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The Lazy Founder’s Cheatsheet: Using User Conversations To Get Work Done

The Lazy Founder’s Cheatsheet: Using User Conversations To Get Work Done

As a founder, I want to spend my time and energy on things that truly move the needle, like executing our GTM, building the product prototype, and initiating and maintaining meaningful work partnerships. Instead, most of us end up spending our time in the liquor and spaghetti approach.

The liquor and spaghetti approach requires you to get drunk and throw spaghetti on the wall, hoping something sticks.

In business terms, it means using uncalculated guesswork and trying many different ideas without confirmation of what will truly make a difference.

It’s the foolproof way to waste your and your customer’s time, energy, and resources. Even if something were to stick, you wouldn’t know how to replicate it. How do you ensure scale?

More importantly, how do you ensure you’re truly building something that will have a meaningful impact on your user’s life? You can’t ask them directly because they’ll give you ideas or feature requests that make them look good. You can’t guess it and wing it because you might end up building something no one wants. So where’s the middle ground and how do you get there?

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen folks do is not knowing how to draw insights from their research. Think about it: you may be very good at gathering data. But how good are you at joining the dots between data and insights? The process I’m going to show you will help you do exactly that.

1000 Lives, 1000 Stories, 1000 Users

I’m a consumer behavior researcher (and now founder) who’s obsessed with how people make purchase decisions. In the past, I’ve worked with 50+ companies from across the world to help them move their customers from point A to point B in their journey. Once I set sail on my founder journey, I used these learnings and expertise to inform our product development, positioning, white spaces, and insights that others seem to miss.

For my previous digital therapeutics startup, I interviewed 1000+ people from Tier 1 and Tier 2 on their lifestyles, health, and wellness. This research uncovered user behavior and problems and gave me insights on the direction to conduct experiments to validate my thesis on hormonal health for women.

The purpose of any business should be to solve problems that our users are desperately looking for solutions to. User conversations help businesses do that. If you do them right, you can consistently build winners. But when you do them incorrectly you’ll find yourself in a vicious cycle of ‘But I did exactly what you told me to!’ No founder wants to be in this boat.

Let me help you do it right.

The Process

Everything You Know About Research Is Wrong

After 6 years of working across different roles and industries, here’s what I’ve found: most people stop their research process at collecting data. What should just be the first step of research is considered the last. Your expertise and experience should come together as you draw insights from the research you have collected.

To enable this for my research, I built out a user research framework. This framework is ideal when you’re starting from scratch. Most frameworks you’ll find online will help you understand if existing or launched initiatives are working or not. As founders, we must identify the opportunities available, their pros and cons, and what we should start within our 0-1 journey. This is a template that product teams can also use to identify new features to test and build!

Below you’ll find a detailed breakdown of how to use each section to further your business. Folks have used this to find opportunities to startup, decide on key features of their product, and even not build a startup they were confident of. I think that’s a huge win. Your user conversations combined with this template can ensure you spend your time, energy, and money on things that will make a true difference to your work.

One caveat: I had the most inefficient process of recording my user conversations. I would host these interviews on Zoom or WhatsApp, record them, and put them on my Google Drive. Then I’d go through them again and keep adding insights to the template I’ve shared with you.

A far better, more efficient way is to get Betafi to make this process less time-consuming and more output-focused for you.

Betafi is a user research platform that works with Zoom, and Google Meet and even allows you to upload your audio/video calls. It offers a smooth note-taking experience especially helpful for solo-member teams. They also make it easy to analyze user conversations and then share insights with your team using popular tools like Miro, FigJam, Notion, Slack, and more.

A Problem Worth Solving

Pre-technology, you’d find success in solving existing, acknowledged problems. Finding problems worth solving was easier. However, today we not only live in an age of abundance but also in times where new technologies solve problems that we didn’t even know existed. Demand for such solutions comes after such solutions have been identified, built out, and validated.

In short, you want to identify a problem that is truly waiting to be solved and isn’t just a minor inconvenience.

In an HBR study, 85% of executives believed their organizations had been diagnosing problems poorly, resulting in poor time and cost management and lost opportunity costs.

The template will support you in your quest to find the right innovative and creative solution that will help you solve the problem you think is waiting eagerly. However, step 1 is to identify what these problems could be.

With this in mind, use this section to start with an existing user insight you already have. Your focus should be on using this template to continue to refine your original problem statement as you gather data and draw insights from it.

Goals of Research

Your research at this stage should be to disprove any goals you have identified. There is a science to this confirmation bias, which is a tendency all of us have to search for, interpret, prefer, or recall information that confirms or supports what we want to believe in, even in the face of information that can disprove it. The challenge with this is that we’ll end up falsely justifying our stand. What we want to do instead is find opportunities to disprove what we believe in or hold true. If we can find reasons to disprove them, it helps us understand that our hypothesis was not true. If we don’t find anything to disprove them, we can reasonably continue with our hypotheses. Note that this may not mean it’s true, but that there is reason to believe it might be true upon experimentation.

At the early stages of building features, products, or even companies, knowing what not to do is the most important skill set any of us can have. It’s what Michelangelo said about David, his masterpiece:

"I created a vision of David in my mind and simply carved away everything that was not David." ~ Michelangelo

I recommend you start with any 3 goals to disprove. Keep coming back to this and doing the process over and over again. This will help you go deeper into your learning and the insights you draw.

Here’s an example:

Problem Statement: 70% of women in India need a hormonal health intervention. This is the problem statement that we started building Salad on top of.

Example Goal to Disprove: The right resources, content, and knowledge will help them manage their hormonal health.

In our research, we found that although the right resources, content, and knowledge exist online, the challenge is how to implement them consistently in a person’s life. Our initial hypothesis pointed towards a content platform, but after experimentation and further research, we started moving towards personalized habit-building. Note that it would have been easy for us to prove this goal through confirmation bias and limited user research. However, in our attempt to disprove it, we drew insights on a completely innovative and creative direction.

Competitive Analysis

Your competitive analysis is about anything that can provide relief, even if it’s a different solution. These can be direct, secondary, or indirect competitors. Note that the status quo is the most critical competition you have, no matter what you do. By studying your competition, you’ll find out where your potential customers are going. This will also allow you to understand how the market is already thinking about or solving the problem you’re going after. It will also help you identify where the real opportunity lies, or where you can make a difference.

A direct competitor is a business that does the same job the same way you do. For instance, in the case of Salad, McDonald's and Burger King are direct competitors.

A secondary competitor does the same job but in a different way. For instance, if you want to "grab a quick bite on the go," a vending machine could be an indirect competitor to McDonald’s.

An indirect competitor does a different job with a conflicting outcome. For instance, if you want to “cut calories to lose weight” and decide to join Weight Watchers, then you might avoid McDonald's all together because they offer few low-calorie options.

This process will help you identify the following:

1: Strengths are the must-haves in your product. This is non-negotiable.

2: Weaknesses are potential areas for creating differentiation if you can solve them. Why are users sticking to the solution despite these weaknesses? Find out if these are nice to solve or must-solves for the user.

3: Opportunities are additional areas of solving a user problem. At this stage, these might just be nice-to-haves. What would need to change behaviorally for these to be must haves?

4: Threats could be challenges the solution already faces externally. You want to minimize the risk of these threats to yourself if you are to launch in the market.

You can then use these as insights to develop the right solutions to solve the problem statement.

Oftentimes, teams are unclear on who their real competitors are.

To identify direct competitors, try Googling the brand name or relevant category keywords (e.g... "stress gummies" or "stress relief" and see what other brands are running ads targeting those keywords. Or Google "[Brand name] vs" and see the autocomplete options that appear. These may be the products that buyers think of as competitors.

Stakeholder Mining

Stakeholders are anyone who has an impact on your work. This can be consumers, customers, solution providers, industry experts, domain experts, and even governmental and regulatory bodies. Stakeholder mining will help you future-proof whatever you do. It will also throw light on challenges you can face in the future.

You’ll use these findings for the following:

1: Status quo is what exists. You will use this as Point A to build motivation to change the status quo. Status quo bias is defined as a person’s innate preference for not doing something different from what they’re doing today. Two creative tricks: — Pretend this isn’t a problem strategy (What are the odds that I am unhealthy and need to be active every day? Seems unlikely!) — Use workarounds (I can just walk in the park/gym.)

2: Buying triggers will help you identify the start of the Search process.

3: Pain is the real problem we are solving for. Dig deep and ask a lot of whys. Use this to move customers from Search to Evaluate.

4: The goal is the utopian solution that a user wants to achieve. How can we get this job done for them? This is the starting point for identifying potential solutions.

5: Channels will help you identify your potential GTM.

6: Anxiety will help you understand what kind of negative thoughts you want to solve at the outset.

7: Selfish desires will help you identify why they really want to solve the pain they are experiencing.

Who will you solve for?

This will help you identify the right customer profile to target, and how to do that. The goal is to identify potential customers and their profiles, what their problems are, and how you can be the solution provider.

Niching down this way can help you laser-focus on servicing those who have desperate, urgent needs to solve their problems. This helps you prevent watering down your service to the lowest common denominator right at the beginning.

Drawing Insights

Now that you’ve done all of the above steps, this is the opportunity to find out more about your positioning — where can you really win from the competition? These principles are built on behavior psychology research and what impacts customers and consumers. Each principle comes with a mental model to help you understand it better.


Through all of this, it’s important to not force fit the solution you’ve been mulling on. Let it emerge organically. One of the biggest mistakes researchers make is to justify what they are thinking with logic. Instead, use logic to come to potential solutions. You’ll be surprised by what you find.

Once you complete this process, you’ll have answers to your:

  1. Product to build
  2. Opportunity to target
  3. GTM
  4. Stakeholders to service
  5. Positioning
  6. User Experience to enable

You do all of this by actually speaking to your users. Go, get talking!

About the author

Aruna Chawla spends her time working on improving healthcare outcomes through technology. She has a background in communications and consumer behaviour research. She's also an ex-founder.

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