Developing a growth strategy without taking the time to understand your customer is a disaster waiting to happen. It’s like baking a cake without reading the recipe. Yes, it might work but the likelihood is it won’t.
While this might seem like a strange comparison, it’s a metaphor for how some startups operate. Instead of encouraging teams to collect data, request feedback and get to know customer pain points, CEO’s, CPO’s and CMO’s fall into the trap of thinking they know what is required, imposing their ideas of what is ‘right’ or ‘helpful’ onto customers. This can mean addressing the wrong problem, or worse, launching a campaign that no one engages with.
While you should always make time to listen to your team it is also important to listen to your customers - their feedback is one of the most valuable resources you can leverage. In this article, we'll explain what a customer interview is and why it’s so beneficial for startups looking to execute a top notch growth strategy.
So, what is a customer interview? A customer interview is simply an interview with a customer. It is an informal opportunity to gain qualitative data, identify pain points, test theories, establish satisfaction and root out any inefficiencies. There are no hard or fast rules about how these interviews should be conducted but they typically take place in-person, over video call or on the phone.
If you’re involved with a startup and looking to create a viable and sustainable growth strategy, asking the right people the right questions is one of most important things you can do. And, here’s why.
1. Understand your customer
Adopting a customer-centric approach as you build your growth strategy is one of the simplest ways to build trust and drive conversion. Use customer interviews as an opportunity to get to know the individuals you are supporting. Afterall, it’s impossible to execute an effective strategy if you don’t know who and how to speak to your customers or what they are struggling with.
The goal is to listen, learn and discover before you apply what you have learnt to the development of your strategy (this applies to your product too). Think about it, taking the time to build a relationship with your customers will help to inform everything from your tone of voice, target consumer(s), content, SEO and digital strategy. Getting this right from the start can have a hugely beneficial impact across the customer lifecycle and help to minimise churn.
If you want inspiration from companies who have successfully engaged with their customers to determine their tone of voice checkout Hanx and Hertility.
2. Challenge the competition
All too often startups focus on their direct competition, narrowing their understanding of who their competitors are. Customer interviews are an opportunity to identify these hidden competitors and define your competitive advantage. If you’re not sure what this means, think of it like this. American Airlines is the biggest airline in the world which means their obvious competitors are British Airways and Emirates. Yet, if their customers goal is to have face-to-face meetings, video conferencing platforms like Zoom and Google Hangouts are their hidden competitors.
The simplest way to find out who your hidden competitors are is to speak to the individuals who have recently engaged with your product/ service for the first time. Ask them how they solved their problem before they found you and listen closely for any workarounds and solutions that aren’t in your product category. Identifying these hidden competitors will offer up a lot of important information about where to fish for new customers and ideas to support SEO and content.
Whatsmore, customer interviews are an easy way to ensure your team is abreast of market sentiment and you remain ahead of the curve on potential customer unrest.
3. Optimise different platforms
If you’re looking to build an app or website that drives conversion, customer interviews are one of the best ways to achieve this. All you need to do is pay close attention to the language your customers use and incorporate it (a.k.a copy it). Using as much of the same language as your customers will help to ensure your product resonates with them.
The key to getting it right? Make sure your landing page immediately addresses your customers' pain points and presents your product in line with their definition of success. You want to motivate individuals to engage with your product from the get go while reassuring them that they are getting closer to finding the solution they want.
For inspiration from startups who have done this well checkout Days and Gorillas.
4. Support your teams development
In addition to helping you define key principles for growth, offering insight into the wider competitive landscape and helping to drive conversion, customer interviews are an incredibly valuable way to support the development of your team. Encouraging individuals (especially new employees) to conduct interviews with customers can help them succeed in their individual roles. Think about it, the way customers talk about their unmet needs not only helps your team to build an understanding of where your product fits into their life, it also helps to drive innovation across the marketing mix (including email marketing, SEO, performance marketing and PR).
Customer interviews are key to supporting startup growth as they impact every aspect of the customer lifecycle. Just remember that one piece of negative feedback does not mean you’re destined for failure. The idea is to use the insights gained in conjunction with other sources of data (qualitative and quantitative) to make better and more informed decisions. Good luck!
Hannah is a Communications & Brand Consultant. She is an experienced PR Specialist with a strong reputation for developing, delivering & managing standout campaigns for consumer brands. Connect with her on LinkedIn.