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How I found 25 people for problem discovery interviews on Reddit

In my last post many people asked how I interviewed people on Reddit to clarify what to build. Here's the story.

3 months ago I read "4 steps to Epiphany" and convinced myself to ask first, and to build second. Book suggests you to draft Product Hypothesis and Problem hypothesis. In my case I couldn't visualize the product, so at least wrote a Problem Hypothesis and my main principles:

  1. What do I want? -> Help people reach long-term goals.
  2. Problem hypothesis -> Founders' emotional breakdowns break their productivity and lead them off track for days.
  3. Solution hypothesis -> share fuckups with people in the same shoes and turn them into a fun part of the journey
  4. What must I know before I start building the product -> sharing a fuckup helps to move forward
  5. What would be nice to know -> how founders currently go through fuckups, how frequently they happen, what solutions they tried.

These 5 points changed along the way and it's ok. Initially, I had no idea where the interviews will lead me. At the start I even thought I'll be doing some sort of a note-taking app or 150th productivity tracker. As I kept going It took me 12-15 calls to figure out what should be written in 3,4,5 in such precise words. I always kept the first point, and edited the rest when got little more clarity. Don't rewrite all this if first couple of interviews guide you elsewhere. If you get data on 5 different problems from 10 audiences, such sample is useless.

I didn't have any people in my network who I wanted to interview. I had few ideas where I could find people fitting my vague user persona: Indie Hackers, Ycombinator School, Slack channels, Reddit.

On Indie Hackers you can't text people directly, and the call conversions are too low. You put effort in making stories, talk to 1-2 people in comments, at best you have 1 call after so much work. It could be worth the hassle if I were selling expensive software, but not when I wanted first 10 interviews asap.

Ycombinator School certainly has cool target audience, but again it's too much work for getting calls. You write interesting posts, if lucky you see 3 people comment, achieve 1 call with an accountant who's there to sell his service lol.

Slack channels are a mainstream way for getting leads. People come there to sell and out of 15 messages in startup channels I had no responses. Yes I could go on but didn't feel like it. I may return to this channel later. Maybe with a $10/h guy spamming for me.

Reddit had the best input/output proportion for me. If you already have an account - that's great, cause you can text to 50+ people daily. If not, register one today as the older it gets, the more people you can reach out to.

If you have a new account, I'd do the following:

  1. Your name shouldn't be your business name. Of course noone will open your messages if it's CryptoDildo . com reaching out to them. I reached out to people with an account having my real name, it worked. After 2 months I felt I should seem more "Reddit-like"and registered another acc with RandomAnonName. Haven't used it yet.
  2. Make useful posts, tell people "hey let's discuss it in chat", talk for 5-8 messages and then say "yo let's have a zoom call to discuss it".
    Yes this may be big effort/low conversion strategy, but it's not my fault you haven't opened Reddit account earlier.

If your account is 3+ months old, it means you can reach out to 60-100 people daily. The main reasons why I picked Reddit over alternatives are:

  1. The ability to dm without leaving a thread. It's massive. You can text 50 people in 20 minutes.
  2. Many new people in each subreddit. In 400 reach outs, there was only 1 time when I sent the same "hello" message twice.
  3. Great conversion and effort/output rates. When cold mailing people 5% call conversion is seen as a good result. In my case it's been 5-8% with the first message and 13%+ with improved "Mom Test" based message. I didn't track stats, but it felt so.

You have to figure out what your product does and which subreddits to use. Try at least 3-4 different ones. Mine product was related to r/productivity, r/getdisciplined, r/getmotivated, r/startups and r/sideproject. It's better to look for active non-mainstream subreddits. Forget niche ones with 1 post in a week. My recent calls come from r/startups, but I advise you to avoid it at the start because people there are too diverse. No, you will not meet startup founders as often as you expect. Expect to find many students, developers and few enthusiastic serial entrepreneurs.

Brilliant thing about Reddit is that you can reach out to 50+ people every morning while listening to cool Hip-Hop beats and pack the week with calls.

Tips:

  1. There's no sign you achieved daily limit. At one point you'll be clicking "open chat" and it will lag. That means you achieved it.
  2. Don't sell in a first message to avoid being reported.
  3. Better look for posts where people experience the problem you're solving. For a long while I didn't even read which topic I'm in. After doing it more wisely I hit 15%+ call conversions.
  4. More comments there are - the more time you save, as you can dm without leaving the thread.
  5. Invest time in writing a more personal message when you're sure this person has the problem.
  6. Use calendly not to confuse timezones. Pay for premium version and make custom notifications 24h and 1h before the call. I did this after I got fed up with people not showing up for calls and ruining my schedule. And please, share it naturally: 2-3 messages -> "Great! I put my schedule into calendly for convenience. Pick time which suits you best [link]"
  7. As you keep going get template replies to such answers as "im private", "sorry I don't do calls", "send me your product first". For the first 10 meetings, I tried to convert these people into calls, but failed 12/15 times. Better invest your time into finding people with a problem, they'll agree to chat. You want to be selling food for starving people, not to those who exited the restaurant.
  8. Make a Notion page for putting motivating answers. Mine has phrases like "I'd be down. Would Sunday work?" ; "Sure!" ; "Hi, I have some experience, happy to share." After many rejections it's a sigh of relief to reread such answers.
  9. Do not be afraid. You'll be surprised that people who agree to talk will be open-minded and willing to chat. Majority of ~800 messages I sent were ignored, many people were frustrated, some were very keen, and only 3-7 replies were very toxic. They were so negative they made me laugh.

That's the message based on Mom Test book which gave me best call rates:

Hey! I've found your profile in r/startups comments and decided to reach out. I want to create a product that will help entrepreneurs get to long-term goals and want to make sure I'm building something useful. Earlier I was adding features relying on my own perspective, but got lost. As you hang out in this subreddit, your ideas could really help me cut through the fog. I'll ask few questions to see what works / doesn't work for you. How about we have a zoom chat so I learn your way of going through challenges?

  1. How you found the person
  2. Your inspiring mission
  3. Your vulnerability
  4. Why him
  5. How it will go

I started packing this post with info on how I conducted interviews, but I'll keep it for the next one. If you passed the discovery stage - share how you found people to interview in the comments. For the rest of us I'll attach a link to one of the best Hip Hop albums of all time, so this creepy reach out process is more joyful :)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqVD2yQqH7M&ab_channel=BrandonGantt

  1. 3

    Thank you for sharing your experience, very impressive!

  2. 2

    Sometimes the low conversion rate is worth the effort -- especially when you're trying to get insights early.

    Clever way to get some folks thoughts who are outside of your circle!

    1. 1

      Thanks! I agree, I'd be ok with more effort + low conversion when going for offline meetings. In my scenario I wanted to get to zoom, so this strategy worked best.

  3. 2

    Super impressive and helpful post, Denis! Thank you and well done!

    1. 1

      Thanks for your comment!

  4. 2

    Love that album, especially track 3 😸 Thanks for sharing your tips for Reddit outreach.

    1. 1

      Yeah it's one of my top favorites, really like the flow :) Thanks for your comment!

  5. 1

    nice work, thanks for sharing! if you want my story, feel free to reach out dor at dorkalev.com

    1. 1

      what are your main takeaways?

      1. 1

        Tactics: I am a challenge-driven person and so I strive to phrase to myself my chores as challenges. For example, to finish a 2 weeks task over the weekend. It gives some charm and glory to the chore and makes it much more appealing for me to commit to. It also creates a great story that I can tell (to myself first) and to others, followers, clients maybe = good marketing materials.

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