4 Steps of Customer Discovery Before You Launch

Kaego Ogbechie Rust
6 min readMar 2, 2021
Photo by Pavan Trikutam

As you build a new product for your business, be sure to conduct pre-launch customer discovery interviews to validate your ideas from the start, saving you the time and money by not building (or re-building) something no one wants. Here are the steps to successfully conduct your pre-launch customer discovery:

Step 1. Select Your Customer

Reach out to a small, yet diverse group of customers and set a success metric early.

Target the customers — Aim for 20–30 customer interviews. Stack the conversations around the same time to avoid large gaps; for example a 1-year delay may render your early interviews useless if the market has changed significantly since then.

Capture diversity — Choose customers with diverse perspectives to best represent the landscape once live, e.g., race/gender/sexuality, location/education, early-stage/growth-stage/pre-revenue, Does the customer have customers?

Set a success metric before you begin — In general, if 70% of the interviewed customers explicitly want a solution to the problem you are trying to solve in your hypothesis, then you can proceed with your product build. Be sure to track this.

Step 2. Contact Customers

Set up times to talk with customers, giving them advance notice when possible.

Schedule time with the customers — Typically, customers have a better chance of giving you thoughtful feedback if you’ve also given them time to prepare for undivided attention. Avoid surprise calls to customers, and instead, ping them beforehand to request a time.

  • (e.g., Example = A startup seeking feedback on their new food delivery app.)

Hi [Customer Contact],
We’re building a food delivery app for people like you and your patrons, and we would love to learn more about [Customer Company]’s day-to-day & most pressing needs. Would you be available for a 15-minute chat on [Date, Time]?
[Your Name]

Step 3. Perform the Customer Calls

Use a script during discovery calls to ensure consistency in your data collection. The goal is to determine customer pain points and their current solutions; do *not* attempt to sell them on your product.

Introduce the topic — Share your background, your business, and why it’s relevant for the current conversation. Keep any product descriptions general to avoid leading the interviewee to a predetermined conclusion. For example, say “we’re a food delivery app for people like you”. Do not say “we’re a food delivery app that saves you 50% in costs”.

  • (e.g., Continuing our Example = A startup seeking feedback on their new food delivery app.)

Intro by saying “I’ve worked in food & beverage for 10 years advising restaurants on their launch strategy. We’re currently building a food delivery app for people like you. We’d love to learn more about your day-to-day and thoughts on what might help someone in your seat.”

Ask Customer Discovery questions — Try to evoke stories and ask about past behavior, which helps predict future behavior. Focus on *pulling* out information (instead of *pushing* ideas onto the customer).

  • General — Could you share a little bit about your business? Tell us about your day-to-day/operations/managing your own customers. What do you dislike about it? How much time do you spend on X?
  • The Problem — What are your biggest pain points right now? What are the implications if you do not solve the problem? Can you walk me through the last time this problem occurred?
  • Current Solutions — What are you currently doing to solve the problem? What have you used in the past? How did you find them? How often do you communicate with them? What about? What is the most valuable thing they did for you? In the first 6 months? In the last 6 months? How would you change this current approach? If you could, what would you like them to do more of?
  • Follow up — Who else would you suggest we talk to?

Avoid leading — Stay away from sales-talk or self-promotion.

  • No sales pitching of your product.
  • No obviously yes questions, e.g., do not ask “Do you dislike bad food delivery services?”
  • No questions where the audience would not want to offend you, e.g., do not ask “Do you think it’s a good idea?”, “Would you work with someone like me?”, “How much do you think my idea is worth?”
  • Stories are better than statements. Learn additional details by letting them talk, e.g., say “Tell me about the last time you did X”, “What do you mean by X?”, and dig deeper with “Why?”
  • Remember, if 1 interviewee says something interesting, it is not guaranteed to be true for all customers.

Step 4. Collect and Analyze Data

After conducting the customer interviews, aggregate the information to determine (a) whether you can provide value to this customer profile or if they are *not* a fit, and (b) if your value is significantly different from other offerings.

Log your intake — Collect your findings; a simple spreadsheet or table is sufficient. Take detailed notes on customer responses to your hypothesis problem, plus any new problems mentioned.

  • (e.g., Continuing our Example = A startup seeking feedback on their new food delivery app.)

Determine if success was met — Calculate whether enough interviewed customers explicitly stated the problem you are trying to solve (per Step 1).

Decide what’s next — If success was met, begin building your product. If success was not met, you may need to rethink your customer profile, or build a different product that solves the *new* problem you unearthed — then conduct your customer discovery again if needed. (Note: In our example above, a *new* problem was discovered, which could lead to a new product build around furniture; or a new customer profile.)

Performing pre-launch customer discovery for your business helps refine your product, saving time and money over the long-term. Use your interview results to decide on launching or modifying your product to better serve your future customers.

Kaego Ogbechie Rust is CEO at Foresight Advisors — working with foundations, investment firms, non-profits, and for-profit ventures — offering comprehensive support across vision & strategy, investing & financing, and operational planning during critical periods of your growth.
If you’re looking for help, contact
kaego@foresightadvisors.co or visit www.foresightadvisors.co.

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Kaego Ogbechie Rust

I wrote a book! The Venture Fund Blueprint ~ Learn how to launch your fund: https://amzn.to/3s4Hayz