The scrappy guide to customer development recruiting
If you want to build a product that people want, you need to talk and test with people, lots of people and on a regular basis. This is going to take a serious, ongoing recruiting effort. Sometimes you can buy your way out of this problem by using a vendor. But money and time are not usually on my side, especially since I started doing this when I worked in non-profit.
Here are some ideas to help you find people, if they all fail then you are going to need to get really creative or completely rethink you target customer segments.
The alternative provider
Recently, I had trouble working with schools to get access to students even though my client is a highly regarded education non-profit. So I started to go after home schoolers. Big institutions move slowly, look for smaller or alternative groups. They may be underserved or ignored and that could turn into a great opportunity.
Advocacy Organizations or charities
If your product aligns with their mission or you are willing to make a donation for everyone who gives you time, you may be able to partner with a charity.
Bike teams, mommy groups, D&D players are all examples of small but dedicated groups of enthusiasts who may be interested enough in what you are doing to give you some time. They can also connect you to a larger community of enthusiasts.
I know it seems old school, but community listservs are alive and well. If you want to target a community, getting someone who is a member to promote you might just work.
Related Businesses and Partners
When we were working on a fitness wearables we toyed with the idea of going to a running store and giving participants gift cards to the store. It seemed to us to be a win-win. Reach out to your partners to see if they can help. I have a client in the automotive industry and encouraged them to use their relationships with dealers to find people.
Adding a recruitment question to your surveys
At the end of your surveys ask people if they want to participate in testing of interviews. I was working on a enterprise membership product and got thousands of participants with one question tacked on to a three question intercept survey.
People who are waiting
If you want subway commuters, go to the platform. If you want office workers go to a street popular with food trucks. I’ve even been able to do interviews on a chairlift ride. When someone is waiting already, they may be more willing to talk to you. An interview could provide them with a novel distraction. If you try to grab someone in route to a destination or who is trying to get something done, you are going to get shut down every time.
Salespeople and Recruiters
It’s their business to know lots of people and they are often willing to make introductions for you, provided you won’t embarrass them, in the hope their goodwill will be returned in the form of a lead later on.
This could be a DC thing, but I’ve always had good luck with tourists. I find they are on a relaxed schedule and like chatting provided you can give them directions or a good restaurant recommendation.
Forum and Group Stalking
If someone is contributing to a LinkedIn group or a Quora question, they may be interested enough in the topic to give you some time. An hour of searching and contacting might give you two or three people.
Meetups and Networking Events
There are meetups for just about everything and they are places where people are looking to network or be social. You should be able to find a few people willing to talk.
Social media campaigns
One random tweet, Facebook message or Quora question isn’t going to get you much. Instead craft messaging for people in your network to share on your behalf. Getting some influencers to support you won’t hurt either.
Make sure to ask “Who else should I talk to?”
This can really open some doors for you and gives you another way to see what the customer thinks about your organization and your product. If they refer you to a whole different customer segment, take note.
Never stop recruiting
A good hiring manager or talent recruiter is always on the hunt. They know that a casual conversation with someone today could lead to an important hire in the future. Keep developing your recruiting pipeline so you have people who can help make and keep your product great.
Image: An experiment in Illustrator