B2B · Customer Validation

What are your best strategies to speak to potential customers in the market research phase to validate your idea?

Marc Giovannini Thrilled to start my new venture

February 7th, 2018

I'm currently trying to reach out to potential customers and experts for a B2B idea (direction POS Marketing). Besides getting in touch with my network I also connect with people on Linkedin and reach out to them to get some initial answers and hopefully even more. The process takes time and is tedious. Furthermore, the success rate to get feedback is rather low (less than 5%). I thought about including some reward (e.g. vouchers etc.), which worked quite well with my last B2C idea via FB. When contacting business people/experts this feels a bit strange for me though. Thus, I'm asking you guys if you have alternative strategies to talk to potential customers in such early phase or generally some good tips and tricks on this topic (maybe Reddit, Quora etc.?)

Alexander Finch Cofounder @ Tri-D Dynamics Inc., GEM Fellow, 1st 3D printed Rocket Engine from University

February 8th, 2018

Marc, I recently completed the NSF I-Corps program which goes through this exact process of “customer discovery”. I completed over 100 customer interviews in 6 weeks time, mostly in person. Tips on getting in contact with people: 1) Ask your network for referrals - referrals are the most powerful introduction 2) Play the “researcher”, or better yet, the “student” card if you can. Saying you are a researcher developing technology with potential applications in a certain industry, and thus want to learn more about the industry, is way more effective than saying you are a startup looking for industry insights. 3) Go to trade shows and/or conferences and/or meet ups for the industry you are investigating. More efficient to talk to a lot of people and people are open to talking at these events. 4) Try cold calls. Try cold interviews. Sometimes an effective way is to just call the general number of a company and sweet talk your way past the operator/office assistant. You can often times ask to be referred to so-and-so who you may have found from LinkedIn. The same can be done for walking into offices. It takes persistence, but that’s what it’s all about! Good luck! And I’d love to hear more tips from others. Alex

Imran Aijazuddin Founder of Evolve Power - energy blockchain startup. Ex-cleantech i-banker w/ 15+ deals closed

February 7th, 2018

I've realized that B2B is a unique challenge myself, especially when you need to do cold outreach. Personally, I find that my response rate is much higher when I provide a simple, clear request towards the beginning of an email. In a market validation context, I like to ask for "advice" - most people love providing advice. And, at the end of the day, the advice that your potential users provide will help you refine your product and value proposition.

I wouldn't provide vouchers.

Cristian Enriquez Sales Director

February 8th, 2018

Hi Marc,

There are several alternatives, but an easy and cost effective, if you have a budget, is to conduct an online survey through a B2B online panel. There are many companies who have an online data base of profiled professionals by title, industry etc, purchase decision making etc. who are willing to participate in Market Research studies. Again, if you have a budget some of this companies will even program and host your questionnaire if needed, but you can always use free survey software tools if its not a complex questionnaire. Depending on your target audience and how long the survey will be, they will charge you on a cost per completed survey basis. Some of this companies as InnovateMR, ProdegeMR, ResearchNow, Op4g etc. Google online survey panels B2B.

Best of luck

Mads Engelund Building a high-tech company on a shoestring budget

February 7th, 2018

Dear Marc,

Absolutely right - don't use vouchers in B2B (or B2C IMO).

If I were you, I would try and figure out the commonalities of the people who are willing to engage with you. Then narrow your search to find more people like that. Try and make your value proposition targeted at this group. This is also a good way to get to an MVP.

Also, have a standard way to approach people so you can tweak it over time (but definitely don't be a robot).

Talk to their better nature ("You want to help people like them, but you need feedback to get there.")

Bill Lennan Red Rope Social - everyone is an influencer.

February 8th, 2018

I do a lot of cold outreach - and craft each one with a personalized pitch.

It takes time but I often get 60%+ response.

Paul Butler Helping Businesses Take Flight : CEO, Managing Partner, COO, CTO

February 9th, 2018

Adding to what Bill Lennan said... in cold outreach the 1st sentence or two needs to generate enough interest to read the rest of the message and respond. How? Describe "their" problem (not your solution) and express your desire to talk about their problem. If the response rate is low this might say that there is little economic benefit in solving that particular problem.


February 8th, 2018

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November 30th, 2020

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I hope this is helpful as it can often be frustrating to have ideas but no one to help. That’s why I’m promoting it so much as it’s been a godsend!

I believe you’ll enjoy this as much as I am and look forward to meeting you at one of their events.