Customer Discovery: How to Find Your Customers (And Talk To Them)

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Achieving product-market fit is a long and bumpy road, but it’s vital for your company’s survival. Once you’ve discovered who your customers are and what they need, you’ll want to start talking to them to get feedback on your product or service.

You might not see the value of interviewing customers first hand - it’s a time-consuming and sometimes frustrating process, I won’t lie, but you will learn invaluable information about how to adapt your marketing strategy or improve your product. 

Only after conducting several customer interviews did we realize that our customers were intimidated by the testimonials on our website, while we thought they weren’t “shiny” enough!

Before diving into the dos and don’ts of customer interviews, let’s talk about the most important part of customer discovery: where to find your customers and how to get them to talk to you. Once you have it clear what you’re trying to find out (we’ll talk more about this next time), there are different types of people you’ll want to talk to about your product:

1. People who have already bought your product

If you already have actual customers, congratulations! Get in contact with them to find out what they liked and what they disliked, why they purchased, what attracted them to your product or service... then look for similarities between their answers to find common threads.

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Not only will this make it easier to identify ideal customers in the future and help decide how to speak to them, but it will also help you find problems you might not be aware of OR give you ideas for what to improve, and help you validate (or not!) what you think you know about your customers. See, so much information!

2. people who engaged with your product but didn’t buy it

These people are real gems when it comes to getting feedback on your product. They’re the one who - hopefully - are going to give you the answer every business owner is looking for: “WHY am I not getting more customers?”. 

3. People who have no idea who you are and are just “testers”

If you don’t have any customers yet, you can still get feedback on your product by talking to your buyer personas (the one you created your product for), like“high school age girls”, “sports obsessed young adults”, “stay at home parents”, “small business owners”, etc. The idea is to see if your service really answers their needs, so you can improve it.

How To Find Customers?

So you have a pretty good idea of who you should be selling your product to, but how are you supposed to find these kind of people to talk to them? Here are some ways to recruit people to help you out (that we’ve used more than once at Bridge for Billions!):

  • In your network 

Don’t be afraid to tap into your network. Put out a call on your social media profiles for people who identify as a certain group (i.e. sports aficionados, stay at home parents, etc.) offer to take them out for coffee (or a video chat!) and ask them a couple of questions. Ask your friends to share the post and help recruit too. You’ll see how quickly you’ll end up gathering a group of people that all could be potential customers. People are more willing to help than you’d think!

Adolfo, who ran the Marketing department on his own at the beginning of Bridge for Billions and is THE growth hacker in the team, has a little tip for you about customer discovery: “I always find it's most effective to directly message 50 or so people in your network with a specific ask... People tend to respond faster and with actual support when the request it sent directly to them rather than a general call for help.

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  • On Social Media

Another way to get the best out of  social media is to find support groups around certain topics (i.e. digital nomads, parents of children with disabilities, businesswomen) and join these groups and participate in them. Not only will you learn a lot about the real struggles that these people face, but you can also ask them to help you with customer discovery interviews.

Just remember that you have to give as well as take: be an active participant in addition to asking them for help! People are much more likely to help a friendly face than someone who’s only around to ask for things.

  • At Conferences and Events

Find out the kind of events your ideal customers like to go to and meet them there! If you’re selling something to concert-goers, show up at the venue an hour early and ask the first arrivers some questions. You want to work with freelancers? A co-working space could be a good place to look. If your customers are all huge comic book fans, events like Comic Con or movie premiers are a must. You get the idea… The point is, meeting with strangers face to face is scary, but it’s also a very efficient way to get valuable feedback on your product.

  • Get Creative! 

There are a ton of other places you can look for your customers in addition to these three. All you have to do is put yourself in their shoes and think outside the box: if you were [insert your customer here] what would you do? Where would you be? You just have to get out and to talk to them!

Ok, but how do I get them to talk to me?

Marketing agencies and big companies offer rewards like gift cards for people who come in and do market studies or user tests. As a young business it can be tougher to provide monetary and cash incentives to people.

But don’t give up! You’d  be surprised how many people would be happy to help you out if you just ask (nicely!) Be friendly and explain that you’re starting up a business and you really value hearing what people have to say about your idea so you’d like to get the information straight from the source! 

We actually went through this exact situation at Bridge for Billions recently: we reached out to 200 strangers and friends of our friends and ask for help to have a 15 minutes conversation about feedback and we got 30 responses. That might seem like a low conversion but these 30 users gave us invaluable feedback and tons of new perspective to improve the product!

People like expressing their opinions. They love feeling like they’re being heard. But it’s also nice to throw in some baked goods into the equation. Take them out for coffee or give them a profile on your Netflix account... (just kidding! Maybe?). The few bucks you’ll spend will be paid back in double when your product improves and sales increase.

If you really can’t offer them any form of reward, remember to send them a nice thank you email once you’re done. A short, “Thank you for your help, your input has been invaluable to my business” will do the trick.

Customer discovery is a bit like networking: the first couple of times are going to be really uncomfortable. After a couple tries you’ll be a pro at finding them and approaching them. It’s all a matter of practice!

Next time, we’ll look into the dos and don’ts of customer interviews, so stay tuned! Can’t wait to start developing your business idea for real?