Lurking: The Key To Doing Unbiased Customer Discovery

If you’re working at a startup or creating your product, there’s a chance you’ll have to do customer discovery for a brand new product. Like, so brand new that it doesn’t even have any customers yet.

So what can you do if you don’t have customers?

Well, we know you can’t do customer interviews. You can’t just call up someone and say, “Hey, can we chat about this”?

Another challenge is that you can talk to prospective customers, but with this whole covid thing going on, everyone is kind of overwhelmed with zoom meetings since in-person events are canceled. And quite honestly, not everyone tells the truth in customer interviews. People will say what they think you want to hear — especially when your smiling face is all up in theirs.

The good news is that there are still opportunities to do customer discovery without any customers.


Covert customer discovery

What covert customer discovery does is give you a clear picture of the pains that people are experiencing.

It is also going to give you great voice of customer data for the future, which is great for any copy that you may want to write.

With covert customer discovery, you’re going to learn what people are already paying for and where you may be able to niche in.

The process

Doing covert customer discovery is a simple process, but it can be a little bit time-consuming.

The first thing you’re going to do is you’re going to find out where your customers are hanging out online. This is places like:

  • Facebook groups
  • Private Slack groups
  • Scour the internet for forums
  • Look through Twitter threads
  • Instagram comments
  • Professional groups

So once you have this list of groups and places, the next thing you’re going to do is you’re basically going to become a professional lurker.

Lurk lurk lurk

Next up, you’re going to go through all of these groups and you’re going to listen carefully to what people are talking about. Take notes.

Here are some things to note down:

  • Common themes that people are talking about
  • How people are describing the problems that they’re having
  • How people are answering questions, if they’re making recommendations
  • If they’re commiserating with other people’s problems
  • What is the general vibe?
  • What are they talking about?
  • What are their big problems?
  • What solutions are people presenting to other’s problems?

Once you’ve done this for all of the groups on your list you’re going to have a pretty clear picture of your audience’s problems.

With your boatload of notes and new-found knowledge of your audience’s problems, you can start developing some product ideas.

I know we all tend to gravitate towards software because it’s pretty sexy at the moment, but don’t be afraid of thinking outside of the software product box and consider if a course or digital products or a webinar can solve their problems.

In review

We covered:

  • The challenges of customer discovery without customers
  • How covert customer discovery in some ways can be advantageous to the traditional in-person customer interview
  • Some tactics to get you started on figuring out what problems your audience may have and how to brainstorm some potential solutions to those problems

In the meantime, best of luck with your new product!