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Customer Discovery Scoreboard: Survey 0; FieldTrip 1

sThere are many tools that can be used within the realm of Customer Discovery Research for early-phase startups, including interviews, phone engagements, surveys, field trips, etc..   It is beneficial to have all of these tools in your Customer Discovery Toolkit and know when to use which tool based upon the circumstances. Our experience with Giggso is a perfect example of how a variation of tools may be more effective than using just one approach.

Giggso has become one of the most well-known projects in the history of The SearchLite.  For the past 3 months, we have been talking about this project in all of our weekly project update meetings, and when we weren’t talking about it, we were thinking about it. Giggso is one of the longest and toughest Market Discovery Challenges yet it happened to be my first project!

If you define success as the ratio of outcome over goal, I can’t say Giggso is a successful project. However, from an experience gaining perspective, people grow faster in the process of tackling tough problems rather than being handed easy solutions. I grew tremendously because of Giggso.

I was so frustrated every time when I didn't see any responses.

Why was Giggso so tough? One key reason is that it is a very unique project, which means our previous experience was not very helpful or relevant. The business model of Giggso is unique and the research method required was not as normal as our other projects either. Giggso is a new online advertising platform for businesses. People, especially influential online networkers, can earn value when they recommend products or services to their networks. The founder of Giggso, Ravi, wanted to know about recruiters, online networkers, online advertising managers and investors’ attitude of this new business model (if you are belonged to any of these group, please click the link to do the survey).

After more than two months’ of struggling on developing a comprehensive survey, we realized that we needed to come back to what we are good at. We organized a field trip, which is a type of primary research The SearchLite is experienced in. Over the course of eight hours in one day, we talked to three networkers, three investors, one entrepreneur and one online advertising professor. We were trying to squeeze a 5-week Market Discovery Challenge project within 8 hours!

Now, we are well aware that many of you may not be familiar with what a field trip entails, so I will take you on a tour of what you might expect to see and hear if you were to attend or organize such an event. I’d like to call it a day in the life of customer discovery!

Now, Let’s Meet The Networkers!

Networkers are the most crucial users for Giggso. Giggso helps networker users build their online reputation and use their influence to make money. Do networkers like Giggso? How would they use Giggso? What concerns do they have? With these questions, we met three networkers.

Ross Johnson with Ravi and Scott at Mighty Good Coffee shop

We met up with our first networker Ross Johnson at Mighty Good Coffee in Ann Arbor. Ross is a WordPress Developer, event organizer and owner of 3.7 design. Ross is also a part of a group that collects watches and his initial thought was about how they could use Giggso to grow their network and awareness. Ravi gave examples of how brands watch competitive mentions in discussion threads (e.g., Twitter). Starbucks may monitor Ross’ posts about Mighty Good Coffee, identify him as a coffee star and then contact him to try Starbucks. Ross stated that he would like to stay in touch with Giggso’s progress and be a beta tester.

Jessica Webster joined the Giggso online networker conversation at Mighty Good Coffee Shop.

Next up was Jessica Webster. Jessica is a Food and Dining Reporter from MLive. She suggested to Ravi that he add a “sponsored” tag to the tweets originating from the Giggso App. Jessica related Giggso to Klout (a mobile and website app), but on a local basis. She also related Giggso to a content management system – i.e., Hootsuite. Jessica said she would be motivated to participate with Giggso by the ability to earn $ and also to contribute to her favorite charities.

Phone Interviews with Subject Matter Experts!

Let’s not forget about Subject Matter Experts. They are the backbone needed to provide a broad perspective of Giggso from a business model aspect.

Ravi and Scott was taking phone interview with Bethany at The SearchLite office.

Two phone calls were made at The SearchLite Headquarter. The first phone call was made to Bethany Trainor. She is an author and Gluten Free expert based in Ann Arbor. Bethany has experience conducting product reviews in the past. Ravi asked Bethany for clarification on what her brand is. Bethany had not thought about it before and did not have an immediate answer. Ravi explained to her that Twitter knows her brand even if she does not. Bethany state that she would be motivated by first building her brand; and second by earning compensation and also donating to charity.

The second subject matter expert on the phone was Nick Perez. Nick is the founder of TC Venture Partners. Nick’s first question was WIFM or what is in it for the consumer networker?  Ravi answered that it is about helping the consumers manage their network, earning incentives and building their brand. Nick explained that he has a customer who sells standup paddleboards and asked, “Why the brand would want to switch to Giggso vs their current marketing tools?” Nick noted that a con of Giggso is that traditional digital search and contextual search is already proven to be pretty effective but that an incentive of trying Giggso would be that it’s free. He told Ravi that he would consider testing it and potentially offering it as an option for his clients along with the other tools he offers.

Lunch with Russ Merz PhD.

Already halfway through the day, we had a lunch Interview with Russ Merz PhD., Professor of Integrated Marketing Communications at Eastern Michigan University. Right off the bat, Russ asked if data analytics would be part of the Giggso solution.  Ravi in response suggested that there would be a default version of intelligence with analytics and a paid business dashboard, but that had not been built yet. Another important point made during this discussion was that the two biggest issues for Giggso currently are Customer Acquisition and Funding.  Funding is needed to improve machine learning and data mining.

What Do Investors Think?

We interviewed investors because they will be crucial for Giggso’s development. Giggso still needs to raise money for further software development and product launch.

Tony Grover, Managing Director at RPM Ventures, was especially interested in recruiting through Giggso.

Tony Grover, Managing Director at RPM Ventures, was especially interested in recruiting through Giggso.

Grover explained that RPM would look for Giggso to validate commercial viability and scalability or in other words its ability to have a large reach. Ultimately, Tony wants to know why would someone download Giggso versus all of the other social media tools? Tony also wanted to know Ravi’s strategy for sales growth and asked about the current development status of Giggso. Before anything else Tony recommended that Ravi focus on getting a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) out to beta users. Ravi mentioned that Giggso will have a fully integrated Applicant Tracking System (ATS). Tony advised that the 3 priorities relative to due diligence by a VC would be (1) Customer Acquisition – Downloads; (2) Transaction Volume; (3) Monetization.

Lastly, Tony asked if Ravi knows what the customer loyalty current practices are for his potential advertising customers?  What does Mighty Good Coffee do today? Such questions are common questions investors are interested in and it is necessary to have answers readily available.  Tony also noted that he wouldlike to be kept updated on Giggso’s progress and would like to see an MVP demo when it’s ready.

Ravi answered questions from Josh Beebe, Director at MK Capital.

After moving to Sweetwaters Coffee shop, Ravi answered questions from Josh Beebe, Director at MK Capital.  Due to Josh’s background and prior knowledge, he quickly comprehended the Giggso Business Model and brought to our attention Amplifinity because of its loyalty network component similar to Giggso. Josh recommended that Ravi compare his value proposition for Giggso to that of Amplifinity. Josh used Petco as an example Giggso advertiser and wondered how Petco would discover that Josh is an Ann Arbor-based brand ambassador and Rottweiler fan.  How does the Giggso data analytics engine find Josh?  Who approaches Josh?  Is it Petco “powered by Giggso? Josh also wanted to understand how the network star ranking system would work. He mentioned that enterprise level sales and marketing tools can be a tough sell from a customer perspective, especially after visiting 10 CMOs who all stated that customer loyalty/referral was not on their top 5 list of priorities. Ravi also shared that his initial biggest concern was keeping the user engaged, hence deviced a funnel engagement strategy. Overall Josh was interested and wanted see the updated pitch deck and demo when it was ready.

Experience from Other Startups

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Gregg Hammerman, co-founder of Larky, shared his experience of fund raising and he spoke about the initial challenges with Larky.  Raising money was difficult.  Getting early customers was difficult.  Larky had trouble getting customers to download the app even if when they obviously saw value to it.  Finding good programmers was also difficult, and still is. Moving forward, Gregg informed Ravi that investors love to hear about how you are going to disrupt the entrenched system. State the problem and show the investors how your product is an effective solution to that problem. Gregg also mentions that everyone is talking about the ‘gig economy’ and encouraged Ravi, by telling him that what he is doing fits right in to that trend. Gregg stated that we would like to stay in touch with Ravi to provide advice and test the demo when it’s ready.

Although scientific research requires a larger sample to avoid bias, for market discovery, an interview is always more informative than a survey.

Take Giggso for example, during the interviews, it took Ravi a long time to explain what Giggso is and to answer people’s clarification questions. It’s very difficult to extend or receive such extensive information with a survey. For instance, it’s even hard to know why people don’t take your survey and you can aimlessly question whether it’s because they don’t have the time or if it’s because they  lack interest in your product or if you failed to explain it well. In the end all you will be left with are hypothetical ideas.

However, primary research provides people with an opportunity to dig deep for understanding and clarity. In the process of making interviewees understand the concept, Ravi and The SearchLite also learned what people are really interested in about Giggso and how to explain it. well, We were able to make it more appealing. Another important thing is that we found people have the motivation to use Giggso and like the idea of it. Although useful beyond measure,  Interviews are just the beginning of the interviewees’ connections with Giggso.

After experiencing a day in the life of a Market Discovery Challenge, how was it? It is a rigorous challenge, which is not easy to conquer, but if you enjoy solving problems, learning new things, and interacting with people, it is well worth the time, energy, and emotional-investment.

Check out some of our other projects and look into our Innovator-in-Residence program if you are interested in participating in a Market Discovery Challenge first hand!

(Editor: Christy Song)

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