Expertblog: ‘Your customer within reach’

‘Your customer within reach’ by Ingmar Janssen

By Ingmar Janssen

To identify whether your great idea makes sense, you generally start checking your idea with family and friends. This can be helpful. But unless they are your potential customers, this will not provide any qualitative information regarding your target group. And that while they need to bring home the bacon. As a starting entrepreneur, I was unable to avoid this pitfall too. And as a result, my “great” idea turned into a not so great success. With these learnings in my pocket, I started to read up about building promising startups, innovative startups in particular. I now put these learnings into practice each day as program manager of the Market Readiness Program of Oost NL. In this blog I will take you through the first steps of customer validation.

Fortunately, many starting entrepreneurs realize that they have to look beyond family and friends to know who their first customers will be. Unfortunately, we often see that online surveys are set up to find a target group and collect data. This takes a lot of time and sometimes even money, something startups don’t have in abundance. In addition, data from surveys is only relevant when you validate your assumptions in a homogeneous group. It’s better to start conversations with your potential customers to find out what drives them, what problems they encounter in their daily activities, how often these problems occur and what their current solution to the problem is. After all, people love to talk about their problems. And you want to find out whether your supposed problem is recognized by the customer, without directly bringing it to table (and have your target group recognize it in a socially desirable way).

I realize that it is tough to start conversations in this open way, but I am convinced that this approach will get you the most valuable information from your customer. I guarantee that you:

  • Will be surprised over and over again;
  • Will see that your original beliefs and assumptions will not survive;
  • Will discover new interesting ideas, trends and opportunities.

These conversations will help you to validate your customer problem, find the right solution and, eventually, find your first customer. This validation method provides proof that you know your market and the results of these conversations will ultimately form the basis on which you’ll build your startup: it will help you create your roadmap, go-to-market strategy and pricing strategy.

Where to start?

  1. Make a list of 50 people who you think are experiencing your supposed problem and make appointments for interviews;
  2. Set a goal. For example, set a goal to interview at least 10 people every week. After you’ve had a number of conversations you will start to recognize patterns. Based on this, you can adjust your questions for the purpose of the validation process;
  3. Collect the qualitative data (decision making process of your customers, their current problems and solutions, alternatives etc.);
  4. Create a survey and start collecting quantitative data. When you have conducted about 50 interviews, you can translate the collected qualitative data from personal interviews into targeted, quantitative survey questions and present a questionnaire to your presumed target group.

Do you want to know more about Oost NL and its market readiness program? Check it out here!