4 Critical Questions to Validate Your Business Idea

4 Critical Questions to Validate Your Business Idea

Asking the right questions in customer development can be complex.

There are tons of questions you can ask during your interviews with customers.

Depending on which blog you read, videos you watch or books you read you will get all kinds of different opinions.

It gets confusing and you can get confused.

This means when doing your first few interviews it can get harder to know which questions you want to ask.

One interview you're asking a set of discussions and in other interviews you're asking whole other set of questions.

No consistency or momentum is set.

It can be challenging, but the fastest way to learn is to talk to customers.

It's not effective just to ask questions but you must ask the right questions for optimal learning.

So how do you know which questions to ask?

There are some key questions you must have in every customer development interview.

These questions are already proven and you can implement into your next interview with your customers.

Let's dig into the 4 critical questions you must ask during your customer development interview to validate ANY problem (or idea).

Biggest Pain

After you have gotten through the "ice breaker" phase of the interview it's time to dig in a validate the problems customers face.

People love talking about themselves so its your job to cater to that and phrase questions allowing them talk as much as possible.

If you look up and down your Facebook timeline, people love complaining and talking about themselves.

A good place to document your problems is using the lean canvas or Lean Stack for full use:

The Customer Development interview is the stage to allow them to share as much pain as possible.

The goal for you is to confirm if their pain matches up with your assumptions.

So how do you go about getting as much "pain" information as possible?

You must start with open-end questions.

This is a perfect question for you to kick off problem validation:

"What's the hardest part about doing your job?"

When you're talking with business customers (employee or owners), this helps identify what gives them the most heartburn.

Real pain for a customer is similar to when a house is on fire.

The solution they're looking for is water to put a fire out.

It's always good practice for you to quantify how big of a problem your customer is facing.

You should learn things like:

  • How much time they spend on their problem? 
  • How much money it's costing them?
  • How much money they can gain if this problem is solved?
  • How much time can they gain back if this problem is solved?

Knowing this can better help you articulate how big this problem is and propose a solid value proposition.

I've compiled a list of questions you can use to uncover the pain your customers are faced with.

Sample pain based questions

  • What's the hardest part of your day?
  • What are some unmet needs you have?
  • What product do you wish you had that doesn't exist yet?
  • What tasks take up the most time in your day?
  • What could be done to improve your experience with [process/role]?
  • What's the hardest part about being a [demographic]?
  • What are your most important professional responsibilities?
  • What are your most important personal responsibilities?

Remember it's important to drill down with "why" questions to uncover more useful information.

How Are They Solving it Today

How your customers solve their problem or pains today is just as important.

Regardless how complex or big the pain is, your customers are finding a way to resolve it alternatively.

It could be a manual process, something free or something they pay for.

Your focus should be on building something your customers want to full solve their problems.

Understanding your early adopters' existing alternatives is key to formulating the right service or product.

Competition is good.... so if a customer says they are already using something similar to your idea don't panic.

This confirms that there is a market for your idea and you're on the right track.

It's important you shift to understanding how their current solution is serving them?

Magic Wand Question

Many of the questions you ask during the interview and be a bit nerve-wrecking for customers to answer.

You will not get the best answers regardless how great your questions are.

That's just the reality of the customer development phase. It's tough.

It's critical to add the "Magic Wand" question to your customer development tool box.

You will find that most customers open up when asked this question because it puts them in control.

Here is the way I like to ask this question:

"If I could give you a magic want, how would you like t solve your problem."

Your responses from this question will be great information to further support your ideas when building your MVP.

Show Me the Money

My parents use to say to me as a kid, "do as I do, not what I say."

I use this strategy today when I'm validating my ideas or problems with potential customers. 

After you have finish your questions and at the end of your interview... now is the time to transition into your idea.

Sharing your idea doesn't mean you will be sharing all the details, features, bells & whistles.

At this point you haven't built anything yet (hopefully)

When you share a high-level overview of your idea you will get a variety of responses.

  • "This is a great idea, I love it!"
  • "I could really use this!"
  • "I'm ready, when do you launch?!"

These are all great responses and may seem like you're on your way to a million dollar idea.

Not quite.....

How much they will actual pay matters most. 

Your next line of questions should include:

  • How much time would this solution save you?
  • How much money would this solution save you?
  • How much money would you be willing to pay for something like this?

Money is what matters most when it comes to customers liking your idea.


There isn't  magic formula to asking the right questions.

It's a ton of questions you could ask. It' unique to each business.

This is why it's difficult to give you a set of questions to take into every interview.

It's your job to set the stage for the interview and ask the questions to get the information you need based on your goals.

The important thing here is you must uncover the information you just learned in this post to truly learn from your interviews.

What's your favorite questions to use to learn from your customers?

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