An easy way to learn more about your customers and prospects

I still don’t know enough about my customers and I bet my team doesn’t either. Ok, I said it. I’m not too embarrassed though, as I don’t think a marketer or entrepreneur can ever really know enough.

Knowing your audience intimately well –their goals, their challenges, the language they use, their perceptions of alternatives, and so on– is critical for devising the most appropriate product features, efficient and effective communications, and routes to reach and support them.  

How do you obtain this knowledge about your customer? For many, this involves talking with the sales team, BDR, or support team, or perhaps reading a “win report” from the field. Good start, but you’re not getting the full picture.  

Ever played the “Telephone Game” or “Chinese Whisper Game”? It’s that exercise in which one person whispers a message to another, which is passed through several people until the last person announces the message. It’s remarkable how quickly and dramatically the story gets unintentionally altered and evolves as it’s passed from one person to another. Nothing beats first-hand exposure. Nothing.

So maybe you’re fortunate enough to have first-hand exposure to customers in settings such as assisting with sales presentations or tradeshows. These are better because the filter is eliminated, however it’s impossible to really listen when you’re preparing to speak and pitch your product. I’m talking about really listening for details.

Today I learned that one of our partners was coming into the office and presenting on a solution they are building with our product. As soon as I learned of this I turned to a few people on my team that I know have been eager to get in front of more customers. They postponed a meeting so they could join me for the partner presentation.

After the meeting the team was fired up having seen a fascinating vision of how our product is being used. We talked about the specific language the partner used to describe our solution. They used some different terms to describe us, emphasized specific features more than others, and we got to see our product brought to life to solve problems we’d not seen before. This clarity was gold.

It’s January and we’re in the process of locking down team goals for the year.  Too often I’ve experienced goal setting solely around metrics such as lead flow, or web traffic, or project XYZ completion. I know these are important and, truthfully, I use some of them too. But today something popped into my head: why not goal the team (and myself) on attending XX customer calls each quarter.

We’re chief storytellers for the company and it’s imperative we understand our customers as much as possible. And rather than risk us hearing something second hand, I want to make sure we get the full texture of discussions from people considering our products. What questions do prospects ask on a first phone call? How does our team respond? What specific terms do they use?  What do they perceive as the value? Are there new use-cases or feature ideas?

Joining customer calls should come naturally to marketers, but stretching your team to get on even more of them will lead to better products, more effective marketing, and more productive and motivated team members. Consider setting concrete goals to keep you and your team constantly in front of prospects and customers in listen-only mode. The insights and clarity are priceless.

Good luck!