Is 'Just speak with Customers' BS?

If I were to give you one piece of advice, one low-effort tactic that would transform your marketing efforts, it'd probably be what I'm about to share in this email.

Rest assured, what it won't be is this:

"Just speak with customers."

For a while now, that vague sentiment has been all over social media.

A magic bullet from a marketing bro that'll solve your marketing troubles.

Like the advice we receive about the importance of consistency and 'putting in the reps', it's not particularly helpful.

Because you already know you should be speaking with clients.

Plus, from the perspective of gaining insight for your marketing message, whilst it's helpful to have conversations with customers, speaking with prospects who haven't yet worked with you is even more valuable.

It's more objective than the information you'll glean from a 'happy customer.'

Interviewing prospects vs interviewing customers

And whilst conversations with zero intent and direction aren't entirely useless, they're unlikely to consistently deliver the gold that'll help you create and communicate a compelling position and value prop.

But again, you probably already knew that.

If you're not having 'structured' conversations with customers/prospects, it's usually because of one of these three reasons:

  • You're too busy with client work or other marketing that has more immediate and measurable benefits, so move it down the list.
  • You could outsource it, but that's expensive, and $10k+ to get client insight (and nothing else) seems like money that could be better spent elsewhere.
  • You've tried to line up interviews with folks that match your target buyer, but it's a lot of work. You don't know where and how to find them efficiently, and when you do, most ignore your outreach.

So, when should you prioritise customer research?

If you're not getting enquiries or getting them but your conversion rates are terrible, there's a good chance you have a positioning problem.

And positioning problems stem from the fact that you've not chosen a position or don't fully understand the customer base enough to develop a compelling message.

In this case, customer research is urgent and you need to act now.

But, if things aren't as bad as that, if you simply want to get sales from good to better, here's what I do:

Record prospect calls

This is specific to inbound enquiries as they come in.

On a Zoom sales call, before you start, ask the prospect for permission to record the call so you can avoid note-taking and give the conversation your full attention (which is genuine).

Then, during the call, ask these five questions:

1. Tell me about your business and why you booked this call?

At the start of any message on a landing page, ad, or sales deck, you need to make it immediately clear who your firm is for.

And it needs to be in the language they use to describe themselves.

The answer to this question provides that information. You'll learn exactly what prospects call themselves and the work they do.

You'll also start to identify any other submarkets that are interested in your work or when customers begin to change their labels (e.g. from web design to UX design).

2. Why do you think this is a problem?

In the answer to the previous question, they've likely shared a problem that they're struggling with right now, which was the reason for booking the call with you.

But, it'll be very shallow (e.g. we need to improve our product user experience).

You want to go deeper.

"Why is product user experience a problem right now?"

"Well, churn rates are high, we need to get them down."

This is closer to the real problem.

3. Why work with someone like me? Why not do this yourself?

There's a reason they're reaching out now.

They've probably tried to fix this themselves, then they tried to solve it with a cheap contractor, and neither worked.

And now, there's an urgent reason why they need to get this done.

This is the real problem.

Maybe they came to you because the retention rate is poor, and they need to improve it because they've got six months left of runway.

They need to attract investment before then, and they won't do it if investors don't think the product is 'sticky'.

You want to hear that story - it'll provide plenty of copy material for later.

4. If we work together, what does success look like?

"40% retention rate."

They don't want you to work on their UX. They want you to get their retention rate to 40%.

5. How do we measure that?

With the example above, we might tweak this question because measurement is obvious.

But we want to get deeper.

If they mentioned they're targeting investment, when do they need it? What's the average investment Series A in your industry?

We want to figure out what our work is truly worth to them because we'll reflect that back in the marketing copy (and in the proposal to this prospect).

Maybe they need a $5m investment. Whilst you're work won't be directly responsible for that, they won't get it unless their retention rate is at 40%.

Then, build a swipe file

Start collecting that data in a swipe file.

And, every time you record a conversation, copy over interesting quotes that answer the five questions above.

Of course, you'll never disclose any private information.

But that's not what you're saving.

You've got a bank of quotes relating to your prospects' buying process.

As it builds, your marketing copy writes itself, and because you did it gradually and pulled it from real prospect conversations, it's relatively effortless.

You reflect back all these real challenges, and they resonate with prospects because they're going through the same emotions as many of the people you've spoken with.

Hope this was useful!

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Every 4 weeks, I publish deep dives into B2B thought leaders, breaking down the content strategy they used to go from unknown consultant to top tier personality.

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