It was on Twitter —the place where all the best discussions start—where I noticed a tweet from Andrew Warner of the infamous Mixergy.com that said he was looking for someone to join his team. He added a ‘challenge’ to take place as an application and said ‘may the best answer win.”
"…the best…win…" Aside from the fact that I was borderline obsessed with a Internet entrepreneurs at the time (this was over two years ago, I’m no longer obsessed with anyone of them, of course—not even Dave Morin— ) what drove me even more to take up this role was that I. Love. Challenges.
I gravitate towards anything or anyone I feel I’m remotely qualified to challenge.
So I dropped everything that night, took a look at the questionnaire, realized most of the questions were boring which would make it hard to stand out.” What do you hope to get out of this opportunity, blah blah.” And then in the last 2 questions, I saw the opportunity.
Which entrepreneur would you invite to do an Interview with Andrew Warner? Why would you choose this entrepreneur? Get the contact information of this person.
My customer development itch came in mid-google, and I shook my head at what I first started to do (which was google every successful founder to see who had books coming out or sites to promote, as if no one else would think of that), and I thought to myself: no no no. You must ask the viewers who they want to view.
Why would I, or Andrew for that matter, know who he should interview? The idea is to get eyeballs, engagement, buzz from this interviewee, so why not just ask those eyeballs in advance who they’d want to watch?
So I did.
I put together one of the most basic methods of customer development, which was never a favorite, but is always the quickest. It’s called ‘the Survey,’ and you write a list of questions and try and get a good number of people to answer them. The more people the better.
So I asked one survey question which is somewhat of a hypothesis. I put 7 names down on the Wufoo form, names of people I assumed would be of interest to others to watch. I asked “Who would you want to see Andrew interview on his show?” Simple enough, right?
David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH), 37 Signals
Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)
Joel Spolsky, StackOverflow/Fog Creek
Max Levchin (PayPal)
Jason Calacanis (Mahalo)
Mark Suster (Salesforce.com)
Dave McClure (VC, 500 Startups)
Then I tweeted the survey.
Now fast forward a few hours, and this tweet grew some serious wings. It was retweeted and retweeted and favorited and @replied.
Well, it turns out that people really want to help you find a job (even though I already had one at the time). People really want to help you find two jobs if they can. It also turns out that tagging the contestants, turned out to be pretty smart, because my contest became a contest among the the contestants. They wanted to know who would win, so they became my affiliates for getting the survey spread out far and wide, and I didn’t have to pay a dime. Brilliant.
Now fast forward two days after the applications were due in, and this is what I get in my inbox:
Yup. Those three little words in my inbox. Just from a little survey; a little cust dev.
I like telling this story because it’s one of the dumbest, smallest, ad-hoc examples of how far customer development, and art and science of asking your customers a few questions about your ‘product’ can go. Sure, there were some variables in my story, but in the end, you never know what the result will be, so why not try? You just might find that 99% of people don’t buy your strawberry cupcakes not because they aren’t delicious, but because they think the pink dye is toxic.
DHH’s interview turned out to be one of the most successful and engaging interviews of all time at Mixergy.com, bringing in the most web traffic an interview has ever seen.