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26 Resources to Help You Master Customer Development Interviews

“Get out of the building!”

How many times have you heard lean startup evangelists say that? Steve Blank often comments “There are no facts inside your building.” So, you need to get out and talk to customers.

This is sound advice, but where do you start? How do you find people to talk to? What questions do you ask them? And what do you do with all the answers you receive?

I’ve compiled a list of resources to help you answer these questions, because effective customer development is vital to product management. I hope these resources will be helpful.

Finding Customers to Interview

1. Finding People for Customer Development Interviews – Cindy Alvarez runs through various methods you can use to discover people to interview.

2. 95 Ways to Find Your First Customers for Customer Development – Looking for some ideas about how to find customers to interview? Use this list to help.

3. How to Find Customers to Interview – Want some more help finding prospects to interview? Check out this article, with a video included.

4. Best Cold Calling Script for Setting up Interviews – Don’t know what to say to a prospective interviewee? You are not alone; a Quora answerer gives a script for you to follow.

5. Identifying Individuals for Interviews – Don’t know anyone who qualifies? Or want to know how to find qualified people for interviews? Use this resource to learn how.

Interviewing Customers

6. 12 Tips for Early Customer Development Interviews – Want to know what to focus on early in customer interviews? Read these tips from Giff Constable to get you on the right track.

7. How to Structure (and get the most out of) Customer Development Interviews – Jason Evanish gives his suggestions for “getting out of the building” and interviewing customers for product-market fit.

8. The Art of the Customer Development Conversation – Brant Cooper provides some good principles for interviewing customers.

9. Never Ask What They Want – 3 Better Questions to Ask in User Interviews – Kissmetrics user experience research manager Chuck Liu writes about why asking users what they want is the wrong question to ask, and gives readers 3 better questions to ask.

10. Lean Startup Customer Discovery Interviews – A good checklist of things to prepare for and what you need to know for interviews.

11. What You Should Be Learning – Don’t know what you should be getting out of these interviews? Read this article to find out what your takeaways should be.

12. What Are Your Favorite Methods for Doing Problem Interviews During Customer Discovery? – This Quora thread goes through various tips you can use when talking to potential customers.

13. Should You Offer Incentives for Interviews? – Think you have to give something to get something? Get some insights in this Quora thread.

14. 12 Random Customer Development Tips – Tristan Kromer shares 13 tweetable tips for customer development.

15. How Do You Get Back on the Customer Development Horse? – Been a while since you’ve interviewed customers and want to get back to it? Let Evanish give you some helpful tips.

16. How to Actually Do Customer Development (and not waste your time) – Prefer to view slides? Check out this slide show which breaks down interviewing customers.

17. Tips for a Better Customer Interview Process – Here are some more tips for interviewing.

18. Top 3 Ways to Fail at Customer Development – Want to know the wrong way to approach customer interviews? This article will tell you.

19. Bad Customer Development Questions and How to Avoid My Mistakes – Kevin Dewalt provides some questions you don’t want to ask.

20. When to Stop Interviewing and Start Writing Code – So you’ve done a bunch of interviews. How do you know when to stop, and then start building? Use this article to learn a couple of different methods.

21. You’ve Interviewed Customers. Now what? – You’ve got pages of notes after dozens of interviews. Where do you go from there? Let this article help!


Customer-Driven Product Development – Hubspot employee Matt Bilotti has a collection of posts where he discusses customer-driven product development for Signals, now HubSpot Sales. Included posts are how they handle customer support and how they use live chat for user testing.

Book Suggestions

22. Four Steps to the Epiphany – A must read (I don’t use that word lightly) for current and aspiring entrepreneurs. Seriously, don’t take the plunge into entrepreneurship without reading this book.

23. The Lean Startup – Eric Ries, pioneer of the lean startup movement, wrote a book. A good compliment to Four Steps to the Epiphany.

24. Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development – Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits are well versed in customer development. Pick up this book as part of your lean startup bundle.

25. The Lean Entrepreneur – Cooper and Vlaskovits’s second book about the lean startup.

26. The Startup Owner’s Manual – The other book written by Steve Blank. Read Four Steps to the Epiphany before picking up this one.

Effective customer interviews are an important skill as you build and iterate on a product. I hope you’ll put these resources to use by either starting to interview customers (getting off to a good start) or sharpening your skills.

Happy learning!

About the Author: Zach Bulygo is a Content Writer for Kissmetrics, you can find him on Twitter here. You can also follow him on Google+.

  1. Thanks for the article! Another book I would throw in is called Running Lean – it’s awesome.

  2. A couple of years ago I put together my top 10 tips for interviewing customers based on my experience validating several products including GoToMeeting. Hope it adds to the conversation.

  3. You can always head out into society and simply talk to people on the street – in an hour you could have talked to over a hundred people for feedback. Attracting people with free stuff is a good way to do it online, or again out in the street. “Talk to use and you’ll get a free coffee” etc. works wonders.

  4. Derick Branson Oct 20, 2013 at 3:38 am

    “Should You Offer Incentives for Interviews?” …This article helped me a lot in getting out of a catch 22 situation I was in. I was in a peculiar situation in business (can’t tell the actual problem due to business obligations) where me and my business partner were giving real thought to offer incentives for knowing customer psyche. This article helped me a lot.

  5. Great resource, really extensive, thank you for this!

    You might like to take a look at this post: the author documented his experience of getting out of the building virtually, with some good statistics in there.

  6. I am a big fan of Steve Blank and the notion of “getting out of the building” to learn from customers. I shared my learnings on customer development in this article

  7. Thanks for the article. Already added to the pocket.
    I can add a book to the list – “The Mom Test” Rob Fitzpatrick, reading it right now

  8. Hi! I’m looking for a good (online) “customer interview” course. Any tips? Cheers!


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