I originally posted this on Churnbee.com blog, this is a re-post to keep the post alive :)
Unless you’re in SF / NYC, surrounded by entrepreneur peers and industry professionals, or inside an accelerator that gives you access to a range of mentors and advisers — you definitely have a problem easily testing your product hypotheses.
That’s exactly the problem we faced with the startup we’re just launching — a dashboard tool which, in short, can be described as NewRelic for CEO/founders. How do we get the opinion of people within the industry on our product’s differentiation against market incumbents, unique value proposition and product marketing strategy? Getting feedback and advice from product & business guys inside Shopify, NewRelic or KISSmetrics shouldn’t be a big deal, right… You meet them on events, conferences, or have them in LinkedIn network.
The entire pay-it-forward culture should enable you to get advice for free — but not all of us have the luck and network to benefit from it.
The instrument presented itself in the form of Clarity.fm service — business advice on demand. Pretty much everyone is on it, so the only thing we actually needed to was to nail down profiles that match our criteria for exact kind of advice we needed, and then schedule the calls.
A week, and a half dozen calls later — we ended up with knowing that we’re on a pretty good track regarding product strategy, with two out of three main value propositions that work — and totally screwed product marketing strategy.
I’ll share my experiences and main takeaways that can help you leverage the Clarity network.
#1 — Know exactly what to ask
Since these guys obviously haven’t got a clue on what you’re up to — you really need to prepare yourself. Don’t expect them to do the homework and google you up, or get acquainted with your product well enough to be able to answer “what do you think we could do…” kinds of questions. You did not hire a consultant to solve a problem for you.
You have the guy’s full attention. If you cannot explain things in a few sentences and get them the least bit interested — how do you expect to excite a customer with the attention span of a squirrel?
Make damn sure that they understand exactly what do you want to have an answer to, and give all the necessary information and context quickly. Otherwise you’ll end up with some generic advice that you can read for yourself in Steven Blank’s books.
#2 — Don’t go for big names
Sure, you can talk to Tier-1 guys in the industry, which really seems like a great & unique opportunity. However, understand that such people are usually involved in dozens of companies, and probably give advice to hundreds of startups each month. Unless you’re under their radar for some reason (which most of you probably aren’t) — you simply cannot expect to have the needed level of attention to get anything but generic advice.
Tier-2 guys are much less over-saturated, and generally keen on giving a helping hand whenever they can. Each and every guy we talked to was genuinely interested in the product — they all immediately signed up for a launch invite and asked to keep them in the loop. Whoa!
#3 — Have experts validate each other’s advice
I wanted to maximize the effect with the little time and money I had at my disposal, so I did a little trick. Instead of shooting nearly the same question(s) to each and every one of them — while possibly incorporating that into product strategy before iterating with the next batch of experts — I actually incorporated the feedback from each previous call into next one.
Although this technically doesn’t give as accurate of feedback on the hypothesis, you have another huge benefit in this crunch time — advisers actually validate not only you, but also each other.
This is a “speed-dating meets accelerator” kind of game.
If you’re not lucky enough to have an opportunity to throw a curve ball at people from the industry, advisers, mentors or investors, or be a part of an accelerator like 500Startups, Y Combinator or Seedcamp — try and take a shot with Clarity. Prudently used, with minimal investment, you can get an incredibly powerful tool to verify, re-shape and iterate on any aspect of your product and/or business dev cycle; just like we did.