I hear this a lot from founders:
“I don’t need to do customer research anymore because I’m focused on solving the problem I experienced myself. I AM the customer!”
Except you’re not, not anymore.
You haven’t been the customer since the time you started thinking about solving this problem for others as a startup founder.
You may know the frustrations of solving the problem the traditional way, every day, as a professional in your industry.
But how many thousands of other professionals are there in your industry right now? How many of them are satisfied enough to continue to struggle with inefficient, expensive, partially broken traditional tools and services?
What is it they miss that you have? And what is it that you lack that they have in abundance?
You have chosen to risk your career to pursue a goal that any expert will tell you is most likely not going to succeed. You will probably lose several years and several hundred thousand dollars of your savings or lost income chasing your startup idea.
They are either satisfied with their work, stuck in it, afraid of change, or unaware of the possibility that there is a better way to solve this problem. Or maybe they just don’t care as much as you do.
You and she couldn’t be more different
And yet, every time they describe their workday to you, it will all seem so obvious and recognizable that it will be a real challenge for you to turn off the part of your brain that is already convinced that ( a) you understand the problem; and (b) make sure you have a better solution that they will love.
In the beginning, you argue with me and anyone who tries to tell you the need to turn that part of your brain off in customer interviews.
You’ll want to get through it quickly, if I can force you to do it. You will only hear things that you can interpret as confirmation of your current hypothesis. You ask too many leading questions when you should be open-ended.
You won’t be able to resist the temptation to introduce your startup’s solution, and you’ll give me a knowing smile when the customer replies, “Would I be interested in using this new solution? Of course I would.” crazy if I didn’t.”
Except they’d be crazy.
“Oh, so it won’t be free forever? Why take the risk of being the first? What’s so bad about the existing solution? How am I going to find the time to learn how to use something new? How can I convince others on the team to use it too? How do they get purchase approval from the boss? Maybe I’ll just wait for a few other people I know to tell me they love it and then I should get on board.”
You can’t wait to fix this problem for them, and they can’t wait for you to leave. You want to break the status quo and they want to defend it; sometimes even if it makes no sense to do so.
You are not your customer and you never will be. You are a startup founder.