Focus On What Customers Do, Not What They Say‍

Why you should place more value in what customers do verses what they say, a warning against biased feedback.

A.T. Gimbel
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February 27, 2024

I was recently speaking with an entrepreneur who was describing all the great feedback they were getting from potential customers: why they loved the idea, how they can’t wait to use the product once it is ready, and why they would pay money for it. Unfortunately I have been burned many times by what customers say. Instead, focus more on what they do.

Customer discovery

During customer discovery be careful asking questions about what customers think about your idea. Like The Mom Test describes, most people will be nice and tell you what you want to hear. Instead, ask more questions about what they have actually done. What is your biggest current challenge? When was the last time it happened? What did you do about it? Have you looked for a permanent solution? Why is the current solution good/not good enough? If they are not already trying to solve the problem, I would question how must-have that problem is to solve.

First customers

Be careful asking questions like would you use the product, would you buy it, or how much would you pay. While maybe directional, they will be biased towards being nice and telling you what you want to hear. Instead, get potential customers to pay to be design/development partners and build it with you. You will get infinitely better feedback from a paying customer and further test authentic demand.

Investor pitches

I meet with a lot of entrepreneurs who describe their early feedback as “everyone loves it.” When you dig in, this is just what people have told them. Not many customers are using the product, let alone paying for it. As I have written before, you can still show traction pre-revenue. Focus more on describing traction with what customers are doing versus what they are saying about your idea.

It is easy to hear what you want to hear, but I encourage you to challenge yourself to really dig into what customers are actually doing to solve their problems and how they actually engage using your solution for much better feedback and product iterations.

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