Ideas and Validation July 13, 2020

How to talk to customers without revealing the the business idea?


I just started reading The Mom Test and it advices against talking about the business plan. So then how does one approach potential customers? Won't they be curious as to why I have asked to interview them? Especially during these times because I have to schedule a one on one online. Or did I misinterpret the message?

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    The problem the customer is experiencing is the real opportunity. Reverse engineering the problem they are having to meet with your product and service offering is what you want to get at.

    Ask questions in your customer interview based on the problems they are experiencing. Concentrate on the issues they are having in their daily lives and ask follow up questions based on the answers they give.

    You don't need to reveal your business or idea. You can say that you are trying to solve the problem in the area of X (which they are experiencing) and you are in the research and development stage.

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      Thanks @gordon. I will try that.

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      Prepare to have your assumptions destroyed. Some ideas might look great in your eyes (I'm a techy, so any technical solution to a problem is valuable to me - but often it's not for others!).

      I've done cold calling people, to ask about their challenges. I usually start with "I'm investigating a potential new product/service, and I'm reaching out to people with background _______. If I got it right, you're one of them! I hope you have xamountoftime so I could ask you some questions and learn from your experience/expertise."

      Usually people are quite interested when their knowledge is valued and will happily spend some time with you. Another thing I learned: the problem is usually hidden in the things they don't say. People are usually not aware they have a problem, or have done their own 'solution thinking' themselves. With enough interviews, you will start to see patterns: these are valuable! From there you can pick out a seemingly urgent problem and come up with the simplest solution. This one you'll validate with your customers. If you have a thumbs up, further expand and repeat.

      If you're working on building a business, my new startup might be interesting for you. We're looking for some alpha testers.

      TLDR: We value our ideas too highly. The true value is in the learning and finding a big problem.

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        @phalox if they don't realize they have a problem, isn't there is a chance that the customer is not looking for a solution and therefore might not pay?

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          That's usually the case. That's what marketing comes in for. Innovative approaches never were something people were aware of.

          People would be looking for faster horses, not cars. In this case, the problem is the same, but the solution is hugely different. How many people felt the urge to share short videos of their lives on the internet? TikTok jumped on a market that was non-existant (and stole a good amount of people from Instagram). In B2B, companies are usually not aware of their issues and how to do it differently. You'll need to make them aware, and show the value.

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            Thank you @phalox

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    Talk to them about their problems. People usually like talking about their problems. Don't focus too much on your potential solution or your business. If they ask why you are so curious, just say you are doing research on the topic.

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      Thank you @dhruvg

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    I haven't read The Mom Test, however I think your risk if you share your business idea is pretty low.

    I'm not sure exactly what you're working on (lol) so your situation may be different, but if sharing more of what you're working on will help them give you better answers then I'd do that.

    Alternatively if you have a vague/evasive first conversation that goes well, you could always ask them to sign an NDA and then share more later. But once you start doing any marketing, the cat will be out of the bag :)

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      Thank you @harriskenny. I'll consider this option.