Are you fully leveraging the superpower of customer discovery before you build?

If you are building a B2B SaaS/AI startup, a well-executed customer discovery process can be a game changer. And it can often be done before writing the first line of code for your new product.

We’ve observed a striking advantage for founders who’ve had a large set of deep, insightful conversations with individuals in their buyer and user personas. These are founders who have engaged in dozens (sometimes hundreds) of meaningful one-on-one discussions, distilled the essence of these interactions into actionable insights, and use that info to iterate to that elusive product-market fit.

Customer discovery done right can meaningfully increase your success probability, minimize the risk of missteps, and fast-track your journey. It can help you:
▶ Decide whether to pursue an idea (Go/No Go)
▶ Set product direction
▶ Refine your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)
▶ Recognize markers that identify early adopters
▶ Build a network and buzz – it’s easier to initiate discovery than sales conversations
▶ Raise venture capital – a window into your customer discovery findings is invaluable for pre-seed and seed investors like us

However, it’s a blend of science and art to execute this effectively. How do you avoid false positives? How do you extract a diverse range of insights? How do you get the most out of it?

Here are some suggestions:
✅ Begin with hypotheses on pain points, potential ICPs and champion personas; then iterate rapidly based on feedback
✅ Balance conversations between your extended network and cold outreach to avoid biased insights. Talk to a wide set, including buyers, users, gatekeepers, and decision influencers
✅ Ask open-ended questions. Is the problem you are solving top of mind for them? How are they solving it today? Have they looked for other solutions to the problem? Would they have ability to rally stakeholders internally and spend meaningfully on such a product?
✅ Hone your surveying skills, including observing non-verbal cues
✅ Listen more, sell less. At this stage, your aim is to learn, not pitch
✅ Keen an open mind. A robust customer discovery process might reveal an adjacent ICP, champion, or opportunity
✅ Avoid getting swayed by the biggest name or the loudest voice. Look for consistent patterns across multiple customers
✅ For those who engage meaningfully, keep them in the loop with regular updates and thoughtful follow-ups as you progress
✅ Once you are off the ground, make nuanced customer discovery a core part of your organizational DNA. Technologies and customer preferences are moving faster than ever, and well-executed customer discovery helps you stay in tune with the market and recognize new opportunities

What’s your experience with customer discovery? Have you found any tactics particularly effective or pitfalls to avoid?

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