Introducing our Facilitator: Daniel Johnsen
14. April 2017
Interview with Phillip Reinig, Founder of SIPHINITI
22. April 2017

Customer Validation 101

We know your idea is great, we know you know that, too. But one of the things we expect from all our Start & Found teams is customer validation, that means to get actual customer feedback and to know the market. We want them to get validation for their idea. Not only from other attendees, mentors, organizers and judges, but from potential customers.

The target is to get to know, who your customers are, what they really want and to validate if they would really buy your product. You want direct feedback from people. This gives you the opportunity to refine your product and business model.

So on Saturday our facilitator Daniel Johnsen will do a customer validation workshop and teams will get out and ask potential customers some smart questions.

Until when here are some advices for that:

Before starting to develop your questions, develop a hypothesis by answering C-P-S:

Customer: Who is using your product?

Problem: What problem do they have?

Solution: How will you solve this problem?

Don’t invest too much time into this, but try to be specific – being vague is bad, being wrong is okay. Now you think you know who your customers are, so you want to get validation by them through specific questions.


Try to get answers for C–P–S:

Customer: Learn about, who they are, what they do or whatever matters do develop your product.

Problem: Learn about the problems they recognize. If you think it´s a problem but they don´t, you are probably wrong with your assumption.

Solution: After you gathered all the information you need, you can tell them in short what your solution is – don´t pitch, don´t try to convince them. Just find out if they would be interested.

Regarding those questions here are some tips for you:

The frequently asked question about customer validation is: “How should the approach to people?” So if you are reaching out to someone, the easiest way is to tell them that you are a student and you need their help. When was the last time someone asked you for help and you rejected? Exactly most of the time people will help, especially if you tell them that you are a student.
Don‘t use Ice Cream Questions: “Do you like Ice Cream?”. Yes or No questions can‘t get you much output. Use open questions, so that people can give you actual feedback and information you can use to develop your product and business. Something like: “How are you dealing with that problem right now?”
Don‘t use speculative questions like “Do you think, you would…”, even if you know the answer they could give you. You don‘t want them to go into a direction, because you suggested them to. You want them to tell you a story. So ask things like “Tell me a story you had troubles with the last time you were shopping online.”
Try to let them talk way more than you. Since you don´t want to give them information, you want information from them. Don´t pitch your product.
Ask about specific moments from their past like “When was the last time you ordered Pizza and how did you order it?” or “Tell me about the last time you were travelling.” If you do that, your potential customers think more about that moment and will give you a more detailed answer.
Some people feel uncomfortable to answer too much questions. For these cases prioritize your questions. Ask the most important questions first.
This is an obvious one, but it helps sometimes to let people feel comfortable: Tell them that there are no right or wrong answers.
And again don‘t try to sell your product, don’t pitch your product. You want honest feedback, where people have their pains and needs.
Paraphrase what you have heard, in that case a) your potential customer will think that you are actively listening and b) you make sure, that you did get the answer correctly. It also gives your customer the chance to think further and maybe give you a little bit more of insights.
Answer questions with questions. If someone doesn‘t really get the question, it is normal that they ask a question. But you don‘t want to influence them by your answer, that´s why you are guiding them through questions.
Always ask “why?”. If you ask for “why”, you will get more context and will dig deeper into the feedback you did just get.
If they are interested try to get their contact details like their e-mail address or phone number, so a) you can follow up, if you have any further questions and b) you can inform them then you are launching. So the easiest way for that is: “What is the best way to contact you, if I have further questions?”

You might also use these tools to get some market insights:

  • The leading international statistics portal Statista (we have a premium access during the weekend prepared for our attendees)
  • If you have competitors, then you could analyze your competitors´ traffic and identify growth opportunities through SimilarWeb
  • Through  Google Trends  you can check currently trending topic or find the search trend for any keyword of your choice
  • If you are looking for the most Shared Content and Key Influencers, then you should checkout SEMRush
  • Additionally to actually speaking with people online surveys can be helpful as well. I like typeform for that, since the User Experience is fun and it feels like a dialog for people, who are answering.
Serhat Kaya
Serhat Kaya
Serhat Kaya is Founder & Managing Director at XPERIENTS – a digital communication agency in Hamburg. He is also one of the great minds behind the Start & Found. Additionally he is facilitating events around the globe. Formerly he worked in several digital companies like D-Level, Toptranslation and Hanse Ventures. Trained as IT-specialist and studied Business Psychology, he is passionate about startups and innovation.