At our recent SMEI breakfast we had an excellent conversation on customer -- and video -- interviews. As a result, I suspected that most B2B marketing professionals don't have a successful framework for thinking about, much less acquiring, effective customer interviews for marketing and selling content. Follow on conversations with organizations large and small confirmed my suspicions.
What do you call them? Success stories? Testimonials? Case studies? What is the "come from" behind your approach? What is your primary intent? To have your customer tell your prospects things about you that you can't (or shouldn't) tell yourself?
Or are you "coming from" a perspective of "helping buyers make effective buying decisions" by getting your customers to share insights that address specific buying questions -- by role, issue, buying stage, solution alternative?
What is the "job" recorded customer interviews are expected to do? How do these expectations differ when you ask marketing vs. sales?
There is a place for customers telling their (your) story. But it's limited in the grand plan of content requirements. Captured properly, customer insights can perform many "jobs" throughout the buying process.
Do you have a formal process for conducting customer interviews? Does it look like this one?
There is nothing wrong with this approach. It appears to be a universal approach. But it's also un-differentiated and not consistent with today's content marketing principles for creating relevant, educational content to help buyers make better buying decisions.
Customer Acquisition Framework
Here is a start at such a framework and interview process:
- First, make a distinction between different communication objectives and approaches for customer interviews. Customer insights can help:
- Capture attention / generate interest -- with short provocative sound bites
- Explain -- important insights that educate a buyer
- Tell -- a story
- Advocate -- make a case
- Answer -- questions, objections
- Persuade or Prove -- deliver proof points
- Use the frameworks you've established for the Customer Buying Process and the Questions Customers Must Answer to make their buying decisions. If you have these well documented it will lower your preparation time and improve your interview. Make sure you've aligned those questions to each stage of the buying process.
- Make role-based distinctions in the questions, issues, value criteria that are important to your buyers.
- Plan for later stage points that: influence buying and value criteria that are favorable to your company, address customer questions and objections (you will have to talk with sales to get these), and address "step backs" in the buyers process that stall or derail too many deals.
Recommended Interviewing Techniques
Here are specific recommendations:
- Decide the important areas you want the customer to address, what specifically you want them to say. You really don't have much time with them. You must prioritize.
- Align each customer and individual speaker to a specific set of questions -- not general -- ask yourself what customer questions they can best speak to?
- Prepare multiple questions to elicit those points. You may have to ask the question in a variety of ways.
- Provide preliminary input to your customer before the interview in the form of a checklist. Tell them you're hearing customers ask these questions. Ask if they are comfortable addressing them, allow them time to think and prepare.
- Tell the customer you know people have a very short attention span, so you are looking for short, direct answers to specific questions, not long stories. Explain you will let them complete every point, but you may ask them to repeat their answer in a more succinct fashion. You need this, prepare them.
- Don't be afraid to ask customers if they would be comfortable making a specific point (which you provide them) -- in their own words of course.
- Keep it light, people will fatigue quickly, often as early as 20-30 minutes. You'll see fatigue showing up in bobbles and mistakes that require re-takes at the customer's request. At this point it's time to wrap up so as not to embarrass the customer.
This is just a start. Please help me refine an effective framework for capturing customer interviews for the various marketing and selling purposes our organization's require.
Here are links to helpful articles. Can you see the "come from" expressed in these articles? What distinctions are made between content suited to marketing's early/top of funnel and education purposes, versus proof point messages required by both buyers and sales in the latter stages of the buying process?