We spent the afternoon yesterday mentoring and working with students in the Starting Lean Initiative’s “Summ’erUp Program”. They’re putting in eight weeks of intensive work to move their startups to the next level. The theme? Customer Discovery – AKA the Great Barbecue Challenge.
The objective was to work with the teams and help them find ways of doing customer discovery that were as innovative as the products and services they’re developing. We used some fun barbecue-themed prizes to help keep the conversation going, and we even made a couple of interesting discoveries ourselves:
1. The greatest pain experienced by the students raised in North American with respect to “barbecue” was running out of gas in the propane tank.
2. Students from India had a whole different frame of reference for barbecue – they shared that for them, true barbecue starts with a wood fire, cooked down to coals. (And we agree there is something to be said for not taking shortcuts when it comes to cooking!)
Most importantly, the teams shared what they had learned with one another. The collaborative nature of these bright young people is something we could all emulate. Here are some ideas for getting customer discover right in your business:
1. Make sure you’re trying to get answers from the right person.
2. Using your network to get you an introduction to the right person (or someone who knows the right person) can be like an endorsement to get you in the door.
3. …But don’t be afraid to ask everyone if they’ve experienced the pain you’re trying to solve – you might even find the right respondent in the dog park!
4. Ask the right question – remember the focus should be on the customer’s pain or problem, not your product.
5. Right timing will ensure the person is ready to listen, and to speak freely with you.
6. The right technique can help break down barriers and defenses – and ensure you’re asking, not selling.
7. Storytelling, metaphors, diagrams, and other methods (like Innovation Games(r)!) can help you get to the right answers and a richer understanding.
We love helping our clients understand their customers and build meaningful conversations. We’re excited to see that these young innovators are committed to that as well.
Always asking questions,
Megann and Steve