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Best resources / places for Customer Development activities?

I'm currently trying to get opinions / advice on a smart-jewelry product from female college students. However, I've found that campus women's groups don't reply to their email and that I don't have a lot of women that age in my social network currently.
So I'm wondering what tools/resources/methods you are all using to develop your product concepts with your target markets?
Here's is what I have found so far:

SURVEYS
  1. SurveyMonkey.com - Is actually pretty awesome. They can source respondents of most demographics for you. You can even imbed URLs so that respondents can review other things on the web for you. My surveys have been $120-$130 for between 50-100 respondents. But this only gives you surveys as a methodology. Also their respondent pool gets rewarded by contributions to charities in their name, which is interesting. If you don't want all their fancy analysis tools (which you can do by hand) you can just use their free account and then pay for respondents from it.
  2. AYTM.com - also finds respondents for you. Their interface is a bit more complex and they seem to charge per-question. They also offer screening questions to help weed out non-relevant demographics, but it has been prohibitively expensive/complex for me to use so far.
  3. http://www.google.com/insights/consumersurveys/ Google Surveys. They use a different method where they ask one or two questions to large groups to enable access to web content (like ads). They are a bit more expensive / question so I haven't used it yet.

FOCUS GROUPS

haven't found anything for automating this yet. And also I'm skeptical of focus groups as a methodology.

But... Digital forums for this might be interesting. What are the hot social networks for 'group discussions' now? I need to check Quora. Any recommendations for places where people get into deep topic discussions? Something similar to what Tribe used to be.

USABILITY TESTING

usertesting.com - haven't used yet. Competitive usability testing seems useful, but maybe at later stages.
http://www.userzoom.com/ - haven't used yet

IN PERSON DISCUSSIONS

I've been doing 'phone call based interviews' with friends of friends, and this has resulted in some interesting feedback, but the numbers aren't high enough. Maybe I should just post a craig's list ad and ask for phone interview respondents.
Anyone have tips on getting more in-person discussions going?


14 Replies

Lawrence Botley
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Lawrence Botley Entrepreneur
Software Architect
You can try opinyon.com

my new startup, just the kinds of thing we do!
Deborah Tien
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Deborah Tien Entrepreneur
Transformation through Technology & Entrepreneurship
Jeff, are you offering compensation? I have plenty of college/recent graduate female friends who might be able to help you out. Message me, and let's chat. :)
Douglas Tarr
2
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Douglas Tarr Entrepreneur • Advisor
Entrepreneur and Software Architect
I've banged my head against this wall many times. Everyone tells you to do customer development, get out the building, etc, but your potential customers don't respond!

I used to think that this meant I was looking in the wrong place, or not crafting the message about my product appropriately. If I only found some secret website or subreddit where they all are, I could get valuable customer feedback!

But, now, after much pain and failure, I think it means something different. I think it means that people don't like my idea enough to respond. I now take this to mean that I don't have a market.

Better to go find a market of people first, that you already have access to, and stop asking them about products. Ask them what they need.

I bet you'd get a better response.

This is bitter medicine for product oriented folks. But it may save you time.
Jeff Axup
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Jeff Axup Entrepreneur
Sr. Manager, Palo Alto UX Design Research Group at Bosch
Oh, and I forgot to mention the best product review site ever - Amazon.com.

And not only do they have reviews, but they now have Questions from users about stuff they were worried about or that wasn't answered in the original product marketing overview.
I've been reviewing comments for similar/competitor products on there and getting some great quotes and idea for things to avoid in my own designs. It probably wouldn't be hard to copy/paste these into some kind of lexical analysis tool to get a quantitative look at frequent terms/concepts etc like SurveyMonkey offers.
Marc DeWalle
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Marc DeWalle Entrepreneur
Entrepreneurial MBA with extensive experience in development and management of sales channels, partnerships and alliance
Jeff, the co-work place where I hang out has a few people working in jewelry and related start-ups. They're probably not direct competitors and might be willing to share ideas. Feel free to ping me and I can put you in touch.

- marc
Paul Travis
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Paul Travis Entrepreneur
Multifaceted Online Executor: Product Marketing to Program Mgmt. to Business Development
Jeff -- similar to AYTM isAsk500People.com.

I also like incorporating/branching to multiple focus groups of 1 withYouEye.com-- or bringing together 6 or 8 for a virtual focus group via Google Hangout.
Matt Farnell
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Matt Farnell Entrepreneur • Advisor
Engineering, Growth at AdRoll
start a meetup.com group on the topic.
Rick Nguyen
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0
Rick Nguyen Entrepreneur • Advisor
Cofounder @ Spot Trender
[shameless self promotion] You can use Spot Trender to see how potential customers feel about your pitch.

Even rocket scientists use it to promote their research projects: http://blog.spottrender.com/project-possum-ab-testing-promote-research/

Please feel free to send me a message for a redemption code to get a month premium free. Anything for a fellow entrepreneur :)
Cheryl Tom
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Cheryl Tom Entrepreneur • Advisor
CEO, Founder at Vain Pursuits
Go to the university - there are always lots of students milling around wasting time between classes... Cafeteria, student clubs (knock on the door of their offices), lounges. Share your story, give something away (snacks?) - I find them very open and approachable. You'll get lots of info in a couple of hours.
Brian Gannon
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0
Brian Gannon Entrepreneur
Founder, CEO at Wink Labs
Jeff, You just need to talk with 3-5 people face to face for approx 1 hour each. Everything else is a waste of time.
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