It’s not running ads, creating email nurture programs, growth hacking, or “creating 10X content”.
But it is something that if done, and done right, has an enormous impact on every single thing we do as marketers.
You’ll create content that your audience loves, bring in more qualified leads for your company, and help your sales team close more deals.
As marketers, we’re constantly drawn to the quick wins – the “dead-simple tactic” or “secret hack” that deliver short-term results without a long-term and sustainable strategy.
But how could you do any of our marketing if you don’t *really* know your customers and why (in their own words) they find your product useful?
Benji Hyam from Grow and Convert puts it perfectly in this post about user research:
When you know your customer inside and out, that’s when you’re able to come up with ideas, messaging and tactics that will change the growth trajectory of your business.”
To give this process proper structure, here’s an entire process for collecting customer interviews and how to use the insights from those interviews to improve your marketing.
Hopefully, this will inspire you to go interview some of your customers whether you just started at a new company or have been putting it off for a long time.
How to Conduct Your B2B Customer Interviews
You have a couple of options here:
- Interview customers via email
- Interview customers over the phone
- Interview customers over video call (Zoom or Facetime)
- Interview customers in-person
In-person interviews tend to work best because they lead to the most valuable insights. There are likely a couple reasons for that:
- Customers are usually willing to block off more time in person vs other mediums – people just want to get off the phone and they’re short over email
- You build the best rapport in person, which helps the conversation flow more smoothly
- You get an over the shoulder look at how they use your product, which helps you dig deeper and ask better questions than you would using one of the other options (more on this later)
It may seem not practical to do a ton of in-person interviews, but if you have customers in concentrated areas, go do at least 2-3.
Your second best option is video call, preferably over Zoom or Skype so your customer can share their screen when necessary.
If phone or email are your only options, those are still good too.
How to Setup Interviews with Customers
It’s best to ask people who interact with your customers the most make the intro to ask for an interview. You’ll typically get more responses and people willing to do it that way.
Customer Interview Questions
If you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering what questions to ask your customers.
Here’s a sample list of questions, to adapt to your situation, print out and bring with you when visiting customers:
- What does a typical day in your role look like?
- What’s a great day? What would be a huge win for you?
- What kind of struggles have you had in the last week?
- What has your career path looked like?
- What sites/blogs do you read for professional development?
- How did you find out about [your product/service]?
- What was going through your head when you were looking for it?
- What were you doing before you started using [your product/service]?
- Why did you guys decide to start using [your product/service]?
- Who on your team was involved in the evaluation and buying process?
- How does [your product/service] fit into your day?
- What does [your product/service] let you do that you couldn’t do without it?
- What are some of the results you’ve seen since implementing [your product/service]?
- How has [your product/service] personally helped you achieve your goals?
- What’s it been like working with the [your company] team?
- Why would you recommend [your company] to other [people you serve – i.e. data analysts]?
Important: Use these questions as starting points, don’t just go through your list of questions one by one. A lot of the best insights you’ll get during interviews are in the follow-up questions that you didn’t prepare. Just be curious and let the conversation flow naturally.
It’s not listed in the interview questions above, but you should absolutely watch them use your product. You’ll find that each customer has a unique way of using your product.
Tips for When You’re Actually Conducting a Customer Interview
One thing nobody tells you about customer interviews that is important to point out…
It can be a little awkward at first, especially if you’re new at the company and you don’t know the product inside and out.
These “interviews” are really just open-ended conversations and your customers will likely have some questions that you might now know the answer to. It’s ok to say “I don’t know, but I can find out.” Just make sure to write those questions down, get answers, and follow-up with your customers.
The other thing is recording your interview instead of taking notes the entire time. That way you’re having more of a conversation than a note taking session.
With your customers permission, pull up the recording app on your phone, press start, and set it on the table for the duration of your conversation.
Then you can use a transcription service like Rev to transcribe all the audio into text. It’s much faster to read through text to get insights versus listening to the audio.
BONUS: Watch or listen to as many sales calls/demos as you possibly can.
If your company has these recordings stored in your CRM, ask someone on sales to share recording where they:
- Had a really good call
- Walked through a lot of the different functionalities of your product/service.
You won’t get the same insights as customer interviews, but you’ll learn a lot about early objections your prospects have (which are AWESOME to incorporate into your marketing copy) and what exactly piques their interest about your product/service.
You also get to learn about the different stakeholders who are involved with making the buying decision.
What To Do After Your Research
So you’ve done your interviews. Now what?
The first thing you should do is take those transcriptions and write out all the good details and insights that you possibly can.
Here’s what an “Insights Doc” can look like:
At the top, a list of all the best insights into one area. Then there are notes from each customer meeting separated out below that.
Now what to do with all these insights…
Use them for landing page copy on our ads
The exact words that your customers use make the best copy.
Take what your customers said (as close to verbatim as possible) and incorporate it into landing pages.
“I can’t think of any conversion or copy-focused activities that you can derive more value from in a shorter period of time [than customer interviews and surveys].”
-Joel Klettke, Business Casual Copywriting
For example, one thing you might hear over and over again from your customers is how much they loved that it eliminated the wasted time their sales reps were wasting going back and forth via email with leads just to schedule a demo or meeting (your may differ of course, depending on the product).
So with that knowledge, add it right into one of the landing pages:
Take the benefits your customers love and put it in your emails
Here’s a new email for people who fill out a demo request form, but don’t schedule a demo:
Use the insights to improve your content strategy
For example, in the interviewing process you may learn that a lot of the people who are actually responsible for implementing your software and managing it are marketing automation and sales operations folks.
With that in mind, incorporate those people into our content strategy and create useful posts and guides for them.
Share your notes with your team
Everyone in your company is a marketer, whether they realize it or not. You all work on things that face your customers and that your customers use.
Post it in the company slack channel, email it to the company newsletter, whatever. Just make sure these highly valuable notes don’t sit in your silo.
There’s gold in these notes and they will without a doubt help each person in your company better understand and serve your customer.
Ask some of the people from the interviews if they’d be open to doing a testimonial
If you talk to customers who absolutely love your product, you should definitely ask them if they’d be interested in doing a testimonial. Video is ideal, but written is great too.
The worst thing that happens is they say no (or their legal department says no). Always worth asking though!
Interviewing and talking to your customers should be an ongoing part of your marketing strategy.
Your product will change and serve different needs over time. Like all learning, getting insights from your customers is never a one-and-done thing.
So go, make time to meet with your customers! Learn about their problems, find out why they even bought your product in the first place, and use those insights to help your company grow.
PS. To put it differently, customer interviews provide two of the most valuable assets you can get: very specific and actionable knowledge about what your customers want and invaluable detailed testimonials and case studies which help attract and convert even more customers.