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What is "customer discovery" (and why should you do it)?

Start here if you're new to doing customer discovery...

Matt Foley
Matt Foley
1 min read

Many of the definitions of "customer discovery" floating around the internet are overly complex or full of jargon, so let me try to define it as simply as possible...

Customer Discovery, v. The act of talking to current or prospective customers to better understand them.

Note some things my definition does and does not include:

  • It involves "talking," i.e., a two-way dialogue. That doesn't mean it needs to be a real-time conversation, but it does require a back and forth of some kind.
  • Can be with current customers or prospects. Though the term is "customer" discovery, it can involve people who could be your customers someday.
  • Doesn't imply it's just for startups (though it is popular with lean startups). Customer discovery is done by companies of all sizes.
  • Doesn't imply it's only around products (i.e., product discovery). It's an all encompassing term that includes messaging, positioning, strategy, CX, etc.
  • "Understand them" is a broad term that can include learning about their problems, how they feel about your product, their org, day-to-day lives, etc.
  • Doesn't include a set beginning or end. Customer discovery can and should be done on a continuous basis, not just when launching a new product or startup.

Why should you be doing it?

Probably the biggest reason to do customer discovery is to mitigate risk.

Mitigating the risk that you:

  • Build the wrong product or product features
  • Build for the wrong customer segments
  • Solve problems no one actually cares about
  • Aren't able to easily access your target customer
  • Are using language that customers don't understand
  • Create marketing communications that don't resonate
  • (and so much more)

If you trace many product/business failures back to their origin I'd bet 70%+ of them are due to not understanding your customer.

Why should you personally learn it?

Let's set aside the benefits to your company/startup for a moment. What's in it for you to personally develop your customer discovery skills?

The skill of asking great questions, listening and understanding people is something you can use in all walks of life. Simply put, learning this will make you a better human being.

If you're up for the journey, consider subscribing to my weekly newsletter (below) where I share tips, tricks and tools to help you level up your discovery skills...

Matt Foley

Customer discovery expert with 20+ years of helping everyone from entrepreneurs to enterprises talk to their customers and make smarter, customer-centric decisions.