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Running Lean, 2nd Edition by Ash Maurya

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Chapter 7. The Problem Interview

Understand your customer’s worldview before formulating a solution.

What You Need to Learn

The Problem interview is all about validating your hypotheses around the “problem-customer segment” pair. In the Problem interview, you are specifically looking to tackle the following risks:

Product risk: What are you solving? (Problem)

How do customers rank the top three problems?

Market risk: Who is the competition? (Existing Alternatives)

How do customers solve these problems today?

Customer risk: Who has the pain? (Customer Segments)

Is this a viable customer segment?

Testing the Problem

Your first objective is measuring how customers react to your top problems. Some ways of doing this are measuring customer reaction to a problem-centric teaser landing page,[16] blog post, or a Google/Facebook ad.

While these tactics can be helpful in quickly gauging problem resonance with customers, you still need to engage customers more actively to truly understand the problems they face—specifically if/how they solve them today. This might be done using informal observation techniques like those employed in the “Design Thinking” and “User Centric Design” methodologies, and/or using structured customer interviewing techniques.

When faced with a new product idea, I typically prefer starting with some or all of the informal testing/observation techniques above to quickly gauge customer reaction, and then follow up with a more structured Problem Interview script, which we’ll cover ...

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