While there’s never a time when you shouldn’t be constantly speaking directly with customers, now is a particularly important time to know where your customer’s heads are at.

But many marketers and business owners are intimidated at the thought of talking with customers. Thoughts like “what if I don’t know what to ask” or “but I’ll embarrass myself and my company” start to quickly creep in. And if those thoughts don’t bother you, perhaps a lack of experience or tools is stopping you from taking the next step.

There are few things more valuable (and quickly monetize-able) than insight from your customers.

You just need a few quick tips and a bit of confidence.

First, some tips.

  1. List your “learning objective”. What is it you’re trying to learn from your customers? Perhaps it’s getting feedback on a product they recently purchased from you so you can improve future product development. Maybe it’s better understanding their path to purchase and how they found you so you can improve the effectiveness of your advertising. Or maybe it’s trying to better understand their changing mindset and behavior during times of change (hint, hint…like now!). Be specific and write down what you’re looking to learn before you start.
  2. Draft a short list of open-ended questions. A common mistake is asking yes/no questions like this is a survey. Don’t do that. You want to understand the “why” behind things and get to deeper understanding and that only happens when you ask open-ended questions. Some examples may include “How have you been using our product?” or “Tell me the steps you took to research your purchase.” or even “If you could change one thing about your experience, what would it be?” Pro tip: don’t draft too many questions. Ask questions that will help you quickly accomplish your learning objective, and leave room (and time) to ask follow-up questions.
  3. Listen more than talk and ask “why” several times. The nature of open-ended questions will allow you ample opportunity to follow-up with clarifying questions. When someone tells you that they particularly like a certain product feature, ask them why once, twice, or more, to get at the root cause of their satisfaction. This is the gold you’re after — but you only find it by listening and asking follow-up questions. A note on listening: active listening is difficult because in typical conversations we’re pressured to speak about as much as we listen; in an interview you want to listen WAY more than speak. Pro tip: expect and embrace “uncomfortable silence” after you ask a question and don’t try to fill the space with talking. The person you’re speaking with will think of answers and respond accordingly…and it’s never as weird to them as you think it might be.

Once the interview is completed, go back through your notes and highlight your most important findings. After you speak with several customers, you can start to arrange findings into key themes. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how much valuable insight you can gain after talking with just five people!

And now for a bit of confidence.

The first interview is always the most intimidating…doing something new is filled with excitement and a bit of anxiety. My suggestion is that you do a “trial run” with a colleague, friend, or family member. That will allow you to get some comfort with the process/questions and lead to increased confidence. And remember, even a “bad” interview is guaranteed to get you some good insight!

Now go for it – insight and growth awaits. If you need help, you know where to find us.