To help guide him through these interviews, Dan kept asking himself a few simple but powerful questions:
What do customers see as competition to Clarity?
What would they spend their money on if they didn’t spend it on Clarity?
Have customers set aside a budget for using Clarity or some other solution?
He then asked customers questions such as the following:
What other solutions did you try before deciding on Clarity?
What did, and didn’t you like about other solutions you had tried?
If you could no longer use Clarity, what would you use instead?
These questions helped Dan learn what his customers considered as competition to Clarity. He learned that before ending up with Clarity, customers had tried solutions such as joining entrepreneur groups, hiring individual advisers (who take equity), using LinkedIn, and attending conferences. “Understanding how people thought about our product and its competition helped us position it to be different,” Dan said. “A lot of people had tried LinkedIn before coming to Clarity. Whereas LinkedIn connects people, it doesn’t let them call in real time. It was also interesting to hear that customers considered Clarity as an alternative to attending a conference.”
How do you learn what pushes customers to make a change? Dan began to learn two important observations as he talked with customers about the solutions they had used: what his customers did and didn’t value in a solution, and what was pushing them to make a change. He found these data by comparing and contrasting all the solutions they had used and asking himself, “What do these solutions have (or what do they not have) in common?” Dan realized that the solutions “use LinkedIn,” “hire an adviser,” and “attend a conference” had an important aspect in common: entrepreneurs were trying to make a connection with a specific person.