User Interviews

To share

Core Principles

  • Don't tell people what you're building.  Given them as little info as possible.  Instead focus on their problems.
  • People know what their problems are, but they don't know how to solve those problems.  Focus the conversation on the problem, not the solution.
  • Watching someone do a task will show you where the problems really are (vs where the customers think they are).
  • Anything the customer says involving the future is a lie.
  • People stop lying when you ask them for money.

Find the Pain

  • "What's the hardest part about doing [x]?"
  • "What makes it so awful?"

It only takes 5 mins maximum to learn whether a problem exists and is important.

Discover the Context

  • "Tell me about the last time you encountered that problem."
  • "What are the implications of that?"
  • "How do you spend your day?"
  • "What tools do you use?"

Find the "Why" (i.e. your marketing message)

  • "Why was that hard?"

Find your Competitors

  • "What, if anything, have you done to try and solve the problem?"
  • "Are you actively searching for a replacement?"
  • "If so, what's the sticking point?"
  • "If not, why not?"

If they're not actively searching for a replacement, it's not a real problem.

Discover your Differentiators

  • "What don't you like about the solutions you've tried?"
  • "Where are you losing money with your current tools?"

Qualify the User

  • "Is there budget for better tooling?"
  • "Where does the money come from?"

Ask this to determine whose budget will approve the purchase and identify other stakeholders who can torpedo the deal.

Make the Ask

  • Users can pay you in three ways:
  • Money (financial capital)
  • Use your product regularly (time capital)
  • Tell their friends (social capital)
  • Find uses who do at least 2 of the things above

Interview Prep

  • Pre-plan the 3 most important things you want to learn from any given type of person.  Update the list as your questions change.
  • Every time you talk to someone, you should be asking at least one question that has the potential to destroy your currently imagined business.

Find your Earlyvangelists

  • These are people who:
  • Have the problem
  • Know they have the problem
  • Have the budget to solve the problem
  • Have already cobbled together their own makeshift solution
  • Look for deep emotion around the problem you intend to solve.  
  • If someone isn't emotional about what you're doing, they won't be your first customer.

Cold Outreach

  • Frame expectations by mentioning what stage of product/business you're at, and that you don't have anything to sell.
  • Show weakness and give them a chance to help by mentioning the specific problem you're looking for answers on.
  • Put them on a pedestal by showing how much they, in particular, can help.
  • Explicitly ask for help.

Example outreach email:

Hey Sarah,

I run a startup trying to make it easy to build kick ass customer experiences.  We're having a load of trouble figuring out how all the pieces of the industry fit together and where we can best fit into it.  You know more about this industry than anyone and could really save us from a ton of mistakes.

We're funded and have a prototype built already, but this is in no way a sales meeting--we're just moving into a new area and could really use some of your expertise.

Can you spare a bit of time in the next week to help point us in the right direction?



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