Market Research Calls – Tips, Ramblings, Examples, Q&A

Shai Schechter • 2017

“Lean Customer Development is too focused on low-end products, but I’m selling high-end services”

This is true. I think the principles in the book are, on the whole, very transferable (Ch 4 in particular). But some of it does have to be translated to the higher-value, lower-scale services you might be selling.

The broad strokes of

  1. Come up with a very specific hypothesis of who you can help and what their problem is
  2. Reach out to people who fit, get them on a call
  3. Ask smart questions to get to the root of what their current problems & past actions are, as opposed to what they say they’d want / do in future

…are sound.

After that is where I diverge from Lean Customer Development:

  1. Make 2 lists: List 1 is pain points they’re experiencing, List 2 is a language library of exact language they use in describing the current problem / dream / what they’d want
  2. Use those lists to build out Pain-Dream-Fix bullet points
  3. Flesh those out into full sentences. You now have a sales page (if you’ve done enough calls with a specific enough audience, you’ll find that a surprisingly large % of that page is written by them, not you)
  4. Circle back to those people to validate the sales page you’ve written. Would they buy it? Why not? What objections do they have?

How do you know what to ask?

100% a question of practice.

My first ones were terrible.

But after every one I got better at knowing what I “should’ve asked” = can ask next time.

It would be great if you could start from call #20, when you’ve got good at it, but you can’t. Just have to accept the first ones won’t be ideal.

I’d love to give a more concrete answer, but i really don’t think there is one. It’s about gaining a feel for which tangents are worth pursuing and which aren’t, and you can only get that from experience.

Having said that, I got something of benefit from nearly every call, even the first. Allocate five minutes after the call to write out what went well, what didn’t, what you would do differently if you could do the call again. Because you can—with the next person.

But if you want actual, tangible advice on what to ask?

The most concrete actual advice I can think of is: ask lots about past behaviour and previous things they’ve tried, as opposed to what they want / what they’re going to do in future.

And follow tangents that seem like they refer to a high cost to the interviewee, whether quantifiable or not. Example:

<us> <A question about the field we’re involved in>
<them> Yes, we’re going to start doing that next year
<us> What’s stopped you doing it so far?
<them> We’ve just been too busy recently
<us> 💭 DO NOT MOVE BACK TO YOUR ORIGINAL LINE OF QUESTIONING. This is gold, even though it’s not about the product I had in mind, because we’re touching on something emotionally expensive: they can’t do X because they’re too busy. Find out why they’re so busy, how frustrated that makes them.

At this point you might be thinking:

I dont understand how you can make something from that though. What would you ask next?

You’d ask why they’ve been so busy. What’s been taking all their time. Does that frustrate them? daily? weekly? occasionally? How do they wish it was instead?

Their responses to those questions will practically word for word form solid gold on your sales page.

<your sales page> Want to do X, but your team is constantly tied up doing Y?

⬆ Exact language from your interviewee!

Someone reading that, who is like the person who you got that language from, will want to read on / buy from you before they even know what your product/service is.

How do you ask questions without being biased?

The best way is by not knowing what your solution is going to be. Don’t go in thinking “I’m going to sell X, I need to validate it first”, go in thinking “I think Y people have Z problem. The solution is irrelevant. This call is to talk exclusively about 1) the problem and 2) what the world would be like without that problem”. The bridge from 1) to 2) should not be on your radar yet, that’s for later.

How do you convince someone to give up their time for the call?

This is something I’m actively working on answering over the next few weeks, so I’ll keep you posted on what works and what doesn’t.

But where I’m at so far:

  1. Keep the email ‘you’-focused
  2. Be specific about the target niche and the expensive problem you want to learn about
  3. Be clear it’s for research not sales
  5. Keep emails super short
  6. Before you move onto cold outreach, start with referrals from friends (they can refer you incredibly easily if you’re specific about the type of candidate you’re looking to speak with!)
  7. If you’re emailing super high flying execs, you want to start with "Are you the right person to discuss ______ with? If not, who should I get in touch with?", as opposed to asking for a call. But otherwise, I think you’ll do pretty well with asking for 15 mins of their time to learn more about how they currently _________, as research for a new offering you’re thinking of launching for their target market.