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El blog de Mikel Niño
Emprendimiento digital, startups, Big Data Analytics y nuevos modelos de negocio

Five keys for Customer Development interviews to give your customers the POWER to co-create your startup

One of the essential tools to "get out of the building", as proposed by Steve Blank, is doing interviews (not surveys or questionnaires sent by email, but face-to-face fieldwork doing individual interviews) to our potential customers, so they can help us working on the hypotheses proposed for our startup's business model.

First, let's put this tool in the context of Customer Development steps:

Steve Blank's Customer Development steps (

We must focus on the first two steps while creating our startup, pivoting around them until we identify a repeatable and scalable business model. Those iterations help us developing our hypotheses (proposing, validating, discarding or re-formulating them) until we can turn them into facts on which to base our business model, and that's where interviews play a crucial role.

But, how should we organize this kind of interviews, in order to get as much value as possible out of them? Let me highlight five simple keys that I've found particularly useful, and that I've summed up in the goal of "giving your customers the POWER to co-create your startup":

1. P for Plan. While this might sound too obvious an advice, more often than not, we tend to trust our improvisation ability too much, hoping that the right questions will come up when necessary. The better your effort planning the interview in advance by preparing a detailed script taking all possible questions into account, the greater the value you'll get out of it.

2. O for Open. Don't limit your interview with questions too biased towards your own business idea (in the words of Justin Wilcox: "1st rule of validating your idea: Do not talk about your idea"). Try to open up your views and don't pose questions with the sole purpose of corroborating your hypotheses, but to understand your customers' problems better (even though you find out that these are not the problems you were looking for).

3. W for Write. Although you may set up an informal atmosphere for the interview, you should give it the formalism it deserves, so take your time writing down everything that sounds relevant for your work. Share this goal with your interlocutors, so that it doesn't seem odd if sometimes you look too focused on this task.

4. E for Elaborate. Avoid yes/no questions and try to get your customers to elaborate on their own stories about the problem you're working on: details about their personal experiences, why they found those experiences satisfactory (or not), what they would change about them, etc. Make sure you understand correctly what they're telling you by giving them constant feedback.

5. R for Refrain yourself from talking too much :-) Remember that your interlocutors must play the starring role during the conversation, so you should focus on active listening. Quoting Kate Rutter, your role during the interview must be: "90% listening, 10% talking". As a last advice, don't forget including in that 10% your appreciation for their time and contributions.

[Haz clic aquí para la versión en español de esta entrada]

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