The benefit of having a team doing this work is we have a much wider network to tap. – Agnes Malatinszky, Senga founder and thoughtbot Incubator participant, week 1
We’re here in the thoughtbot Incubator reporting to you live with the latest updates. Curious how we got here? Check out last week’s post about Week 1.
Incubator Stage 2: Customer Focus & Research
We’ve got our list of possible segments and the dynamics that we care about and we’ve sorted them according to what we already know. Now it’s time to learn as much as we can by conducting both interviews and research.
- Recruiting: Where do our future customers hang out? Do they read email or do we need to contact them via LinkedIn, Twitter DMs, Discord, standing in front of the grocery store with a clipboard? Even whether or not we can get interviews with people tells us something about how much our value proposition and messaging resonates.
- Developing a script: What are we trying to learn? How do we guide the conversation to the things we want to learn about without “leading the witness”? We need interviewees to tell us what is true about their lives and work, not what they *wish* was true or what they think we want to hear.
- Documenting and sharing interview highlights: We record and transcribe interviews whenever possible, and we take notes. From that raw material, we create a summary and key insights to share with the team. We need to divide to conquer, but we also need to be maintaining alignment across the team on what we’re each learning.
- Where: As with recruiting folks to interview, we go where people hang out and observe. Online that’s going to be places like Reddit, Twitter, Discord, Slack, YouTube, Tiktok, etc. We’re going to look at both main posts and the ensuing discussions. Offline, this could be conferences or community spaces.
- What: We can’t read every post, so we develop searches to get at the topics that are relevant to what we’re working on. Then we read and listen to as much as we can, surfacing highlights back to the team much like we do with interviews.
As we learn more about our target market’s pain points, we will start to develop value propositions and marketing messages that we think will resonate. We immediately weave those back into our interviewing and research, but we can also go a step further and begin testing them out in the market by advertising a solution and seeing who responds.
As with everything, where and how to do this depends on the product in question but it can be a billboard, a digital ad, an ad on a taxi or on a placemat at the local diner. Set it up and see who responds!
Agnes check-in! What’s on your mind after the first few weeks of the incubator?
We continued interviews in earnest this week. The benefit of having a team doing this work is we have a much wider network to tap. We’ve already talked to software developers, musicians, producers, visual artists, photographers, graphic designers, data scientists, management consultants, health coaches, nutritionists, and writers.
It’s tempting to think of every small repeat pattern in these conversations as a sign, but I’m doing my best to be disciplined and not jump to conclusions just yet. Some of the bright spots this week have come from finding pain points that seem to resonate across industries/disciplines.
We also dove into competitive research and “strategic lurking” in relevant online communities. People tend to be vocal about difficulties they come across in their life and work if you know where to look – which is super convenient when we’re looking for exactly this type of unfiltered information.
However, probably the biggest news of the week was that we set up a basic landing page, paired it with a Typeform survey, and started running Google ads. Seeing that people out in the real world are responding to the ads is a small victory!Things on my mind this week:
- Differentiating signal from noise. When do we have enough information to confidently confirm or throw out a hypothesis?
- Getting creative with problem solving. I’ve found that some of the basic ideas I came into the incubator with are already being built by more established companies. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t room in the market to solve other problems!
- Continuing to loop back around to my list of assumptions, key dynamics, pain points, solution ideas, and potential customer profiles as new information emerges. I still haven’t taken anything off the table, but it’s starting to feel like that’ll change next week.
For the next stage, Agnes and the thoughtbot team will continue to synthesize what they’re learning from customer interviews, research, and now a set of ad campaigns and landing pages.
If you are going through a business validation process, or hope to in the future, this programming can be a resource for you as well. We are also doing weekly LinkedIN Live broadcasts with the incubator team to dig even deeper into what’s being uncovered as it happens. Follow thoughtbot on LinkedIN to catch us live or watch the recordings.