who gives the best feedback?

Are you building something or making something new?

Well, you don’t want to build in the dark. You want to make sure you’re building something people want. In order to do that, you need to talk to the right people.

The how-to bible of collecting user feedback is undoubtedly The Mom Test. If you’re serious about doing user interviews the right way, this is a must-read.

Let’s assume you’ve done your basic homework and you’re ready to start getting feedback on your idea or your product. Who do you talk to?

Here’s my semi-serious, biased, and heavily anecdotal ranking of the different types of people who will give you feedback.

The different people who will give you feedback, ranked

People with exceptionally bad social skills who actually use your product

They’re the best. They don’t care about hurting your feelings and won’t sugarcoat when it comes to discussing their issues. They actually care about solving their problem and that’s why they’re speaking with you.

Normal people who actually use your product

They will sugarcoat some things. But they’ll be generous with their time, give you real feedback, and tell you what they love about your product so you can double down on what’s working.

Friends of friends who fit your ideal customer profile, talking behind your back

Great for impressionistic feedback. They’ll speak candidly and truthfully about big-picture things like your branding and feature set (but not to you). A great opportunity to learn about why more people don’t use your product.

Very smart investors and domain experts

They have an opinion about you before they even talk to you, and it may be right. Their interests are not necessarily aligned with yours. But, they’re very smart and probably have way more perspective than you do, so it’s an opportunity to learn some super valuable lessons.

People who almost used your product, but then didn’t

One of the best people to talk to. Usually not generous with their time, and very hard to pin down. If you can find out why they didn’t use your product, that’s a huge win.

People who used your product and churned out

Same as the persona above: hard to pin down and usually not generous with their time. But if you can figure out why they stopped using your product, that’s extremely valuable.

Friends and family with bad social skills

They don’t care so much about hurting your feelings, so they might give you useful, honest feedback. They will be generous with their time. But they’re probably not your target customer.

Operators in your industry who aren’t competitors

There is a good chance they will sugarcoat their feedback, which is hypothetical anyway. They may have an ulterior motive. But they will have unique insights which are extremely valuable, and might share them with you.

Reasonably smart investors

They have an opinion before they even talk to you, and it’s probably flawed, if not objectively wrong. But they have a lot of perspective and experience, so you may learn a valuable lesson or two.

Friends and family

They want you to be happy, so their feedback will be biased. They will be extremely generous with their time.

Anonymous haters on the Internet

Their primary goal is to signal their intelligence in a public forum for internet clout. You may learn valuable impressionistic things from them, but you may be misled, too.

Anonymous nice people on the Internet

They want to be nice and helpful, but they’re also chasing internet clout in a public forum. You might learn something useful, but you usually won’t.

Direct competitors

Highly dependent on the person and how “zero sum” their attitude is. They will have an extremely valuable perspective, but they will usually be cautious about sharing information with you.

Inexperienced smart people who think they know what’s best for you and/or your company

Don’t bother. Extremely difficult to extract unbiased feedback. In the supportive case, they want to tell you what to do and how to do it. At best, misleading. At worst, demoralizing.

posted 27 nov 2021