Being a founder, you are the ultimate expert about your users' needs. Nevertheless, talking to users can be challenging. Here are 5 tips to help you get as many valuable insights as possible.

Tip #1: Find where your users are.

To do so, you have to know who your users are. For instance, if your product services remote workers, go on Slack groups and forums dedicated to remote work. You can also look for full-remote companies and connect with their users on LinkedIn. Or go to a local café and ask the people working on a laptop.  

The typical “Starbucks technique” is not always adequate though. If you need to talk to parents of kids with special needs, for instance, this technique will be challenging and you'll have more luck contacting your local daycares, or even putting an ad on Craigslist.  

Similarly, it’s tempting to get a whole lot of feedback from friends and family, but it will be misleading if they are not actually part of your audience. Your mom's color preferences might not be what makes your audience of tech professional click.

Tip #2: Don’t pitch!

Entrepreneurs' first instinct when being in front of a user is to try to turn them into a customer. But you won't learn as much if you talk rather than listen.

The first minutes of an interaction with a user is the only time you'll ever get them to talk about the problem, without them knowing about your solution. They might confirm (or not) and help scope the problem you are addressing. They might even unveil some amazing workarounds they invented!

You never hear this if you dive headfirst in pitching your solution.

Tip #3: Actually, don’t even say you worked on this.

People are nice and they might be tempted not to hurt your feelings. Then, you won't know what they think, which misses the point of the interview.

Tip #4: Don't trust your memory.

Just write stuff down. It's harder to separate recording vs. interpreting if you only go off of memory. As it may be hard to focus on actively listening and taking notes at the same time, you can have someone from your team sit on the interview to take notes, or record yourself if your user agrees.

If you are still pretty early stage, you might not have enough data to do quantitative analysis (for more on this, check our article on Why A/B testing is bad for your startup). Coding users' answers (= summarizing ideas in 1-5 words) and grouping them together is your first stab at measurement. Pretty cool, right? Recording even these highly specific, qualitative pieces of information will help you prioritize in the future.

Tip #5: Determine what’s valuable feedback and what’s not.

When you interview users, they will flood you with random ideas and feature requests. They are creative and it's great! But, this shouldn't distract you from the why. During those interviews, especially earlier stage, you are trying to learn as much as possible about the problem you are trying to solve, not the many different possible solutions.

Also, trust yourself. Every feature request isn't a good idea that should go on top of your backlog. You won’t forget everything your users say, and chances are, if something is important, it’ll come up more than once.

Bonus tip

Stay in character! Users tend to reveal amazing nuggets of information towards the end of interviews. This is also known as the "doorknob phenomenon" when patients reveal crucial information to physicians or therapists at the very end of the session.

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