How do I talk to customers and figure out if they'll buy my product?

Before I invest a lot of time working on my idea, how can I figure out if people will buy it?

We get asked this question a lot and here’s the best advice we have:

  • Read The Mom Test. This book is excellent for learning how to interview potential customers and test your idea while avoiding people unintentionally lying to you and leading you astray.
  • When speaking to prospective customers, don’t tell them about your idea. Focus 100% on what their life is like today. Ask questions like: When’s the last time X happened? Walk me through how you dealt with it? How often does it come up? What is it costing you?
  • Talk to customers as early as possible and realize that you are never talking to enough customers.
  • The only 2 things you should be doing are 1. talking to customers or 2. building product. If you are doing neither, you are doing something wrong. (there are of course exceptions to this, but it’s a good rule of thumb to keep you focused on what’s important)

We recently put together a great blog post on this topic.

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  1. Twitter is awesome! It’s easy to meet up with people outside of Twitter. Abe and I met a cheesemonger on twitter and built a digital temperature controlled cheese vat for him. It was a very good time had by all and we got valuable feedback.

  2. Teach a class! Nothing solidifies learning like teaching. Giving back always helps created a deeper understanding and helps you meet new people.

  3. Make a rudimentary version of your product and have people vote with their dollars. For example Abe and I made DIY open-source hacker kits that allowed you to turn anything with a heating element into a sous vide machine!

Lisa Fetterman
Founder/CEO of Nomiku

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First of all we always do research on real people to come up with what solutions will be liked, and then go into designing the product. But when it comes to developing it further, we have a sort of darwinistic approach to our own LAB-projects. Meaning we only bring to market the things that already has proven to have a demand. We publish design concepts on our own blog, then if they get reblogged and published enough in magazines etc, we choose to go into validation by prototypes and then crowdfunding. If done right this process can be in comparison VERY lean, and provide info on what to launch, how to launch it, to whom and where your primary market seems to be located. We do help many startups on this journey, and a quick design initiative at an early stage can be crucial before showing your stuff to the world. It’s not merely about the looks, but the user value proposition needs to be reflected throughout the entire offering: the prioritized feature(s) and UX, the industrial design, the app design, the brand name and logo, the colors… The more unified these things are the better a product lives up to its potential. I guess if one doesn’t have a blog/website, and no intention of starting one, it should be possible to send a press kit directly to various relevant bloggers and magazines directly. They usually appreciate getting in touch directly with creators rather than PR people.

Per Brickstad
Founder, Industrial Designer, PeoplePeople

I personally don’t like it when people/startups are in Stealth mode. I say talk about your product to everyone. From your family & friends (which are most likely biased) to your Uber driver, etc. Once you are a little further hire a small PR firm and create some excitement around your company/product. Make sure to have a way of capturing the new people who show interest (ex… email sign-up, fill out an application), once these potential customers are in, setup a regular newsletter and start talking with them. First give a few updates, show progress, then you can ask them questions.
Disclaimer: I am talking about my own experience of building a CE company. I have no idea if you were a B2B company and in health care, etc…

Ben Nader
Founder/CEO of Butterfleye

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