Interviewing customers for marketing purposes can be done two ways.
- Regular calls from your marketing team to customers. This keeps your marketers focussed on customers.
- A series of 10-15 interviews, outsourced to a third party who can understand and speak knowledgably about your products and services. The interviewer works from a set of basic questions, but in a conversational manner – to get the customer to open up about their needs and experiences.
Let’s focus briefly on the outcomes from a series of interviews:
You’ll get a list of the words and phrases that customers use to describe their perfect solution. Knowing this improves the benefit statements in all your written material: web, email, print, advertising, PR. It also helps your SEO and PPC program.
Your positioning and messaging can be sharpened. Interviews with “model customers” in your target market reveal what closed the deal for them. Adapt your messaging accordingly and you’ll win more deals from that kind of customer.
If there is magic in customer interviews, it lies here: clear, generalizable themes emerge from about ten of these talks. Why? Given a large enough sample within a customer segment, the job descriptions of your buyers don’t differ greatly from each other. They are rewarded the same ways. They’ve looked at your competitors’ website, your own, and read the same magazines as each other. And more often not, they wind up using the same phrases to describe the experience of buying and using products in your space. It’s uncanny. Customer interviews are massively helpful for a small- or medium-sized company with a moderately complex sales cycle. We use an interview program as the foundation for every substantial client engagement. Lastly, customer analysis is one of our four standard ingredients in developing a overall marketing strategy. Thes others are Corporate Strategy, Competitive Positioning, and Product Benefits.
I have to add a disclaimer. Much of what I think about customer interviews is based on Kristin Zhivago’s “Reality Check” program. Her excellent guide to interviewing is in the appendix of her book. Like me, she’s a marketing consultant, but our services differ somewhat. Call either of us and we’ll tell you how.