Startup explorations #3 / Beginning customer discovery, and a self-interview

January 8, 2021

I've just started doing "customer discovery" interviews. According to one source, customer discovery is a "customer-centric, scientific process that puts evidence behind an assumed product-market fit." My education in it consists of reading only a few articles in the last two days; but in less technical terms, as I understand it, it is a method for discovering where the problems are that might need solving, straight from prospective customers. The crucial thing here is to test one's assumptions without imposing them on anyone. Hence, the interview questions are rather broad and open-ended, designed not to lead anybody to answer in any particular way.

At a first pass, with lots of help from the resources I consulted, here's what I came up with :

  • What do you do?
  • What tools do you use to get people to follow your work?
  • What do you like about these tools?
  • What do you not like about these tools?
  • What's the ideal outcome?
  • If you could come up with an instant, magical solution to get what you want, what would it look like?

Recall once again that the problem I'm interested in is that of audience building. Here I'm putting many of my assumptions to the test about what creators are doing to grow their followings and the problems they face as they do that. My assumptions, of course, come from my own experience as a musician. If somebody were to come to me with these questions, as a musician, I would answer as follows:

What do you do? I compose music orchestral, chamber, and vocal music, as well as musical theatre.

What tools do you use to get people to follow your work? Mainly Facebook and Instagram.

What do you like about these tools? The level of potential engagement on Facebook is pretty good; it feels more personal because my network is mostly people I know or have met in person. Instagram stories are really easy to do; because they expire, it feels like you don't have to make as much of an effort; and you can see who's viewing your stories even if they don't really engage. Although I don't have any real strategy for getting more followers on these platforms.

What do you not like about these tools? Nothing about the tools themselves, I guess. I don't like using them. I don't really enjoy attention and would be much happier if I didn't have to bother with these sites. In general it feels rather "salesy," although there are rare moments that seem like genuine connection. On the whole, using these tools has not really resulted in a following around my work. One would would have to be using them constantly to get any real traction. Also, I find that sharing media on Facebook doesn't usually get far.

What's the ideal outcome? Ideally, there would just be enough interest in my work for me to be getting a steady stream of commissions, performances, etc.

If you could come up with an instant, magical solution to get what you want, what would it look like? A way to share or point to my work that doesn't feel like it requires so much effort before getting any traction; or a way to make the whole thing somehow feel more human, and not just transactional.

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I wrote these answers down very quickly and without thinking about them too much, and later on I might change my mind about one thing or another; but, if prospective customers of our future product are anything at all like me, I would assume that they'd give similar answers; the thing to do now is to confirm these assumptions, or otherwise allow them to be challenged.

While all of this sounds rather simplistic, doing interviews in real life naturally comes with many challenges. In real life, people are much more dynamic and do not always give straight answers. Sometimes they overthink, and try to manufacture a "smart" answer, which obscures truth. Sometimes a conversation gets derailed, or veers off to unexpected places. I expect to learn a lot more about this whole enterprise as I get more practice. Talking to people strategically does not come naturally to me, and I suspect it is a stumbling block for many others as well. More than that, usually one would rather let their ideas run with reckless abandon and not have their assumptions challenged—but it's the only way to get to the bottom of things.


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