There’s a great quote by Steve Blank, “Cheating on customer discovery interviews is like cheating in your parachute packing class.” It’s true. Done properly, discovery interviews can be the difference between a thrilling, successful new product project… and disaster. The skills to execute high quality interviews can be obtained with the training and practice.
It’s easy to imagine you should have a single goal for your Discovery interviews. But in this article, we’re going to explore and look at hard data on three: 1) gain insight into customer needs, 2) engage & impress customers, and 3) develop life-long skills. With these 3 goals you’ll realize tremendous benefits!
Of course the main benefit of customer interviews is entering the customer’s world to understand their needs… so we can then satisfy them better than competitors. We all know—and studies have warned us for decades—that failed customer understanding leads to failed new products. But it helps to understand the two major types of failures, so we know precisely what to avoid.
These failures can be divided into errors of omission and errors of commission. Another way of saying this is we could a) fail to uncover important customer needs, or b) fail to choose the right customer needs to work on. The former is addressed in qualitative Discovery interviews, and the latter in quantitative Preference interviews.
Today, we’re focusing on Discovery interviews. Your “insight” goal here is to uncover as many customer outcomes as possible, and to understand them as deeply as possible. So when you watch an expert team conducting a Discovery interview, you’ll see them diverge… diverge… diverge. Always looking for one more customer outcome. And you’ll see them probe… probe… probe… to understand why the customer cares about this outcome.
Early results from our new 5-minute online survey indicate Blueprinting clients are indeed uncovering unexpected outcomes and understanding outcomes more deeply. As shown in the first pie chart, 87% of Blueprinting learners (who actually conducted interviews) learned unexpected information.
Why isn’t this goal a “bigger deal” for many companies? Perhaps it gets little notice because it doesn’t help most consumer goods producers. It simply isn’t practical to interview a million toothpaste users to “engage” them, is it?
But imagine you’re pursuing a concentrated B2B market, where the 10 largest buyers represent 20%, 50% or more of the market buying power. Wouldn’t it be a shame to conduct these interviews and fail to “wow” these potential customers? In a typical Blueprinting training engagement, we spend many months coaching our client teams… and some of our favorite moments are hearing their customers’ reactions…
One of the best parts of this engagement is speed. Fast “time to market” is good. But fast “time to money”—when customers start buying your new product—is even better. When you surprise customers with a newly-launched product, they seldom drop everything to begin evaluating it. But if you’ve been engaging them in parallel with your development, you’ll speed new sales up by many months.
Early survey results show that customers do respond positively to Blueprinting Discovery Interviews. Most respondents agreed with each of the following statements:
I’m sure you’ve noticed we are living in the “portable skills” economy. Imagine you’re in a job interview… perhaps in a different part of your company, or perhaps because your old job no longer exists. What would happen if you were a master at gaining B2B customer insights?
What if you were highly skilled at setting up customer interviews, overcoming objections that stumped others? What if you had demonstrated a keen ability to listen to customers during interviews? What if you were capable of probing for much deeper understanding than others? Just think of the value you would bring to your new business.
These are the questions we asked Blueprinting practitioners in our survey… and were delighted with the results. As shows in the 2nd pie chart, 92% of Blueprinting learners (who conducted at least one interview) felt they were better able to probe for deeper customer understanding.
Building skills is something we get especially excited about at The AIM Institute. We recently completed a Blueprinting public workshop in Atlanta. Four teams conducted interview simulations, and together had the highest scores we’ve ever seen. (Yes, we can measure interviewing prowess.) It’s truly a beautiful thing to watch this level of interviewing skill develop, which these folks will use the rest of their careers. (These public workshops can only accommodate a small number of participants and frequently sell out, so look for the next public workshop and register early at Blueprinting Workshops.)