Dmitry Dumik is a serial entrepreneur. Myata is his 3rd and the most successful project (a mobile app, an aggregator of VK content). It has gathered 1.3 million installs in Russia. Dmitry has shared the wrong and right ways to reveal client needs, interview scripts Myata team used for the clients.

History of Dmitry Dumik

Before launching Myata, Dmitry had been engaged in the introduction of Procter&Gamble products throughout the world for 5 years. Then he developed Penxy start up — a mobile app for managing presentations and their recordings. Myata startup entered 500startups accelerator in August 2014 and guys became the 1st Russian team in the program. Dmitry shares his experience and tells about the Customer Development process.

Customer Development is a method of revealing client needs and testing a business model by interviewing users. He considers this method to be one of the reasons why Myata has become a success (120 000 installs during the 1st week, it also entered AppStore TOP3 without a marketing budget).

Dmitry starts by reviewing mistakes that the Penxy team made.

“We attracted investments to Penxy, were residents at Skolkovo, and got 4th place in the rating of the hottest startups from Mashable but our app didn’t succeed. Why did it happen?

Instead of communicating with clients, we’re doing what can do really well: developing a cool project. As a result, it turned out that nobody needs it. We started developing Penxy in June, the 1st version for iPad was ready in October. And the 1st feedback from a client we got was “When I read a 2-hour lecture, it’s difficult to hold an iPad, it would be easier with an iPhone.” So we wasted 4 months for releasing a version for the iPad. We could have checked the demand for the offer with the help of a dictaphone, YouTube, and a manually synchronized with a lecturer’s voice presentation. It would have taken 3 hours instead of 4 months. That’s why I want to tell you about Customer Development, an interview with potential clients. As Henry Ford said once: “If I asked clients what do they want, they would tell me they want fast and tireless horses.” But Henry Ford offered them a car. It was his vision of a solution to the clients’ problems. Your task is to find out their problem, understand the right context, offer them a thing they would buy. How to understand what idea clients will like and which product will be demanded?

The first rule of Customer Development club:

We don’t tell about your idea/solution to the problem stage of the interview.

We don’t try to sell our solution, its functionality. Why? Firstly, when you tell about your product, your brain switches on selling regime and this is a big mistake. You don’t try to understand your user, find out the needs. It’s a different format of brain work. Secondly, if we try to sell our solution, we create a cognitive distortion, a systematic mistake in thinking which leads astray people’s answers from the topic and make them come to the wrong conclusion (and us as well).

An example of distortion: at Stanford, there was an investigation where students were divided into 2 groups and polled. The 1st group was asked whether it was true that Gandhi lived for 500 years. The 2nd group was asked how many years did Gandhi live? The 1st group increased the probable age of Gandhi per 20% as a cognitive distortion had been formed: they oriented on 500 years. The same thing will happen with the evaluation of your ideas by potential users if you start selling your solution to them. A memory of a situation will be formed and it’s difficult to put it aside. Clients’ answers won’t be correct.

The second rule of Customer Development club:

We don’t ask questions about the future.

For example: “Would you buy…?”, “Would you use…?” Why shouldn’t you do this? A person can answer you anything at all. But it doesn’t mean he/she will actually do it. You shouldn’t ask questions not knowing the situational context. A person’s behavior may change in each case that’s why it’s better to ask about something that has already happened but not make a client dream about something. The information will be irrelevant.

A vivid example: remember when you’re falling asleep, you plan to get up at 7 a.m. in order to attend an important meeting. When you get up at 7 a.m. your brain finds wonderful reasons why you should cancel the meeting and sleep a little bit more. You haven’t changed, it’s the situation that has changed. But your brain has changed the context and its attitude to it.

A script for a universal interview with clients for B2C-services

1. Tell me the story when it was the last time you…

For example, we want to create an app for booking tickets to a cinema. We ask: “Tell me when was the last time you went to the cinema?” We always start with an open question. You shouldn’t use closed format: “yes” or “no”. We want people to share the real experience with us. Ask questions in a friendly tone. Don’t use uncomfortable questions like “What’s your average monthly income?” The invasion of personal space sets up a negative mood in people.

2. What was the most difficult thing to do?

Here we ask what difficulties have they encountered. For example, a person may say: we came beforehand, stood in a queue for half an hour, and still got bad places.

3. The most important is why it was so difficult? It’s a golden question.

It shows us a real problem, “pain”, reveals emotions which drive our potential clients. A person may answer: many people buy tickets before the movie starts but I wanted to get good places so I had to come earlier. Asking such a question, we get a precise value offer. We may target advertisements on Facebook at males with relationships status “dating” and write a message for the advertising banner: “Always book best places in the cinema for you and your girlfriend!”

We don’t sell a value we made up. We talk with users about what they are worried about.

4. How do you solve the problem now?

In our example, the answer is — «I come beforehand». If people answer something like “I just put up with the situation”, it means that the problem isn’t so important for them. In this case, users won’t pay for the solution.

5. Why it’s not cool?

In our case, it’s not cool as the person has wasted half an hour standing in a queue. We can use the saving time to our advantage.

Several bonuses: emotions, 3 repeats, 5 “Why?”

Emotions play an important role in decision making. Don’t forget to reveal them as applied to an idea.

3 repeats. We ask one and the same question 3 times in different contexts: behavior patterns of the same person may differ a lot in various conditions.

5 “Why?” We ask the question until we get the deep reason or emotion.

Another example: an app that helps users to be in time — analyses route and time spent on the way. A team communicated with a woman who is often late. She told them that the most horrible moment in the process was when she and her children came to an appointment on time and the other person was late. The kids were running around and she couldn’t calm them down so it provoked negative emotions. It became clear that a person has the strongest emotions when another person is late. The team carried out a poll: do you consider it a problem when you’re being late? 80% of respondents answered negatively. As a result, the value offer has changed. It was: “Download the app in order not to be late”, it became “Give the app to your friends and colleagues so they stop being late.” The conversion rate has risen at once because of the emotion found.

When we were creating Customer Development for Myata, one girl told us that she was irritated when people started to send her messages in VK while she was there only for reading community pages. At that moment we learned an API peculiarity of VK: it doesn’t show online status when you read the feed via our app. We used our users’ words in the series of advertising posts: “Read the best VK content in invisible regime!”

A script for an interview with clients in B2B:

You should add these 3 questions at the beginning of an interview in a case with a B2B startup to the ones mentioned above:

1. Describe what you do in the company?

An answer like “I’m a sales manager isn’t enough”. It’s necessary to understand how does the person perceives the job. If a client says “I’m in charge of a sales department…”, you can explain the benefit of your product in an easy way. For example, “It will be helpful for managing a sales department if you…”.

2. What is a professional success for you?

You should understand the success criteria for a potential client in order to form a sales process. The things you’re going to sell.

3. What’s the hindrance on the way to success?

Here we reveal the most important “pain”. Go deeper into the problems of the organization. Maybe it has inefficient management or the interviewed person doesn’t make decisions on this question. Asking these questions, you understand the person better and understand the situational context.

When it’s enough of interviews and it’s time to get down to the product?

You should stop when you’re ready to bet $100 that you know all the respondent’s answers beforehand. It means that you’ve found a segment where you can create a product. If you’ve carried out several interviews and people still answer differently, you have formulated the first question incorrectly, in a very broad sense. You should focus on it and specify it. After several interviews, you’ll find key problems you can concentrate on and dig deeper.

How to ask?

– Personally

Be in the right place at the right time. For example, a team of an app for booking cinema tickets met people right in the queue: they’re bored, they have time, it’s the target audience. A question should be interesting, a person asking it — open and friendly. Throw away all the doubts, shyness, shake hands and ask a question, smiling.

– YouDo

At the beginning of Myata development we were in the USA and it was difficult to find girls of a definite age who use VK via an iPhone. We wrote an advertisement in YouDo with all the requirements. But you shouldn’t offer a large sum of money as you may get an irrelevant audience.

Amazon Mechanical Turk

It’s a crowdsourcing platform in the USA. Similar to YouDo.

Idea testing with the help of MVP

The sequence of actions:

  • Minimal (or no) product development
  • Market analysis
  • Interview
  • Idea testing with the help of landings and crowdfunding

Don’t create a product before the Customer Development stage. Don’t make a mistake. You can calculate all the metrics without doing anything. We live in a wonderful time: 99% of ideas can be tested without developing a product. Even if some MVP needed, it’s gathered from blocks with the help of side services.

Landing is the most popular way of confirming ideas. In the USA Amazon Payments system will help. It confirms a desire to pay. It has the possibility to authorize a payment with a delayed effect. If you don’t get a needed reaction, the money will get back to the people. And if they pay, it’s the answer to your question.”