The 6-part secret to successful user research before building your product

The startup world is full of big ideas – and things move fast. 

Founders, while furiously trying to get a product to market, are often looking sideways at each other, wondering what their competition is up to. 

There’s a strong urge to innovate and launch new products and features at speed. 

After all, no one wants somebody else to beat them to market with an idea similar to theirs. 

However, the startup failure rate is astronomical for a few key reasons – one being founders launching the wrong product at the wrong time after making assumptions about what the market wants without proper user research and testing. 

This leads to revenue loss as a result of low customer adoption of the product. 

So, what does user research entail?  

User research is when you go out and systematically interview people in your beachhead market segment about their challenges and desires when it comes to completing certain tasks at work or in their lives. 

Your beachhead market segment is a tight segment of ideal customers you anticipate you’ll first sell your new product to. 

Unfortunately, many founders view user research with their beachhead market segment as optional – incorrectly believing it to be: 

  • too expensive 
  • too complicated 
  • too time-consuming 

Done correctly, user research is not any of these things – and it plays a crucial role in your startup building process by helping you to:

  • minimise risks 
  • preserve your runway 
  • save on product development time 

It helps you get to know your early-adopter customers better and check if your startup is on the right track – that, in fact, there really is a “pants-on-fire problem” worth solving. 

A question we often hear from first-time founders is, “What if I don’t have the resources to do proper user research?”  

The good news is that user research doesn’t have to be complicated and it should not cost much money or time.

There are 6 things you need to find out from your potential customers in your user research conversations. 

But first, there’s one key trap you need to avoid. 

A common problem with founders who’ve got a big idea they can’t wait to build is that they sometimes go into user research conversations with a bias toward what they want to build.

In this scenario, they can accidentally talk their user research candidates into confirming their idea instead of approaching the conversation in a way that elicits the real challenges and desires of the beachhead market (which may differ from the founder’s hypothesis). 

To avoid this, you need to do two things:

  1. Approach the user research conversations with a hypothesis, knowing that the answers the candidates give you could change that hypothesis. 
  2. Go in with the goal of having a really open-ended conversation. Be prepared to veer “off script” and ask detailed follow-up questions where you can sense that important nuances of a problem may be there to uncover. 


PART 1: Ask the potential user how they describe their job role when it comes to completing a certain task or set of tasks. 

What’s most important here is to elicit the “jobs to be done” when it comes to completing the task/s in question. These are the exact steps required to complete each step of the task/s.  

PART 2: Ask them what success looks like to them in their job and when completing the task/s discussed in part 1.

What would be the ideal scenario for them when completing the task/s to the highest and best outcome? 

PART 3: Ask them what is the hardest part about attaining that success. 

What are their challenges and pain points when getting those jobs done? 

PART 4: Ask them how often they have to solve these challenges and what the impact of that is. 

This is important because while they might have a pants-on-fire problem, this problem might only occur e.g. once every four years, which may make your potential solution not urgent enough to buy. 

PART 5: Ask them what the current solution/s to their problem/s are. 

How are they currently solving the problems identified (that you’re looking to solve in a better way)? 

PART 6: Find out where they go for help or education regarding the problem/s right now. 

Here, you want to find out e.g. what social media platforms and groups they hang out in so you know where to go to find more potential early-adopter customers.  


Many founders get intimidated by the idea of user research thinking it has to involve tens or hundreds of interviews. It doesn’t. 

We like to use a simple 5×5 framework.

Ask your first five candidates the user research questions and see how many of those five report back the same problems. 

If it’s only two out of five, readjust your market segment and/or your line of questioning, and go ahead again with another five. 

When you get four out of five or five out of five reporting the same problems, you can move into the first stages of mapping out a solution concept, which you’ll bring back to those four or five for feedback. 

If you’ve got a great startup idea, but you’re not sure how to get things off the ground when it comes to market research and user research, our Startup Builder™ Strategy Sessions were created just for you. 

To request one, fill out this short questionnaire to tell us about your situation, and we’ll get in touch to help you with your next steps.


Whenever you’re ready, here’s how we can help you.

If you’ve got a startup idea, or you’ve already embarked on your journey – you might be facing one or both of these situations.

  1. You’re struggling while going it alone. Worse, you’re wading in the muddy waters of some not-so-great advice.
  2. Perhaps you’re trying to raise capital for your startup and you’re hitting a dead end. Raising capital is a notoriously difficult thing to do. Globally, only 0.74% of startups manage to raise capital at Seed stage. Despite this, 16% of startups we’ve worked with were able to raise capital at Seed stage.

If you’re ready to step up and get the help you need, our Startup Builder™ program was created especially for you.

The Startup Builder™ process is specifically designed to take you all the way from idea to global success – in a way that’s simple, sustainable, and scalable.

If you’re ready to grow your revenue, profit, and social impact faster without wasting time and money on the wrong things at the wrong time, click here to request your Startup Builder™ Strategy Session.


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