I was recently approached by a wantrepreneur asking how to start a company. She was paying developers to build an app around her idea, but otherwise, she was secretive about the whole business.
I ended up giving her my general first step in any idea – find out if the idea is even a good one. Translated: Do your customer discovery. Consider doing a survey.

I’m a fan of surveys for a number of reasons (assuming your survey is well organized):
  • Who is your market, really? Is this a market of 1? She was convinced EVERYONE in the world would use her app. Yet, she mentioned she needed to get approvals to work with the government, DMV, etc. Well, the DMV requirement just excluded 95% of the world.
  • Is this a real problem? Asking your friends and family questions about your idea is a good start, but can be biased with people of similar backgrounds (education, geography, income, etc.) who may not be as critical as you need them to be.
  • What’s the product development roadmap look like? Speed is key in startups to not only get traction, but to get the right traction. To do so, it’s important to build products quickly, learn, and iterate. Surveys allow you to consider what pain-points (àfeatures) are highest priority.
  • How do you market to your audience? Survey questions about social media usage, device usage, etc. help paint the picture of what consumers interact with; thus, helping you most effectively market later.
  • Now, you have marketing ammunition. As K.P. Reddy cites, “great CEOs know the numbers of their businesses. Surveys give you stats you can cite in pitches, marketing collateral, etc.

When starting a business or thinking about an idea, customer discovery should be one of the first things you do.

How would you agree or disagree with customer discovery being the first step of building a business or an idea? What ways have you done customer discovery?
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