Customer Validation – Seek Validation!


Beaker Buddy Leona Keane by Josh BaileyLeona, here. In my last post, I covered a few things to avoid in customer validation. This post is chalk-full of tips to help you conduct customer validation. And why is this important? Because customer validation will have a substantial effect on your team’s success at Startup Weekend.

(Now, this is where I would normally be interrupted with a reminder to get your Early-bird tickets. But, I don’t need to worry about that because I already told you to get your ticket and you did, right?! Good.)

Starting on Saturday morning, you’ll have time to go out and talk to your target market face-to-face. Definitely do this, and do it a lot. The more of your target market you talk to, the better you’ll understand them. Gaining real insights to your target market is not only crucial to building a solid product, it will help you determine the best market strategy for your product…a product that you can sell to your market AND to the judges on Sunday night.

But, do you know how to validate your idea? We’ve already covered some common pitfalls, but in case you need a refresher…

One of the most common pitfalls of customer validation is not talking to your target market. Seriously, I cannot stress this enough, dude. Get out there; pound the pavement; approach people waiting for trains and people at Powell’s and Blue Star Donuts (and then bring me back a donut).

Another pitfall is asking the wrong audience. Please don’t only ask for validation from your friends and family via your personal social media accounts. Digital surveys are great, as long as you’re getting responses from your actual target market. While we’re on the topic of surveys, avoid yes or no questions or leading questions like, “Would you buy shiny thing that does wonderful stuff?” The answer will be, “Duh, of course!” But, that doesn’t validate your idea or prove you have a market.

There’s lots of good ways to write surveys, depending on your business idea. Most ideas try to solve a problem; a few are something new and fun that people wont miss until they’ve tried it.  Here’s some idea for survey questions ideas for a business that solves a problem:

  • Tell me a story about a time you experienced problem x?
  • What are you currently doing solve the problem? (This will help you gauge if it’s enough of a problem that people go out of their way to try to solve it. And it’s a good indicator that they might pay for a better solution.)
  • How well does what you’ve done to solve the problem work?
  • If you haven’t tried to solve the problem, why not? (If no one has tried to solve the problem, there could be two reasons: maybe there isn’t a solution, or maybe it’s not enough of a problem.)

You should also include questions about pricing (and give ranges):

  • What price would you consider appropriate?
  • What price is so low for this that it would make you question its quality?
  • What price is so high that you would think it was overpriced?

But, don’t make your Hustlers hustle for nothing. Really listen to the feedback you get, and if that means pivoting, then do it! Customer validation is all about finding the pain point, determining the value of solving the pain point, and building a product that really delivers what the customer need.

If I see one more team miss the mark on customer validation, I might just take my donut and willing crawl back into the beaker.

Do you have any tips on customer validation? Share them with me @PDXSW on Twitter.