Problem Validation And Customer Discovery Interviews

Last updated on January 10th, 2023

By Angel Poghosyan

Around 35% of startups fail because there is no need for their product in the market. This shows that understanding your customer’s problem is a priority when creating products or services. This is where problem validation comes in.

If you want to build a successful startup, you need to have a clear problem that you’ll be solving. In fact, startup pitch decks must always include a slide about the problem. If you’re not making your customers’ lives easier, your solution might as well not exist.

This is why we’ve gathered all the information you need to know about problem validation in this problem validation guide. If you’re creating a product, this should be one of the first steps you take. 

We’ll discuss problem validation in its entirety, including what it is, why it’s important, what customer validation methods there are, what questions you should be asking, and what to do after you validate your problem. Keep on reading through to master the craft of product validation.

 

What is problem validation and why is it important?

Before getting to problem validation research, customer discovery, and other crucial steps, let’s first understand what problem validation is. In short, problem validation is a process that allows you to fully understand your customer’s problem, and answer the question of whether such a problem even exists.

Now that you know what problem validation is, let’s understand why it is such an important part of building a product or a business. 

Problem validation involves diving deep into your customer’s minds to understand their key pain point. Ultimately, this insight will allow you to build a product your customers actually want and need. After all, they are the ones who are going to use it. 

Instead of building a product and starting to look for its customers, problem validation allows you to tackle this issue in a smarter way. Finding customers and building a product exactly for them will make your product relevant to its users.

Now, let’s move on to the next section of our problem validation guide and understand how you should prepare for this crucial process.

 

Questions to answer before starting problem validation

When preparing for your problem validation endeavors, you need to answer a few questions.

From understanding your target groups to deciding on the nature of your solution, these questions will give you the answers you need to follow the right path. After all, it’s better to find out from the get-go if your assumptions are correct rather than creating a prototype and realizing it’s no use.

So, to avoid pivoting in the future, here are the questions you need to answer before starting problem validation.

 

1. Who is your customer?

The first step in your problem validation research is to understand who your target market is. By this point, you already have an idea of what you want to build and who it will be for. But remember, you are not your customer. That’s why the assumptions you make might not necessarily be true. 

This is where you need to identify your target groups and segment them by their demographic, psychographic, behavioral, and geographic characteristics. 

After identifying everything from age and gender to dreams and device use, it’ll be time to group your customers into categories.

You will use these categories to gather as much insight as possible, which will later be compared and turned into action points. You might just notice that a group with a higher income is a better target for your product. This, in turn, might shift your whole focus on the product and require a completely new sales strategy.

After identifying your ideal customer groups, it’ll be time to hypothesize the problem you want to validate.

 

2. What is your hypothesis?

If you’re making a product, you already have a hypothesis of the problem it’ll be solving. Ask yourself this question once again and write down all the assumptions that you want to test. 

After all, your product might solve a different problem than you originally thought. Similarly, it can turn out that your product isn’t actually solving the problem you want and you’ll need to pivot. So, you need to set goals and assumptions before diving into problem validation.

Research the problem you are hypothesizing about and find out everything there is to know about it. Don’t forget to dive into competitor research as well.

 

3. Are there other solutions in the market for this problem?

Customer validation research is a critical step. It’ll help you prepare for customer discovery interviews and give you tons of insight into your industry. Considering your hypothesis, try to do some market research and see if a solution to your alleged problem exists. 

If the solution already exists, chances are that your problem is real. This will mean that you’ll need to have a bigger focus on differentiating yourself in the market.

On the other hand, if a solution doesn’t exist, there are 2 possibilities - either your assumed problem doesn’t exist, or you’re onto a goldmine. 

This question can help you find real problems worth solving.

Last but not least, you’ll need to understand the nature of the product you’re looking to build.

 

4. Are you creating a headache pill or a vitamin?

One of the most important problem validation questions you need to answer revolves around the urgency of the problem. After all, some problems are bigger than others. So, you need to know whether your solution is a headache pill or a vitamin. Is it a necessity or is it a “nice-to-have” product?

Understanding the severity of your hypothesized problem will guide you to creating a better product for your customers, and ultimately, finding your product-market fit.

Now that you’re prepared for problem validation, let’s talk about the main tools you’ll use during problem validation - customer validation and customer discovery interviews. 

 

Customer discovery interviews: What is it and how can it help to validate a problem?

Customer discovery interviews are used in product development to help test your creation as a solution to your hypothesized problem. In this stage, you’ll already have a product in mind, and if you prepared well, you’ll also have target groups and problem assumptions in mind. 

Next, you’ll need to build an MVP and truly test out your product on your target customers. Ultimately, this will help you get in the mind of your customers and truly grasp the depth of their needs.

Customer discovery interviews are closely related to problem validation. In fact, your customers are the main sources of validation that you’ll ever need. But wait. 

 

Where are your potential customers and how do you find them? 

There are tons of ways to reach out to potential customers, including, but not limited to:

  • Your existing network
  • Your email newsletter
  • Contacts on LinkedIn
  • Facebook groups
  • Reddit 
  • Slack communities

So, now that you found your potential customers, it’s time to get feedback.

 

What questions do you ask when understanding the problem of your customer? 

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when interviewing your potential customer is being too direct or assuming their predisposition. 

You shouldn’t ask questions that assume that the customer already has the problem or they already need your solution. You also shouldn’t directly ask if a person would ever use your product. This will lead you to biased answers and won’t help you make your product better. 

Instead of direct questions, you need to ask things that give you a more general idea of their struggles. Asking open-ended questions is a good idea because it gives the customer the freedom to express their mind. Nevertheless, don’t make it too hard for them. Here are the customer discovery interview questions you should ask.

  1. What is the hardest part of getting (*insert the thing you are trying to solve*) done?
  2. Why is it hard?
  3. What happened the last time you encountered it?
  4. How often do you encounter it, and how have you solved it in the past?
  5. Why don’t you like the current solution you have for it?

All these questions will help you put yourself in your customer’s shoes and imagine the problem from their POV. This way, not only will you learn about the depth of the problem, but you’ll validate it and find out ways to present the benefits of your solution to future customers.

 

Customer validation and its goal

Customer discovery interviews are followed by a bigger step, which is customer validation. This is also the stage that will give you solution validation along the way. So, how do these validation methods work?

In short, customer validation revolves around building an MVP and trying to sell your product (hypothetically speaking) to the target groups you uncovered in the customer discovery process. This gives you insights into sales methodology and truly guides you in the direction of better target groups. On top of that, you get to gather feedback from them as well, which aids you in your overall goal of problem validation.

Don’t think of customer validation questions as a one-time deal. It is something that you have to iterate time and time again until you build the right product for the right users, and are able to sell it to them in the right way. At the end of the process, you’ll want to have:

  • Your ideal target groups
  • Your sales and marketing plan
  • Your perfect product

 

What is the next step after problem validation?

After validating your problem, it’ll be time to do the hard work of actually developing the solution. You will now have all the necessary insights and feedback you need to create an amazing and useful product, so go ahead and do it.

Remember that the actual development phase is an iterative process as well. You might still need more customer feedback while building and testing your product, so don’t be shy to conduct more interviews with customers from your problem validation stage.

Once you land on a product version that feels right, you can go right ahead and take your product to market. 

The last thing you need to do before launching is to develop an effective go-to-market strategy. For this, you will need:

  • Clearly defined goals for the business
  • Target markets and audiences to tackle
  • Brand positioning and product differentiation tactics
  • Key channels for promotion and distribution
  • Your marketing strategy for taking over the industry

All that’ll be left to do is execute your strategy. After that, it’ll be about working hard and smart to achieve the goals you set for your product.

 

Final thoughts

And there you have it - our complete guide to problem validation for new product creators or founders. This crucial process is a fundamental part of your product development process and will guide you toward creating a truly useful product for your customers.

We’ve covered the main questions you must answer before problem validation, went into details about customer discovery interviews, and finished it off with the next steps after problem validation. If you’re a new product creator or a startup founder, this guide will definitely come in handy for you.

After all, we don’t want to see you in the 35% of startups that fail due to no market need.

Always keep in mind that problem validation, customer validation, and other such endeavors are iterative processes. You’re not likely to get a bullseye on your first go and that’s not something to be scared about. On the contrary, getting it wrong means that you discovered an insight into your customer’s mind and you can fix the problem. It means that your methodology of problem validation is working.

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