How to engage industry experts

3. How to interview industry experts

Don't just use a phone call. Conduct a Discovery interview with industry experts.

Imagine your new-product team has found an industry expert it wants to interview: How do you go about this? It’s common to begin with a one-hour interview. You usually have the option to be anonymous in these interviews: Depending on the expert you’re interviewing, you may not want to signal your intentions. But unless there’s a good reason for anonymity, you may find the expert to be more helpful if he/she understands your situation.

A common mistake is to develop a long list of your questions and fire them at the industry expert until the interview is over. Here’s a better approach:

  • Instead of a phone call, set up a web-conference interview, and use your Blueprinter Discovery Noteboard to record your notes so the expert can see them.
  • Add your specific questions to the Current State questions section… but plan on only using the first 30 minutes of the session for your questions.
  • During the last 30 minutes, ask the expert to put himself in the position of key market customers. Then start recording their Problems in yellow sticky notes, Ideal State outcomes in green sticky notes, etc.

Why use a Discovery interview format for your industry expert interview? Five reasons:

  1. Since you’ve captured these expert insights in your Blueprinter project file (as a separate interview), it will be available to your entire team… and even available years from now for future teams at your company to review.
  2. Your industry expert will be able to suggest corrections or additions to your notes, since they can see them.
  3. If you’re not already a highly-experience interviewer, this is wonderful practice. Better to work out “the kinks” with one of these experts than a high-profile customer.
  4. This gives you a “preview” of what you’ll likely hear during real-customer interviews later. Having this familiarity with the topic and lexicon will make these interviews that much smoother.
  5. We saved the best reason for last: At the end of the interview, you may want to ask the expert if he/she would help you set up interviews with key customers in this market. If you just bored them with “20 questions,” they’re unlikely to risk damaging their relationships with close industry contacts. But if you listened well, asked good questions, and captured their ideas in a professional, respectful manner… they’ll be much more willing to open doors for you.

For tips on where to find these experts, see the last BlueHelp article, Where to find industry experts.

Keywords: industry expert, consultant, industry network, Discovery interview, problems, ideal state, current state questions, phone call, open doors