Entrepreneurial Institute

5 Tips For Introverts Starting Customer Discovery

Anthony Lam is a co-founder of Ephemeral and recent graduate from the NYU School of Engineering with a B.S. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Ephemeral is revolutionizing the tattoo experience by finally making tattoos easily removable. We are developing a unique tattoo ink and a complementary removal solution that empowers our users to effectively erase and evolve their tattoos.

Going into Summer Launchpad, I knew getting out of the building was going to be a daily task for everyone. From the very start of the program, customer discovery and validation were heavily emphasized to get us on the right track in growing a startup and avoiding failure. As a team, we formulated a business canvas with several “hypotheses” or SWAGs that needed to be tested for validation. And how do we accomplish this? By getting out and talking to people that we guessed are our customers!

Talking to customers may be second nature to some but for others, like me, it can be a challenge. As someone who is shy and an introvert, I find it nerve-racking to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger. Invading someone’s space? Possibly bothering them? No thank you. However, this wasn’t an excuse to leave talking to customers to my other two co-founders. Eventually, I’ve mustered up the courage to talk to strangers.

"If you don't like something, change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it." - Mary Engelbreit

I didn’t need to change myself, just my mindset, which has slowly helped me.

Here are 5 tips or mindsets for approaching potential customers (as an introvert) that I’ve found the most success in.

  1. They’re Strangers: I’m sure that everyone’s parents have told them to never talk to strangers. However, in our case, there is a purpose that must be fulfilled. In addition, because they’re strangers, you probably won’t ever talk to them ever again. In the case that you do, they won’t be strangers anymore and you’ll be less worried about it.
  1. Prepare & Practice: Before talking to potential customers, come up with a list of key questions you need answers to. This ensures that you know what you want out of the conversation or interview. However, this list is not a script. Hence, practice interviewing a friend, family member, or someone you met recently before doing it for real with strangers.
  1. Tag Team: If you’re still feeling uncomfortable, partner up with someone on your team. You can take turns being the interviewer or the note taker. Also, there’s someone with you for support and encouragement.
  1. Be Wanted: Instead of you approaching strangers, have the strangers approach you. For example, we offered free lemonade to anyone who could give us a 5 minute interview. In this case, we provided an incentive, which caused strangers to WANT to talk to us. It was a success and saved us valuable time.
  1. It’s Not Only About You: It may be hard to approach strangers even after several times but keep in mind that you’re doing this for the future of your company, team, and yourself. This should be your mindset every day, no matter who you talk to or what you do.

Take into consideration one, two, or all of these mindsets. Once you do, I’m sure you’ll be able to talk to that potential customer sitting all alone in the park and in the end, gain valuable insight without changing who you are.

Meet some of NYU's top startups and founders, including Anthony, at the Summer Launchpad Venture Showcase. RSVP here!