This month I declined my final consulting job offer to pursue my dream of starting my own company. At that stage I only had my vision. As we all know, a vision rests on all sorts of assumptions that need to be validated. Obviously, the best sources to get validation are your customers. However, before launch prospective customers have to do the job. Fortunately, before spending hours asking people on the street the internet provides a very rich source of real customer feedback – found on review sites such as yelp / qype and foursquare.
I have found that for E-commerce businesses, such as (bad example) e.g. offering coffee online the reviews provided are very valuable.
- Start with a city in your country that is known for being both hip and critical as this reveals trends
- On the review site look for the type of business of interest
- Sort the results by rating
- Read all the best rated – pay attention of what customers like most (a business might be in helping businesses to adopt to best practices), note any inconsistencies between positive reviews and also note what people find most important (which aspects they address in their review e.g. price, service, quality…)
- Read all the worst rated while paying attention to the same things as in 4
- Change to another city and perform the same – look for regional variation in results. This is especially helpful as it is hard to travel only to ask people on the street for their opinion
After doing this process for 6 cities you should have a pretty clear idea of what people value in your business. This should help you to formulate your value hypothesis and the assumptions it rests on. This way you can go well prepared into primary customer research.