Customer Discovery and Survey Research: Lessons Learned

by Emeka Oguh

Customer Discovery. I learned that customer discovery interviews are a very efficient way to capture the voice of the customer and assess demand for your product. I learned that I needed to develop an elevator pitch describing the purpose of my project when reaching out to interviewees. If interviewees were unclear on the purpose of my call they were hesitant and guarded on how they answered questions. I learned to phrase questions in the language of the customer. This is a simple but very powerful tool that helps create dialogue and increases the quality of the conversation. I learned that asking open‐ended questions instead of direct questions provided me with a lot of insight into things that I had never thought of. I also learned the effectiveness of warm leads, as interviewees were more willing to share information when introduced by a mutual friend than when cold called. When I did not have a warm lead to a person, I learned that flattery, e.g. reading their literature and complementing them on their writings, also yielded interviews.

Survey Research. I learned that survey research provides very compelling statistics on growth trends, customer preferences and changes in market demand which can help drive your product and sales lead focus. I quickly learned how to prioritize and filter out irrelevant data when analyzing survey research. I learned that conclusions drawn from data usually involve a level of creativity and assumptions, and to always check the underlying assumptions involved in research. Lastly, I learned how I present my research is just as important as what is being presented and to put data in a format that is easily understood by my audience.

Other Skills. I learned other skills that will be helpful when dealing with the ambiguity of searching for fit in a startup. I initially approached the company with the objective of wanting to get experience working at a startup. However, through a series of back and forth conversations discussing our shared and compatible interests it evolved into something more than that. I wanted to get experience in business development, develop interviewing skills, and see how deals were made. The company was interested in acquiring data on the product launch market, and a better understanding of how CPG firms valued social media. Together we developed a project that satisfied all of our interests. I learned that by identifying your compatible interests you can create an opportunity in a startup for yourself. I also learned how to negotiate deliverables work hours and compensation. For my field study I negotiated 4 hours of on site work and 4‐6 hours of off‐site per week as well as free coffee and lunch for compensation. Very useful skills to have as look for post MBA startup opportunities.