Find the right people to interview.** This may sound like generic advice, but it can be harder than you might imagine to get right. For some innovative solutions, you might not know exactly who needs your product the most without doing a significant amount of testing. In our case, we came to a point where we realized that people definitely have a hard time organizing cloud files, but we didn’t know who had the hardest time. In the end, we have had the most success with marketers and marketing agencies who have absurd amounts of copy, creative materials, and analytics stored on the cloud. We never would have known this if we hadn’t systematically gone through a whole list of other professions.
Hopefully, these lessons are helpful for some of you.
Edit: For those wondering, here is the post I was talking about where I outline the ways people had made DIY versions of our product: [https://medium.com/@bchapp/take-back-control-of-your-cloud-4-ways-to-automate-your-cloud-file-management-43a5ab12484f](https://medium.com/@bchapp/take-back-control-of-your-cloud-4-ways-to-automate-your-cloud-file-management-43a5ab12484f)