How conversations with customers can save your business

If you had the opportunity to minimize the risk of your business idea failing before you even got started, would you take it?

Of course the obvious answer is “yes”, and yet, having real conversations with customers is one of the most skipped steps among entrepreneurs. Why is that?

First of all, conducting customer interviews involves, well, talking to people. If chatting with strangers is not exactly your favorite past time, you’re definitely not alone.

Secondly, you might find out that the idea in your head isn’t as rock solid as you thought it was. That can be a tough pill to swallow when you feel so certain about the direction you’re headed in. The idea of “starting over” on a product is enough to send many entrepreneurs running in the opposite direction.

Your customer’s reality exists whether you acknowledge it or not

The truth is that your customer’s reality exists whether you acknowledge it or not — it’s just a question of whether you’d like to find that out now, or learn it the hard way by launching a product that flops.

The great part about discovering this reality now is that you can course correct early, before you sink lots of time and money into this project.

Remember, you’re the scientist wearing the lab coat and holding the clipboard here. And when scientists perform experiments, they are actually trying to challenge their own theories instead of looking for a way to validate what they already believe. So why should this be any different for small business ideas?

If you’ve seen the movie Field of Dreams, you’ve heard the expression “If you build it, they will come.” Unfortunately in business, this isn’t really the case — it’s way more common, in fact, that they do not come.

There’s this guy named Steve Blank, and he developed a helpful framework called the Customer Development Methodology. He’s written a lot on this, but to sum it up, Steve says that ’If you build it, they will come’ really only applies to ’life and death products’.

As an example, take the cure for cancer. If you’re curing cancer, you don’t have to worry about whether the market will adopt your product. If you build the cure, they will definitely come, because the cure is the difference between life or death.

However, if you’re like the rest of us who aren’t curing cancer or building a “Life or death” product, you’ll have to contend with customer acceptance in order to reach product-market fit. In order to do that, you have to “get out of the building”, or get out your own head and see how your assumptions hold up in the real world.

Our task: to find customer acceptance

And unfortunately, most businesses don’t figure out whether anyone will pick up what they’ve put down until they’re out of money, out of time, and subsequently out of business.

So this course is all about avoiding that fate. It’s about addressing assumptions and challenging your core business assumptions before charging ahead, as counter-intuitive and scary as it might feel.

now, the good news is we don’t leave you high and dry here — in this course you’ll learn a clear process and plan for talking with potential customers that will take you from “nervous and uncertain” to “prepared and excited”.

You’ll leave this course with:

  • A question framework you need to get started,
  • You’ll know where and how to find customers to speak with,
  • And you’ll be ready to interpret your results at the end.

How to take this course

Here’s what we recommend:

  1. Go through the course one time through just watching and learning.
  2. Then go through a second time and do the actions.

Please feel free to take it a lesson at a time, completing as you go, as well, but proceeding the way we recommend will give you a great sense of perspective as you work through the actions.

When you’re ready, let’s head to the next lesson.