Product validation interview mistakes

In the last post I mentioned verifying before you build your product. My initial interviews were very positive and I was getting quite excited to get started and build the product. Till I spoke to a very good friend of mine who does this regularly, and she pointed out flaws in my approach. She also recommended that I read The Mom Test. Cannot recommend this book enough, it is only about a hundred pages and is pure gold for people building products for other people to use.

These are some of the many mistakes that stood out about my discovery / validation process.

Mistake 1: Not talking to people

This was by far the worst mistake I was making. I was relying on reviews, Reddit and other places where people would talk about a problem. This is great initially to get an understanding of the space that you are entering. I would find a few Reddit threads or blog posts that would validate or negate my idea. I thought this was enough. This is only step 1 out of 2.

How does talking to people help?

A conversation with a potential user has many benefits that a questionnaire simply cannot provide. Conversations are dynamic, as you get more information, you can follow up and dig deeper. If done right, it allows the other person to express their pain around a problem.

Most of the time, the problem is not what you think it is. The good news is that, if you ask people they will tell you what their pain is. Then all you need to do is, figure out a way to solve them. Best of all it is super easy, all you need is few good questions. Let them do the talking while you take notes.

Mistake 2: Getting attached to the idea

My friend pointed out that I was trying to defend the product whenever she would make an argument against it or ask questions to probe more. This is quite harmful as I am closing myself off from actual problems and will potentially end up building a product that won't actually be useful to anyone.

Accepting and understanding this made me pay attention to the actual pain of the users. This meant I was spending my time during interviews actually listening and taking notes. You'll be surprised how far off you are from understanding the problem let alone solving it.

Mistake 3: Searching for validation over understanding the problem

What I mean by this is that, I was asking questions like:

  • Do you think X is a good idea?
  • Would you pay for X? or How much would you pay for a product X that solved problem Y?

These are questions with hypothetical answers. I was putting the person I was talking to in a situation where they had to guess. Most of the time I was getting positive responses and I thought this is great, this product idea will work. I was so wrong. These were among some of the mistakes Rob Fitzpatrick talks about in The Mom Test.

In my next post, I'll focus on including questions I have been asking and how I structure my interviews.