Customer Interviews · Lean startup

What do you think about paying people who you've interviewed for customer development?

Claudia Goga Founder at CareToPets

January 29th, 2016

Does any of you payed or gave some incentive to people who you've interviewed in a context of customer development? I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this topic.

John Currie ITERATE Ventures - Accelerating Science & Technology Ventures

January 29th, 2016


I would advise strongly against paying or financially motivating potential "customers" - primarily because it skews the data you're trying to discover.

I do a lot of Customer Discovery.  And you should have in your head some benefits for your target customers and develop a simple "approach" script for why they should speak with you for 15 minutes.  Assume that everyone is busy and doesn't want to speak with you.  That forces you to really think through why should this person speak with me.

One real experience - I was working with a founder on developing early Case Studies. We debated whether to financially motivate them with a gift card or not. He wanted to do it. What I found in interviewing, selecting and discussing the top customer stories ... not one of them (8) cared about the gift card. Or did the Case Study as the REASON to engage. They REALLY cared about their needs, if someone is listening, and some upcoming new features they wanted to see.

My summary - a financial incentive to speak contaminates the process and undermines your real objective - to build traction, follow-on prospects, etc. It's hard work, but necessary work.  Hope this helps.

Lucas E Wall

January 29th, 2016

John is on the right path. I'd only add a different perspective.

It is very tempting to offer incentives, especially when no one talks to you. I have been there.

The problem is that you'll end up with paid research (I learned from this mistake, as well), not knowledge about your prospective clients.

When you talk to prospective clients, there should be a continuum connecting learning about their pains, proposing a solution, checking their true intention to pay, to (hopefully) they begging you to take their money.

It is the theory, and therefore, easier say than done.

Still, you can offer to pay for their coffee, lunch or dinner, if you want to entice them to talk to you, again.

Best of luck!