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I was talking with a founding team earlier this week and they asked me for some advice about how to approach product development. They wanted to know what tools or practices led to the best results.

Before we got to deep in the conversation, I asked if they had conducted any customer development interviews, and if so, how many people they had interviewed. And then... silence. It became very apparent in that moment that they hadn't talked to more than a handful of potential users.

I challenged them to set a goal of interviewing 100 customers over the next 3 months. It may sound like a lot, but here's why:

  • You need to have evidence that the existence of the problem in the market is not anecdotal but rather statistically significant. If 2 in 10 people you talk to have the problem, you might chalk that up to chance. If 30 in 100 people have it and they all describe it similarly, then you're very likely onto something.
  • When you interview that many end users, you develop a habit of interfacing with customers. The companies that we see excel are the ones that make it a priority to be in constant contact with customers.
  • While you may hear the same challenges over and over again during these interviews, you hear them from different perspectives. This insight will help you craft more focused marketing and sales messages because you know how different audiences experience the problem.
  • Lastly, it forces you to focus on understanding the problem, not the solution.

When you focus on your customers early, you build a culture within your organization of getting customer feedback that will help guide your product decisions.

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