We’ve written before about the value of getting feedback from your customers. Using surveys, online reviews and other forms of feedback has helped a number of our clients really get a handle on what’s working, what’s not – and how they can improve their marketing and operations.
There’s another tactic for getting feedback that we find so useful for developing marketing strategies, it’s part of the process for every new client we onboard. The insights to be gained from it are invaluable, and best of all, it’s pretty easy.
What You Really Want to Learn From Your Customers
For years now, the marketing world has been happy to provide an endless deluge of familiar advice about the importance of buyer personas, customer journeys, customer matrixes, sales funnels, and, of course, context-oriented integrated millennial-buyer microquests. (Yes I made that last one up, but someone somewhere is probably trying to coin something worse.)
It’s fun for me to cast aspersions on marketing jargon, but the fact is, the tactics are discussed so much because, when done correctly, they work. If you have the internal marketing resources or are working with an agency, by all means, have them follow these components as part of the planning. The strategy will be better for it.
But, if you’re a small business owner handling your own marketing for now, or if marketing is just one of several responsibilities you own, you probably don’t have the time or inclination to go through all the steps to build these things out. And, you probably need to start generating leads sooner than later. You need some quick wins.
If that’s you, here’s what I recommend.
Identify at least five (ideally closer to 10) customers you think would be willing to talk to you on the phone for 15 minutes. Don’t just pick the ones you know love your business; include some who were harder sells.
Email them, explain that you’re working on ways to improve the business, ask if they have 15 minutes to talk in the next few days, and schedule the call.
Call them, and ask them this: “When you were first thinking about (the product or service you offer), where did you start, and what did you look for?”
Ask follow-up questions as needed. What you really want to learn here is how your customers tend to find your business, what their process looks like, what they like/dislike as they’re learning about you and your competitors, and what ultimately leads them to give their business to you.
What You Gain
Knowing these things would be incredibly helpful for you to better attract more customers, right? Having these answers almost feels like cheating – but all you have to do is ask people who, in all likelihood, are happy to give you exactly what you’re looking for.
A couple recent things we’ve learned from conversations like this:
The customers of one of our clients, an IT security audit and compliance specialist, told us they don’t search for security vendors online, but instead rely on referrals and are sometimes swayed by sales calls.
The customers of another client, who specializes in high end interior LED lighting, told us that while search is the primary source for finding lighting product information, they don’t put much stock in content they find on social media.
The customers of our client that provides online document management, print and fulfillment services told us that they found many vendors to be similar when doing the research online, but that the sales proposals they received differentiated the good companies from the bad ones.
Feedback like this can be a big reality check – a well-lit warning sign that stops you from, say, diving head first into a long, ill-advised social media campaign, for example.
And while this isn’t a replacement for methods like buyer personas and customer journeys, which can lead to more nuanced understandings and better-informed tactics, I’m always a fan of doing something rather than nothing if those things aren’t realistic in the short term. And, having these conversations now doesn’t mean you can’t do the heavier lifting later when you have the resources to actually do it.
Start making your list of calls to schedule. Your cheat sheet awaits.
Charlie is the Chief Strategy Officer at Simple Machines Marketing. When he's not doing the marketing, he likes playing guitar, hanging with his family in Chicago and lots of other stuff too but this seems like a good amount for a blog bio.