Ask for Product Feedback from Prospective Customers, Not Friendlies

Recently an entrepreneur reached out to me asking for feedback on his Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application. By feedback, he was interested in my actual thoughts on the user interface, user experience, and overall application. Unfortunately, I’m not his target audience, and while I can give ideas from a general web-app snob/enthusiast perspective, what I think doesn’t matter — what matters is what prospective customers think.

Here are a few reasons why it doesn’t make sense to ask for product feedback from friendlies:

  • Customers pay the bills, not people who like you and want you to succeed
  • Feedback from non-prospects can influence thinking in a way that doesn’t add value
  • Time is best spent with actual prospects
  • More functionality built into the product now that the market doesn’t need significantly slows down future development

The next time an entrepreneur asks for product feedback from you, and you aren’t the target audience, respectfully decline and redirect the energy to customer development.

What else? What are your thoughts on asking for product feedback from prospective customers, not friendlies?

2 thoughts on “Ask for Product Feedback from Prospective Customers, Not Friendlies

  1. Great thought leadership, as usual, from David. Thanks for sharing it with the startup community.

    I would add that it also does not matter what an investor thinks about your product, unless they are also a potential paying customer.

    This aligns well with what is the purpose of a business?

    Is it to create wealth for the shareholders? Create jobs to sustain the community? Be a force for change in society?

    Peter Drucker, who saw the value of social networks 40+ years ago, provides this thought,
    “The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.”

    Reading this and his other writings made me realize that the customer was not my focus. It caused me to look long and hard about my philosophy of being an entrepreneur. Why was I in business. Ultimately I determined that Peter was right. I was wrong. And I needed to change my mindset.

    The startup community in Atlanta has helped me do that. Pete Santora with the Lean Startup Circle, Katie Elizabeth with the TiE X accelerator and Jen Bonnett with the ATDC Customer Discovery Series and many entrepreneurs (like David) have helped me reshape my focus and lay the foundation for future growth – based on the customer.


  2. At some point in the early stages, I would definitely want to present my idea, product or service to a whole range of friends/peers and classify them as either a target, semi-target or non-target and leave the product or service with them for a day, week or longer and then hit them up later with some questions. I have found the target audience will say “perfect” or “sucks” but only add tweaks in most cases. The semi-targeted group generally will offer tweaks and pivots and I find the non-targets to offer wild crazy ideas into the mix stemming from their own background and experiences which definitely need to be filtered but offer the most when differentiating your product/service from the crowd. So, what I’m saying is never leave anyone out. Even though most of the filtering will need to done for non-targets, they actually may have the insight needed to drive a breakthrough idea for your product.

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