Customer discovery is essential if you’re serious about starting a business. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, meeting new people can be difficult. Luckily, Future Founders Fellow Ayodele Aigbe (who goes by “Ayo”) sat down with us and shared her lessons from conducting customer discovery interviews (both online and offline) with over 300 people. Here’s how you can learn from her experience…
Ayo is the founder of Hangio, the world’s 1st premium bendable hanger that alleviates the issues of shoulder bumps, clothes slippage, and collar stretching. Selling out of her first product launch in just three days, it’s clear that Ayo’s time spent talking to customers proved to be quite valuable.
The Hangio Hanger
For entrepreneurs, the purpose of customer discovery is to question your core business assumptions. In Ayo’s case, she had to validate the need for her bendable hangers. Using both online surveys and in-person focus groups, Ayo executed Hangio’s customer discovery journey using these 5 steps:
A lot of preparation is needed before you even begin talking to potential customers. The first (and most important) step you should take in your customer discovery journey is to ask yourself “Why?”.
Approaching customer discovery with a clear intention in mind is important. Some people may use customer discovery to verify their problem, while others may use it to identify the best sales funnel or target market. When planning a customer discovery session, Ayo sees this step as the most important. If your objective for executing customer discovery isn’t clear, then your answers will be generalized and dull. For Hangio, Ayo had three different objectives in mind when she wanted to do some customer discovery:
All three of Ayo’s objectives were clear and concise, with a focus on both customer experience and data collection. Once you’ve identified your objective(s), you can begin to brainstorm potential outcomes.
With an objective in mind, it’s time to make your assumptions. What do you think will happen? If you’re trying to verify your value proposition – then do you think your participants will empathize with the problem you’re solving? Or if you’re looking to identify a specific target market – then do you think a certain demographic will be more receptive to your product? Keep in mind that a hypothesis proving to be right or wrong will be beneficial to your business. The answers you receive will always lead you to a solution if you don’t let your bias get in the way. For Ayo, she had three hypotheses set for her customer discovery journey:
Without any bias, all three of Ayo’s hypotheses could be proved true or false with the right questions asked. Her assumptions were data-driven and reflected the objectives that she set in step one.
It’s important that your hypothesis is measurable. Similar to setting a SMART goal, you should be able to track some type of trend in your customer discovery session. You need to be able to prove whether your hypothesis is true or not. Organizing your session with an outline beforehand is a great way to make sure that you get the answers you need.
A high level outline that is guided by your objectives will not only make your customer discovery session more organized, it will also lead you to better questions and better results. Start by listing out any objectives or hypotheses you have. Then, list out specific factors, pain points, target markets, etc., that are related to your objective. Organizing them into related groups will allow you to develop questions that flow into one another. This is important because you want your customer discovery session to feel as natural as possible for your participants. Guided by her objectives, Ayo created a high-level outline that she used to organize and structure her session.
For her first objective of understanding people’s closet experience, she listed the following topics to be covered:
For her second objective of measuring pain points and needs, she listed the following topics to be covered:
For her third objective of collecting leads on potential retailers, she listed demographics and contact collecting as part of her outline.
Each section in Ayo’s outline then were turned into the questions she asked during her customer discovery session. But before you write your questions, there’s still one more step in completing your outline. Developing a streamlined distribution strategy is required to make sure your customer discovery session is executed properly.
It’s important that you first identify a distribution strategy before you write out your questions. This is because the way you deliver your survey, interview, or focus group can greatly affect the way you approach your questions. First, figure out if you will be conducting your session in-person or online. If you’re in-person, will you record answers on paper or via a microphone/camera? If you’re online, will you use a phone call, Zoom meeting, or survey form to collect your information? Ayo has experience with both in-person and online distribution strategies. With her online strategy, Ayo focused on numbers.
Using a Google Form survey as the basis of her online distribution strategy, Ayo wanted to be able to reach as many people as possible. An online form is a great tool to collect data when in-person meetings aren’t available.
To deliver her survey to people, Ayo listed the following channels:
Ayo’s widespread approach was necessary to collect enough data to prove her assumptions true or false. Since her objectives weren’t limited to any certain target markets, the use of different channels for distribution provided her with extensive information regarding the closet experience of people.
Creating your distribution strategy first will help you decide what questions to ask and how to ask them. Ultimately, the questions you ask will be the biggest influence on your business because the answers you receive will shape how you operate and move forward.
Finally, it’s time to create your questions. Keeping your outline in mind, write questions that will give you targeted results. If you’re looking for certain data points – ask questions that are short-answer, but not limited to just a yes or no answer. If you’re looking for answers that offer deeper insights or lifestyle traits, ask questions that are longer-form or are more conversational. Your questions should follow the flow of your outline to ensure your session is organized and effective.
Using her Google Form structure, Ayo wrote multiple series of questions based on the groupings she outlined. After a simple introduction with contact collection, she started with questions referring to the closet experience.
Then, she asked questions regarding pain points and needs.
Last, she asked questions that were more demographic focused and data-driven.
Looking back at Ayo’s objectives and hypotheses, she wrote questions that were both intentional and gave her the answers she needed to prove her assumptions true or false. She recommends removing any questions that don’t address your objectives because people are more likely to disengage with the session. Too many unnecessary questions can also clutter your data.
With your questions written, organized, and a distribution strategy prepared, your customer discovery session should have everything it needs to be executed.
Ayo’s experience with customer discovery goes beyond just her survey forms. When possible, she recommends utilizing in-person interviews and focus groups because the insights are more diverse and unique. Verbal cues, body language, and follow-up questions are all advantages of conducting customer discovery in-person. “Be creative and spontaneous in the session,” says Ayo. The personal and deeper insights you receive will often be the most valuable when trying to achieve your objective.
When reviewing data from a customer discovery session, Ayo focuses on pattern recognition. Whether you have hundreds of Google Form responses or a series of answers from just ten interviews, highlight the answers that repeat. These trends in data will help you prove whether or not your assumptions are correct. You can also use this information to streamline future customer discovery sessions by cutting out any redundant or too-straightforward questions.
Finally, Ayo encourages customer discovery along every step in your startup journey. She recommends Udacity’s free online course – inspired by Steve Blank’s How to Build a Startup – to help validate your value proposition and begin your customer discovery journey. Customer discovery provides you with answers to questions that you can’t figure out yourself without being biased. This process is essential in realizing the true wants and needs of your customers so you can build a business that is successful.
To see the proof of Ayo’s customer discovery – check out Hangio’s website here!
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