How to conduct and document a “day in the life” audit of your customers? #startup

Once you understand how to segment your startups customers and the 3 most important steps to segmenting your customers, most people start to put a framework for validating customer segments. I tend to use the the Kanban method for Continuous Visible Customer development, which allows me to keep iterating on customer’s problems, pain points, and validating key assumptions we made.

One of the most important challenges that startups face is one of getting their users time or attention. For B2B startups besides the time,they also have to help save money or increase revenues, etc.

Time, for most people is rather hard to convince people to find. Even if you believe they do have it, users are unlikely to commit unless it entertains them (games, media) or it saves them more time (apps, eCommerce, etc).

The best way to understand how a product will add value to your users is to do a time and activity audit of your customers.

The output of your time and activity audit is to come up with your a) product value proposition, roadmap and be the north star for new features b) be the guide to help target your marketing efforts and c) help your sales persona mapping.

Day in the Life of a PR Associate
Day in the Life of a PR Associate

Here is the final output of the day in the life audit for BuzzGain, and the visualization I used to talk about the day in the life.

Day in the Life Audit Drives Product Direction
Day in the Life Audit Drives Product Direction

While the final output of the day in the life looks pretty, the process to gather the data and come up with the analysis is anything but.

There are 3 possible ways for you to collect and organize the day in the life data:

1. The increment method: In this approach, you have to “shadow” your users for a day and document every 15 / 30 minute increments. I used this for 3 users on 3 different days and did it in 30 minute increments. This was done so I could understand where they ate, who they worked with, when they had meetings, what “activity” they performed, etc. I would color code the activities into 3 (meetings, work and other – red, black and blue worked for me on a simple print out that I got from Outlook.

Daily Calendar
Daily Calendar

2. The mini-milestone method: In this approach, you are unable to shadow the customer, but you meet them 3 times – early before they start their day, afternoon at lunch and late afternoon before they leave for home. You are trying to get a highlight of the key time “blocks” and activities they spent time on. Do this with at least 5-7 users, instead of 3 if you are adopting the previous method, since users either forget or lie to make themselves sound more busy and important than they actually are.

3. The prioritized activity method: In this technique, you ask your users for their top goals, priorities or objectives for the period they are measure – monthly, quarterly or annually and the amount of time they have to spend to achieve those priorities. Then you can check in for 3-4 weeks, every week to see if the major “buckets of their time” are being spent towards achieving those priorities and what activities are contributing towards achieving those. This is typically done when your users are senior-level executives.

3 bonus tips for you during this process:

1. Your audit helps recruit your users as well (they can be beta customers later), so think of this process and the exercise as a value-added pursuit that you can offer for busy people to help them get control of their time.

2. Most “business” users spend a lot of time in meetings. In fact I wont be surprised if over 30% of folks tell you they go from meeting to meeting and only get work done late at night or early morning when “they have time for themselves”. Document the person(s) they meet with. It will help you with possibly “adjacent” markets later.

3. Documenting this helps your targeting and marketing efforts as well, so to ensure you can action it, document the “outside” the lines time-spent such as where they eat, when they take a break (to check FB, Twitter, etc.)