How to interview customers to test your business idea

So, you’ve come up with a great business idea and you literally can’t stop thinking about it, let alone telling your entire network about it. Great, now what?

Now, it’s time to ask that network for help. We’re talking about conducting interviews!

Don’t worry, idea validation is not nearly as difficult as you think and it not only helps kickstart your business, it serves as a baseline for determining whether or not your product or service actually works and if there is a place for it in the market. Think of it as a type of market research.

Why interview? You know that the success of your future business depends on customer demand, but to learn about that demand, you need to know what and how a real potential customer thinks.

From offering insight on your product (i.e. the details you might be inclined to overlook because you’re too close to the product) to helping build your market strategy, interviewing potential customers helps you know if your new business idea will work.

The great thing about interviewing? It helps you review your current solution, product, or service on a human level. Talking to real people can help you get a sense of the market you’re about to dive into.

The not so great thing about interviewing? There’s a certain margin for error when it comes to making assumptions about demand for your product or service. It also can’t help you determine the price.

To kickstart the interviewing process, we’ll walk you through and help you get the most value out of the process.

Step 1: Who to interview

Think this one’s a headscratcher? It’s not. In fact, you probably already have a list of people in your own professional and personal networks you’re dying to ask, but let’s help expand that list.

The interviewees most valuable to you are your potential customers or people who fit a particular profile or demographic that will be inclined to purchase your product or service.

To determine your target customer demographics, look at factors like gender, age, financial status, and personal interests of your target audience to find out who is most likely to desire your product or service. For example, if your business idea is luxury men’s activewear, you’ll want to interview young-to-middle-aged men with expendable incomes who have interest in or are pursuing athletic or active lifestyles.

Outside of your target demographic, you’ll need to interview experts. Using our luxury activewear example, you’ll also want to interview people who’ve worked in the retail industry in roles such as merchandisers, sales reps, buyers, and designers. You’ll also want to reach out to other brands in the space. There’s no harm in asking the competition some friendly questions. Remember, the worst anyone can say is “no.”

Interviewing Tip: Be sure to conduct your interviews live. Chats over the phone or in-person are conducive to authentic discussions. The more passionate a person is about a product or service, the more likely they are to enthusiastically discuss it in detail and when generating demand, details are everything.

Step 2: What to ask

So, you know who you are talking to, but now you need to figure out what you’re going to say. While it may seem natural to lead with the solution that your product or service provides, don’t. 

Why? Because you’re trying to determine if your solution will work and to do that, you need to find out what your potential customers want or need.

For example, ask your interviewees to describe solutions or products they wish they had. Ask them for details: How would that product benefit them? What would it look like? Why would they use it?

Make sure to take a deep dive into the problem. Two (or three or four) heads are better than one and these interviews can serve to strengthen your product or service by calling attention to things you might’ve missed or haven’t thought of.

In the end, talk about your solution. Be straightforward and ask for an honest opinion. This can be tough, but an honest answer is an invaluable answer as it can save you time and money.

Interviewing Tip: Let your interviewee talk. We get it. You’re excited about your idea and you could talk about it for hours, but interviews work best when you listen. Ask your questions and really take in the answers. You might be surprised by what you learn.

Step 3: In conclusion…

Take notes. As you listen to your interviewee’s responses, jot down their answers. Once you’ve conducted several interviews within your chosen demographic and sought help from experts in the market, you can begin to look for patterns within the responses that will help you draw conclusions about what works and what doesn’t.

Interviewing may seem like a daunting task, but it’s actually one of the more exciting parts about testing your business idea. After all, you’re learning about how and why your product will succeed in the real market and it serves as one of the first steps to make your dream business a reality.

At Venture Leap, we help entrepreneurial teams build and launch their digital products. Get in touch or book a free session below if you want to know how can take your idea to the next step and develop a minimum viable product that works.


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