At the end of every customer interview, get in the habit of asking “who else should I talk to about this?”
This accomplishes three things:
1. It helps you find someone else to interview (for free!)
2. It helps you understand how the interviewee perceives the concept, depending on the type of person he recommends
3. It is a signal that the interviewee believes in your idea enough to be willing to connect you with someone else.
In one of my first email exchanges about Martin.ai, I reached out to the VP of UX at a Consulting firm (at that point, I hadn’t yet focused in on startup customer development, and saw Martin as a research assistant for UX practitioners). My contact recommended I speak with a CEO of a startup in Cincinnati who is “working on ways to create faster mobile data collection for researchers to speed up the analysis and communications in research.” This suggestion was a warm intro, and let me get a glimpse into what about my concept really resonated with my contact so I could set up another customer interview.
Had he said “Hmm, interesting. Good luck!”, I’d have hit a dead end. Instead, I was able to continue to follow a path of learnings rooted in customer interviews, and I can keep open the communications with my contact to let him know how things are progressing, and the impact he had on my project.
Remember, the purpose of customer development is to mitigate market risk and be sure there are sufficient customers to support the development of your product should you build it. The earlier you can verify that people recognize your value proposition and can readily identify target customers for you to interview, the better.