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How to Conduct a Great User Interview

Chris Achard

Software developer. CEO/Founder of NanoHop

Carmel, IN
Chris Achard

What is the Goal?

  • Validate an idea? Try flipping that to invalidating your idea.
  • Learn and adapt
  • Find product / market fit

Product / Market Fit

  • It is not just interest
  • True test is $$, but that's hard to get in the beginning
  • Look for a switch from you pushing to them pulling
  • See the user imagining their life with the product, and planning for it. That's a great sign.

Things to Test and Adjust

  • Problem: what you're trying to solve.
  • Product: what you build to address it
  • Market: who you're selling it to, price point, the person you're selling to vs. person using it
  • Wording: use words your customers use.

Finding People to Talk To

  • Your current network - don't ignore this! Just casually talk to friend about what you're trying to do. Does your uncle own a business in the space? Talk to them!
  • Become a visible expert in the space. Long term but great strategy. Meetups and blogs make it easier to find people.
  • Conferences / events / meetups. These are good, but make sure they're the places your users go to learn new things ("watering holes")
  • Cold emails. Keep it short and make it easy to respond. You can also find a way to personally connect, which increases the response rate ("I'm also in Indy!"), then follow up! "Did you get my last email?" => "oh yeah, I meant to respond but I was busy"

Conducting the Interview

  • In person > video > phone > email. Email is fine for a simple single response, but you get a lot of value from seeing a person's face.
  • Ask to record. It's going to go fast. Focus on engaging the person instead of collecting information.

What NOT to Do

  • Don’t talk very much
  • Don’t put ideas in their heads. Try to get their wording.
  • Don’t describe your solution. This is hard. You can mention it at the end, but if you mention it too early you'll muddle up their words.
  • Don’t ask what they want. People don't know what they want!
  • Don't ask yes or no questions - "does that sound like a good solution?" cuts off information too soon. Change it to something like "How does that problem rank among your day to day priorities", or "why might that work or not work for your business?" "Who are two or three other people who might be interested to talk about this?" is harder not to answer than "Do you know anyone else I could talk to?"

What to Ask About

  • Factual questions
  • Past behavior
  • How things operate now
  • What they don’t want
  • What they see others doing. The aspirational question! What do you want to be doing? These are words you can use in your marketing.

Dig In Deeper

  • Understand why. Ask “Interesting - tell me more about that.”, “... how does that work?”, “Describe how...”, “What was a time when...”. Get them talking about their process and try to understand why they operate.

Competing Products

  • Don’t despair - that’s good! Super valuable information
  • Ask what they like
  • Ask what they don’t like
  • “What would it take for you to switch?” This is a great question to mine for marketing language.

Ask for Referrals. If you don't get one right away, say "that's alright, I'll follow up in a few days"

  • Warm leads respond MUCH better than cold leads. 5-10x better.
  • Doesn’t have to be on the call - say you’ll email later to ask
  • Can ask for an intro email

After the Interview

  • Follow up! Prepare them with a “I’ll definitely let you know when I have more to show you.”
  • Make changes. There's no point to the interviews if you're not making any changes.
  • Do more interviews until you stop learning new things. Everyone wants a number - it's going to be different from market to market. 10 is easy to remember, but you actually want to keep going until you stop learning. Also, do interviews again after a few months! Maybe the market changed, maybe you have a bigger audience.

Check out How to Run a User Interview and How to Find Product Market Fit

Download Chris's slides, and email him if you can't figure out who to email. He'll even write your emails for you 😲

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