The 1 Courtroom Concept That Will Help You Market Smarter (And Avoid Building Products no One Wants)
How to eliminate guesswork through discovery
Last week, I started rewatching Suits—the Netflix series that shot Meghan Markle to stardom (before she upgraded to British Royalty). In one episode, Meghan’s character is doing “discovery” for a lawsuit.
“Discovery is a pre-trial procedure in a lawsuit. Each party seeks to understand what happened in the case based on evidence submitted from each side. The goal is for both parties to identify where they agree and disagree in order to assess the strengths and weaknesses on each side before they go to trial.” —Supreme Court BC
As I was watching Suits, I realized discovery—as a pre-trial necessity—is a great model for how to do effective marketing.
Effective marketing is crafted around a deep understanding of customers’ wants and needs. In order to develop that understanding, creators and solopreneurs need to do a hell of a job with Customer Discovery.
Because in the same way a prosecutor wouldn’t go to trial without thinking they could win based on facts unearthed in discovery, it doesn’t make sense to build a product without validating demand from customers first.
The Risks of Not Doing Customer Discovery
One of my biggest takeaways from working at a startup hub from 2020-2021 is you can’t be confident prospective customers will buy your product if you haven’t unearthed facts about their buying habits. If you rely on your opinion “people will buy it because it’s a great product,” you’re setting yourself up for failure.
You need to convert insights about customers’ buying histories into assertions about their future buying behaviours.
Think of how insane it would be for a lawyer to jump into a trial without doing discovery beforehand. They would have no idea what to expect from the opposing side, and their entire strategy could be burned by the sudden glare of unforeseen information coming to light.
That’s why lawyers leverage discovery to bring their A-game to trial. It’s their warm-up before the big game.
The sooner you embrace Customer Discovery as your warm-up for building products, the more on-point your marketing will be and the more likely you are to build something people actually want.
Customer Discovery Interviews
Customer Discovery interviews are the most important form of Customer Discovery. Because they allow you to gather qualitative data that can’t be gathered by focus groups, surveys, polls—or other scenarios likely to influence responses to your questions.
55% of communication is non-verbal. That means we interpret more than half of what people express through body language such as hand gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, etc. That’s why Customer Discovery interviews are best-done face-to-face (even if virtually).
Sometimes a subtle shift in posture, a shrug, or an exasperated look can tip you off to a pain point you need to discover more about (in order to build the best solution with your product).
Something to keep in mind is interviewing is surprisingly hard. Mainly because you need to gather specific information without drilling your interviewee like a robot. Fortunately, this five-step formula to run effective interviews can help you keep things conversational (we used it religiously at the startup hub where I worked):
The first three questions are designed to help you understand the problem you’re trying to solve. The last two questions help you understand the solutions people are currently using (which you’ll need to improve upon to make your product a desirable alternative).
Notice how all of the questions are structured to collect facts about past behaviours. That’s how you gather insights you can convert into assertions.
By contrast, if you make the common mistake of asking people what they think of your idea, you risk them giving you an overly optimistic response. A lot of people will tell you they will buy your product. But until they put money down on a pre-sale, you can’t take that as fact.
Use Customers’ Words For Marketing
One of the most exhausting aspects of marketing (for those new to this space) is picking the right words and phrases to promote a product. It’s easy to get stuck in your head agonizing between different options—or feeling at a loss for words entirely.
The irony is the best marketing copy is hiding in plain sight. It’s the language customers use to describe their pain points and the solutions they’re looking for to resolve them. The best way to pinpoint what language to use is to look for patterns in your Customer Discovery outputs.
Think of it as putting customers’ words in your mouth. Use that language throughout your marketing efforts, whether you’re writing content or speaking about your product. That’s how you make your messaging resonate with the right people.
My Challenge to You
If you’re in the early stages of building a new product, I challenge you to get started with Customer Discovery interviews. Make sure you’re on the right track and primed to market your product effectively.
You don’t want the excitement of launching a new product to result in crickets—or worse, scrutiny—because you relied on guesswork rather than facts.
Take the opportunity to get to know your customers. Think of it as planting seeds for long-term relationships. After all, you will continue to do Customer Discovery as you make modifications to your product over time. And the deeper the roots, the stronger the branches.
Thank You & Join The Conversation
That’s what I have for you today. Thank you for reading.
I would love to hear your thoughts on building and marketing products. Please comment below with anything you would like to share.
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