Why Surveys Won’t Replace Interviews for Customer Development

To many first-time entrepreneurs, organizing and conducting one-on-one interviews feels unproductive. It takes away from product development, design and sales; it’s time-consuming.

Maybe they have access to hundreds of email addresses from their website or have a following on social media, so the temptation is there to send surveys for validation. Why meet one-on-one when you can get hundreds of replies at a time? Wouldn’t more be better?

Surveys and interviews don’t collect the same type of information. Surveys are good only when you know what questions to ask and what answers to suggest. They’re great at validating a direction between a limited set of options (A vs. B) or at collecting factual information on a target population (age, gender, job income, etc).

Prospects are not good at expressing their needs, problems and opinions out of context… and surveys don’t create context.

Interviews are about exploration. They help you understand people individually and explore alternatives. With interviews, the depth of the understanding is more important than the quantity.

Don’t shy away from face-to-face interviews. Relationships are never built through surveys.

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