What works for small startups may not work for you. When you read blog posts about startups using lean tactics, you’ll hear about methods like this one used by TripAdvisor CMO Barbara Messing. When Messing wants to assess interest in a specific type of travel package, she posts banner ads advertising it on TripAdvisor’s site. If people don’t click on it, it’s not worth pursuing. If they do click on it, they get a 404 (Not Found) error.


If enough of them click on the banner, TripAdvisor creates the offering.* It’s an effective and low-cost way to assess customer demand, but if you wouldn’t feel comfortable doing the same on your site, you’re not alone. Once a customer agrees to have an exploratory conversation, I start by mentioning that we extended this invitation only to a limited number of our most visionary customers. This sense of scarcity seems to encourage more specific, deep feedback.


It also motivates people to refrain from sharing information with other customers or on social media. The time invested up front to understand needs and challenges across multiple stakeholders enabled the SlingShot team to develop specific hypotheses essential to the success of a business. Instead of showing slides or a demo during their SlingShot sessions, the team worked with Healthagen’s internal designers to create materials and visuals to facilitate hypothesis-based conversations between the Healthagen team, customers, and consumers who would ultimately use the solutions. These immersion sessions provided a way to iterate in realtime and receive critical feedback. The early results spoke for themselves.