How to find people within your target audience to interview?

We’re in a very early stage of our startup and are looking into validating some of the problems we want to solve. For this we want to run a lot of interviews with people from our target audience (we’re using the Lean Startup method).

The problem is that it’s hard to get people to have a 30 minute interview. We’ve got 30+ subscribers to our beta waiting list and I`ve tried my own network.

The issue might be that most are very busy and find it hard to make time for this.

The audience is B2B, digital marketing consultants and freelancers working for multiple clients and mostly active in lead generation.

We know there’s a interest in our ideas as the responses we got via and other sources are all extremely positive and the few people we’ve interviewed where very interested and confirmed our ideas.

Any ideas on how to continue?

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Sorry, it is not clear to me – is it hard to find those people, or you find them just fine, but they are not willing to be interviewed?

Simple – pay them for their time at their going rate.

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Are the interviews more for validation or trying to discover what to build or how to build it? Until people are invested in your platform, their motivation to interview is going to be limited. Once you have playing customers actively using it, then interviews are much easier to come by. Alternatively, instead of pitching it as interviews, what if you did “Demos” for people to show them how you could help? You’ll still end up hearing feedback and getting ideas, but the focus is more on what your software can do for them than the insights they could give you.

Assuming that your current interviews are more for validation, I’d suggest nothing is more powerful than launching something, no matter how small it seems, that solves the pain well enough to get people to put in credit card information. That’s the best validation. If that seems difficult or you don’t feel like you’re at a point that the product could justify credit card information, then I’d say a good step would be to do what you can to get it to that point.

Looking at your site in the other thread, you’re doing a good job focusing on the customer’s pain in the copy and the points you have. I’d say I’m pretty well in your target audience, and for me, my instinct for any kinds of promises like this are “there’s no way this can possibly work or be accurate.” That’s not a slight on your software, but rather I know how disjointed all of these tools are.

I’m only one data point of course, but having some information to show how it really works could go a long ways. There’s a lot of great promises on there, but it’s hard to believe that a lot of them are even possible given the state of the other apps and how they handle things.

The last minor detail is that “Sign Up” might be a little overaggressive in this context. Maybe “Join our Beta List” with an estimated timeframe that you hope to launch could help on that front.


I had the same questions rfctr had. I may also be in your demographic but I personally know how hard it is to even attribute the source (it could have been multiple sources all helping : Search > Blog > Newsletter > trial > buy, etc.)

Is there a way for you to MANUALLY do this for some customers?
That’s a great starting point to make sure you re targeting the right features before you begin.

30 minutes is a a bit commitment considering they don’t know you, and have now idea whether they’d get anything out of it.

Let’s assume you meant you can get them to respond but not commit to such a long interview.

  1. Pay them
  2. Do a shorter interviewer
  3. Have an actual deliverable (do it manually if necessary)
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There was something I couldn’t quite get right in my thoughts or articulate earlier, but @Clay_Nichols response helped. It’s somewhat about doing the process manually. You have to do it manually and get in and help people do something. By virtue of doing the process manually and helping them, the rest becomes an almost unavoidable side effect. You build a business/app/product once the amount of people asking you to do that thing overwhelm the number of hours you have available to help them.

Then, the business is really just a framework that enables you to handle the requests you’re receiving. Derek Sivers says it great in his post “Don’t start a business until people are asking you to.” Don’t build something and then ask people how to improve it. Help people in person, and let that guide and inform how you build it.


You nailed it!


Great, a lot of responses over the weekend :)… thanks!

I a bit of both Im afraid. Paying their regular rate is an option but Im wondering whether this wouldn’t bias them in some way as they might feel pushed to give certain answers because I pay them

The interviews are for validating our idea without leading the customers.
So to understand that if the problem we’re seeing is really a recurring problem for the target audience. To see if it’s a big enough problem and to understand how they perceive and currently solve this issue. I.e. if they currently don’t solve it it might not be as big of a problem as we think.

Secondary interviews will help us understand how to create a solution that works well for the client and fits within their workflows.

So at this stage building a simple MVP would defy the purposes of the interviews. Once we have a product it might be that we have to redo it completely based on interview outcomes. Also already having a basic product might heavily bias us in interpreting interview results as we`d want our product to be the best solution. … but maybe it’s our best option.

No, doing this manually won’t be possible as we would need data from all sources, and this would mean that customers would need to give us the raw data. It would make more sense to create a simple MVP. It might be an idea to focus on a very specific workflow first and built a basic product around that.

Yes that’s what we wanted to use the interviews for, get a great understanding of the client and their workflow and iterate the product from there based on client feedback.
Sadly doing it manually won’t work,

But still I would love to speak to more people first.


BTW, for those interested, I`m using the Running Lean method for this.

Why is that a problem for the manual version but not for the product version?

How will you get that data once you get your actual product designed?
That seems like it might be a big hurdle to customer adoption.
Or would the product somehow automate extracting the data?

And if so, do they then need to give you access to all of that?
And if so, could they just give you access now?

Could you show them dummy data reports and just ask “would this give you the info you need?”
(You still aren’t quite offering them something of value but you might be able to do this in a 15 minute interview).

Your prospects might be more willing to agree to a shorter meeting time.
BTW, I suspect that your chances of someone agreeing to an interview are 50/(Minutes-OF-Interview.)^2

I once was contacted by a guy who promised to buy me a lunch if I talk to him how my client does X and what problems we have. I would totally do that - I spend time for lunch anyway, and if it is free, why not? - but NDA stopped me. If it was my own company, I’d have no problem discussing my processes and problems.

The OP just need to find a quiet restaurant, because he really needs to hear what is said.

Besides, a lunch is usually way below the going rate for most of professionals, so here’s some budget savings, too.

Yeah, but that consideration will always be there. People always lie, for bad reasons or good ones. Maybe reading some guide on FBI interrogations is in order. OK, fine, just a guide on sociological polls or product interviews (duh!).

Yeah we would need access to the data for our final product too, but there’s a huge difference between putting your api key or give digital authorization otherwise and emailing an excelsheet with data :slight_smile:

True, we could probably make it a bit shorter.

Good idea, and would definitely have my preference but I`m currently based in Mexico City. Our target audience is not really represented here (few freelancers and independent consultants and the market is way behind with other parts of the world).

Yes, its not easy :wink:

After giving it some consideration we’re probably going to do the following:

  1. Keep on searching for people to interview using some of your suggestions to increase our success
  2. Start working on a super basic MVP. Probably without any reporting and dashboards so we`ll can do that part manually and work with early customers to create reporting that fits perfectly in their workflow. This could serve as a proof of concept and customer data would be secure.

Thank you all for your input and feel free to contact me if you’re interested in helping me out with an interview :slight_smile:

Yep, perhaps you could get the API key and then just pull out the data somewhat manually with a simple program that puts it into a spreadsheet for you and then you make the graphs/displays you would show them.

I’m guessing that for just the 5-10 interviews that might take you just a few hours to set up the extraction (to spreadsheet) and then maybe an hour per interview. That’s maybe 15 hours of work and you get:

  1. An MVP
  2. An actual valuable deliverable, so the discussion is “hey want to see some cool dashboards on your product?” instead of “sit through a sales pitch:” ( I think it’s NOT a sales pitch but they don’t know that.

Another suggestion for GETTING leads.
How about if you had some mockups where they look at them and try to figure out what the #1 thing they should be working on it. The thing that will move the needle the most for the least effort.


I no longer do customer interviews related to my niche (growth for hiring software engineers). It’s a distraction, and unless I’m speaking to someone I know will take my advice, it feels like a big drain. I would only do customer interviews related to problems/solutions that I personally have, and want the person asking me questions to solve. So if they come in saying “help me ideate!!1” that’s an interview I’d turn down. If they’re saying “help me refine my sales/marketing-related SaaS” then sure I’ll give you tons of advice.

Update: Try doing a sales safari, much of the customer development information you need is probably already online.

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Agreed. I think when trying to get a customer to talk to you:

  1. Offer SOMETHING of value. Ideally “hey, this is a simple, rough version, but it does SOMETHING for you”
  2. Make it clear you want to hear what THEY think

The thing is, that’s exactly what we want to do. We want to talk with marketers to understand how they perceive this particular problem and, if it’s a big enough problem, how we can fit our solution within their day-to-day workflow.

What’s the problem? If I have it badly enough, of course I’ll want to talk haha

It’s a problem that digital marketing managers/consultants that work a lot with clients for lead generation might have:

Combining advertising cost and campaign data with real lead value data from a clients’ CRM. Generally campaign optimization and/or evaluation happens with pre-determined lead value which is often based on an average. This disregards the real value of leads and might give a skewed ROI per campaign. Especially as certain campaigns might generate higher value leads than others.

Additionally people who combine this data often do this once a month, manually, which is time consuming.

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so the lead value is of the same leads that were sent by the lead generation firm? essentially, revenue attribution?