In part 9 we defined a set of core questions we seek to answer to better understand if our preliminary customer value proposition and business hypothesis has validity. The next step is to find a good cross section of research subjects to talk to and collect their inputs.
For our early VoC research (evaluating the preliminary customer value proposition and biz model) we are most interested in finding test subjects who provide a good representation of the actual “job executors” (i.e. people who actually perform the jobs) and relevant stakeholders along the consumption chain (i.e. decision makers, influencers and possible channel members – anyone who is involved in executing the “job-to-be-done.”)
So for example if our target market is construction sites, we would want to find a sample set of construction workers, supervisors, crib tool managers, buyers and their managers to interview. We might also want to find people involved with selling equipment to the target market – they will have great insight to what the buying process is.
Finding job executors who are willing to spend time providing inputs can be challenging especially if we don’t have any prior relationships with them. This often is the case when dealing with whitespace (outside your current business model) products and innovation. Don’t try to short cut this process and take the path of least resistance by talking to people who aren’t involved with executing the job-to-be-done. Though you will have people to talk to, you won’t have real insights to work from.
Unless you have lots of resources (people, time and thick skin) I don’t recommend cold calling prospect subjects. Cold calling is never fun and there is a good chance you will meet with a lot of resistance and rejection. Even the best of sales people don’t like doing cold calling – no one likes to be hung up on and chances are you will get a lot of hang ups if cold calling is your tactic.
It’s better to network into subjects by using referrals and other “warm calling” techniques. Perhaps your target market is pretty close to your existing market – i.e. you are researching a concept that represents a new “job-to-be-done” for existing customers. If that’s the case you will be able to enlist both your sales channel and personal relationships with customers to find the right interview prospects.
In the case where you have no market presence you will need to rely on networking techniques. Start with some of the preliminary people you contacted in the early stages of formulating your initial product and business hypotheses. You can also find people quoted in secondary research to call that can either be a good subject and/or a good referral for you.
Be a good networker and think of people in your network who might know of the types of people you are trying to locate. Resources like Linked-in can also help identify people who can connect you to the right subjects.
And another great source of referrals is from the test subjects who completed the interview – assuming you did a good job on building rapport throughout the interview, I have found most test subjects are willing to provide you with a couple other people they know who can provide input to your research. Ask them at the end of the interview though – never at the beginning.
In your initial contact with a research subject you want to both qualify them and make it easy for them to say yes to your interview. You will need to offer them “something in return for their time.” I have found that providing potential subjects research results (obviously edited to protect your IP) is often a great incentive. You can offer other reports and possibly other incentives – things that your subjects would find of value and interest and not necessarily paying them for their time – many may not find that appealing.
I should mention the goal of the first contact is to set up and schedule the in-depth interview with the subject for a future time if they are both qualified and interested in helping. They may be neither so don’t sweat it. You will need to do more networking. You do not want to waste their time or your time in interviewing someone who doesn’t add insight to your research – and like sales a “no” is better than no response at all – which you will definitely get – so be prepared.
If you have the resources (time and money) and the subject is open, see if you can arrange a face-to-face interview. Sometimes that is hard to do but face-to-face provides an extra level of insights. Phone interviews work perfectly well so face-to-face is a bonus not a requirement to be successful.
Before you start networking and warm calling I recommend you create a customer visit matrix listing who you plan to call, for what purpose (interviewee and/or referral) and basic demographics (job executor, expert, supervisor, buyer, channel member, etc.). Come up with a good script you can reference to communicate clearly and precisely. Be crisp, get to the point and get them engaged.
It will take you several calls and emails to connect with people in your targeted network and some people you will never reach. That’s just part of the process, don’t get discouraged. Keep a log of your contact activity till you reach your targeted goal of test subjects which may be a few as 15 and no more than 50 for your early stage VoC project.
In the next blog I’ll provide some information on how to conduct the interview including who should be on the interview team, an introduction script to set the stage and ground rules and some interviewing techniques.
Keep networking till you find the right mix of people to have good insightful conversation s– and remember not everyone will want to participate so don’t sweat it, instead get organized and network your way to success.