The problem I'm trying to solve target small/medium businesses owners and managers ( in my city ). I need some feedback ( validation etc.) before going ahead and build the solution. What would be the possible ways to approach them and interview them? as most of them, I guess are super busy. Thanks
Yes, it is possible. These are called Information Interviews.
The key to keep in mind here is that some people are going to be happy to talk with you, and a few are not. Don't take the few personally: they don't want to talk to anybody.
If you want a fast turnaround, call; if you can wait, send a letter. I suppose you have the option of an email as well, but those are easy to ignore.
So let's say you were to simply call up companies, ask for the right person, and get talking with those you could connect with. Some would just tell you openly what was going on in their industry. Unbidden! Unprompted!
Some people just want to be helpful.
Some want to show off what they know.
I'm sharing this with you so you understand that the world is not stacked against you. I had a client who was in Florida and worked a 9-5 so he couldn't make dials in his own time zone. We picked Colorado because it was a couple hours behind, and the roofing industry because it could use the marketing help he provided.
Within a dozen dials, we had the marketing manager of a medium-sized roofing business on the line. And she just started telling us the pain points and state of the Colorado roofing industry! I could sell this information!
So communicate with your target interviewees, and simply be honest with them. Tell them what you're looking to do, and ask them if they'd be open to sharing their knowledge and experience with you for 20 minutes, since you know they have a lot of value to share.
It really is that easy. Some will say yes; a few will say no. But all you care about is those you say yes. The others are probably in companies that aren't doing well--clamming up is a sign of financial failure.
You may have to book a talk time with them, ie. not right at the moment you make your first connection. That's fine. I've waited three months to interview people. They're busy, and they mean it when they put a date in their calendar. But enough will talk to you now.
Fear is what stops nearly everyone. There's nothing to be afraid of here. If someone--and it's really unlikely anyone will--acts like a jerk, they're a jerk. It's nothing against you. Thank goodness they showed you so quickly! Get talking with the people who are open to talking with you.
To truly motivate someone to do what you want them to do, begin by putting yourself in their shoes and figuring out what they want or need. If they can benefit from your product or service (assuming you commercialize it) then you already have something to offer. For example, free or discounted usage of your product or service for a limited period of time, access to data you collect in surveys, financial reimbursement for their time, etc.
I have had a great deal of success with this approach and highly recommend it.
And for those people warning you to be concerned about other people stealing your idea, don't listen to them. Ideas have no value; its the execution that gives them value. If you're really concerned, file a provisional patent application. But whatever you do, don't let this amateur concern delay your progress!
Hope this helps. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance. As always, I highly recommend using our framework to navigate the idea development process available through www.ideaessentials.com
Thanks and best of luck!
I would approach them as if you are just about to launch your service/product, mention that his/her 2 main competitors have already signed up (assuming he/she doesn't have any contact with them) and ask him if he wants to sign up for the free trial period (no strings attached). Then, tell him/her that seeing how you are still making changes to the product/software, ask them what features/functions would be most important to them.
This way, you not only get feedback from your target customers, you actually get potential pre-signup clients.
To be fair to that person: if they do sign on, you better over deliver on your promises. If you decide not to move forward, contact them, thank them for their time, and tell them that you will not be moving forward with the business/product/service.
I've helped hundreds of startups with this question/stage, and I'm more than happy to point you in the right direction.
Best of luck