The Solution Interview – Your Chance to Test Your Product Idea

by Sean Boyce

During the first round of interviews, otherwise known as the problem interviews, you no doubt gathered a wealth of information that should help you better understand the customer’s worldview and problems that need solving. Those interviews should have resulted in identifying your potential customer base, the problems they face, and what alternative methods they are currently using to solve those problems. Now it’s time to test your product idea through a series of solution interviews.

Testing Your Solution to their Problem

During the problem interviews, customers were eager to share their problems, and you were also hoping to better understand your market. Problems are plentiful; solutions are scarce. That’s why when testing your solution, you want to paint a picture of what their world could look like, given access to your solution or product idea.

During this phase, you’re not showing them a product, you’re gathering feedback on your product idea.  Paint as clear a picture as you can of what their world would be like using your product to solve their problems and start gathering feedback.  However, don’t describe your product as magic that solves all the problems of the universe. That will lead to garbage data in the way of their feedback. Be direct about how your product solves one of their specific problems in a simple way. Some helpful guidelines to follow during this process include:

  • Make sure your customer knows exactly how your product solves their problem.

You’re looking for validation here. Does it solve their problem? Does it sound like something they would use? Why or why not?

  • Determine the value of your product idea to them.

The keyword here is THEM. We might think our product idea is invaluable, but we’re not going to be purchasing our product. Your product needs to be valuable to them. Do they find it valuable? If so, why? If they do, how valuable is it? What would they be willing to pay for this product?

Your Product Isn’t Free

Giving a product away for free is a recipe for disaster. You may want to give access away because it’s a lower barrier to entry, but this is a mistake. Instead, customers will subconsciously devalue your product. You want them to expect to get something from your product. That is the value they are looking for and if they get it (or don’t) you need to know.  

During the solution interview phase, it’s your job to quantify how valuable your product idea is to your customer. Does your product save them time, money or both? Maybe the real value is in the convenience your product would provide to your customer? If so, what is that worth to them? You’re going to want to ask questions that ultimately get to the ROI (Return on Investment) for paying for and using your product. This will be critical in helping you set your initial pricing. It will also provide significant validation if your customer is willing to pay for your product. If they aren’t, that is a major red flag that you need to go back to the drawing board.

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When Is It Time to Stop Solution Interviews?

Once you are able to identify specific demographics of an early adopter, their most pressing problem that must be solved, the features that will solve the problem, the optimal price for your product, and you can visualize building a business around this product, then you have enough quantifiable data to conclude testing.  

The biggest takeaway from this process is validation of your product idea. Once you are confident in the responses, and can back it up with data, to say your product idea solves their problem and generates enough value for the customer that they want to pay for your product, you’re well on your way to real progress.

What Format Should I Use to Conduct the Interviews?

At NxtStep, we strongly recommend customer interactions be as intimate as possible. The preferred order of options goes in person, video conference, then phone. Email and online surveys are a last resort, but typically won’t provide much useful data at this point. You hope to be able to see your customer (in person or video conference) so you can pick up on other queues while you’re talking to them. What does their body language say? Are they truly engaged in the conversation or are they distracted?

As always, we tell our clients to stay away from focus groups as much as possible at this point. Focus groups often fall victim to the ‘group think’ mentality. These sessions can be dominated by few personalities and you will end up missing a significant portion of the real customer voice from the room. Not everyone feels comfortable debating in a group setting with strangers.

If you have a product idea that you’d like to bring to the world, NxtStep can help you turn that idea into a successful product business. Lean more by booking a free product strategy call today or send us an email at

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