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  • Ben Schmuck

Cameras On During COVID


During the problem phase of early stage startups and new business ideas, I coach my teams that there’s two key methods to generate a list of problems.

First is customer discovery. This is synonymous with building empathy with your customers. Empathy is the capacity to put one’s self in another’s situation, or in clearer terms, what is it like to be your customer? If you’re a B2B company, you need to understand what’s it like to have to make money.


The second method is observational research. This is observing customers do their job and looking for contradictions to what they’ve told you in interviews and looking for problems and needs that haven’t been brought up verbally. What do you expect to hear when you ask someone, “How many times do you go to the gym per week?” You’ll get a better answer if you park outside the gym and see how many people go in and out.

During the COVID 19 pandemic, it’s much more difficult to interview customers in person, therefore we must resort to video calls. Make sure to clarify before the meeting that your customer needs a computer, phone, or tablet to participate in the video call with their camera on. You cannot understand your customers as deeply without seeing their non-verbal reaction to your questions and prototypes.

Steve Blank, adjunct professor at Stanford University says you should be looking for pupils dilating at the sight of your solution and that customer should be taking out their wallets and trying to give you money. However, before you get to that point, the indications are much more subtle. Imagine a twisting face to illustrate a problem, a head tilting back to think hard about a response, or an eye roll to show disinterest or a waste of time. Cameras are critical to capture these non-verbal cues during your interviews and prototype evaluations.

Observational research is even more difficult during the COVID 19 pandemic. You might consider asking your customers to take videos of them doing their jobs or searching social media for examples of customers getting jobs done. If you have ideas about how to do observational research during the pandemic, leave a comment below or reach out on LinkedIn.

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