How often do you talk to your customers?
If you’re like most of us, probably not as often as you should.
And unfortunately, it’s one of the biggest mistakes startup marketers and founders make. And it leads to products that aren’t useful, messages that don’t make sense to our audience, and copy that falls flat.
We ought to be interacting with our customers and potential customers on a regular basis — asking them thoughtful questions, listening intently to what they have to say, and internalizing their concerns (without trying to pitch them our product).
Why? Because you can learn all sorts of important things by talking to customers and prospects. To name a few:
- The pain points and frustrations they experience on a day to day basis
- The language they use to describe those problems
- The questions and objections they have
And once you get that feedback you can use it to connect with the right people, about the things they care about, in a way that creates value for them (rather than just trying to interrupt them with things they don’t care about).
At the end of the day, the most effective marketing today is all about being useful, creating value, and delivering a must-have experience.
When we deliver amazing experiences, our customers and prospects spend more time with us, buy more from us (hopefully), and tell their friends about us.
Of course, I’m not the only one who thinks you need to be talking to your customers. I reached out to 21 world-class marketers that I admire, and asked them:
“What’s the most important thing marketers and founders can learn from talking to their customers?”
Said differently: “If I never talk to my customers or get their feedback, what am I losing out on?”
Here’s what they had to say:
1. The hesitations and questions customers had before buying or signing up
Peep Laja — Founder of ConversionXL
“You get to learn two very important things (among other stuff): the hesitations and questions they had before buying/signing up, and what matters to them about the product.
The first bit helps you understand the friction in the buying process—so you can tweak the website copy and offer accordingly.
The second bit helps you figure out how your customers use the product, and what matters to them when they’re shopping for it.
This again helps you improve the way you sell, and improve the product / offer itself.”
2. Where to find and reach your best prospects
Rand Fishkin — Founder of Moz
“As a marketer, you need to know where your best customers are—what they read, who they follow, what events they attend, how they consume content, etc.
That’s what I’d urge every inbound marketer to talk to their customers about, so they can effectively reach more people like them.”
3. How to improve the onboarding experience or delivery process of your product
Pat Flynn — Founder of Smart Passive Income
“Besides the obvious (what they like and dislike about your product), I think one of the most important conversations you can have with a customer is what could have been done to improve the onboarding experience or delivery process of your product.
That ‘first touch’ with your product is incredibly important and that first impression can often determine one’s overall general feeling about a product. This will help with getting reviews and testimonials, retention rate, and obtaining more repeat customers down the road.”
4. The exact language your prospects use to describe their problem
Brian Dean — Founder of Backlinko
“The #1 thing is the language that they use. Sure, you can learn about your customers’ thoughts, fears, wants and desires by chatting with them over a cup of Starbucks.
But if you don’t know how to speak their language, they’re never going to hand you a single dollar.
For example, I ask all of my new email subscribers, “What’s the #1 thing you’re struggling with?” And to date I’ve received stacks of replies (over 25,000 to be exact).
These replies are solid gold for my business. I used to say thing like “It’s frustrating not to get traffic.” But I noticed a lot of my subscribers referred to their sites as “ghost towns.”
So today I’ll say something like: “I know it’s frustrating to feel like your site is a ghost town.” That copy resonates with them significantly more than text that I pulled out of thin air.
Bottom line: Don’t just study what your customers say, but how they say it. Their words=priceless marketing intel.”
5. Why your customers do the things they do
“True growth insights come from blending three things together. The what, the why, and your intuition. It’s impossible to understand those three things, especially the “why,” if you don’t talk to customers.
Why did sign up but not activate? Why did they visit your invite page but not invite a friend? Why did they decide to churn?
Why is one of the most powerful questions in growth, and the only way you answer it is talking to customers.”
6. What they’d actually pay for
Neville Medhora — Founder of Kopywriting Kourse
“The biggest thing you can learn from talking to your customers is what they’d actually PAY for.
Almost all the time you can tell what people will whip out a wallet for if you keep prodding. Their eyes will light up on certain things, or they’ll just flat out tell you what they need.
What’s the biggest pain the in A$$ for you to do….and would you pay over $100 for it?”
7. What the majority your customers actually want
“The most important thing they can learn? It’s interesting because many of the times it’s not what people say.
Only 1 out of 10 customers complain or really give a compliment so you have to go out of your way to the 9 people to see what the majority of your customers actually want.”
8. Why they came to your website, what’s preventing them from converting, and what will keep them coming back
Dmitry Dragilev — Founder of Criminally Prolific
“Plain and simple if you don’t talk to your customers you’re losing out on:
- Finding out why your customers came to your website
- What is preventing them from accomplishing the task you want them accomplish on your website.
- What can keep them coming back to your website and referring other people to your website”
9. What kind of products people want
Nir Eyal — Author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products
“Getting user feedback is the first step to building products people want.”
(Note: In his book, Nir points out that while getting user feedback is the first step, “The fundamentals of consumer psychology can help you build the right products not only by understanding what users tell you they want, but by what they’re unable to articulate.”)
10. What their real needs actually are
Chris Guillebeau — Founder of The Art of Non-Conformity
“Without talking to customers, you can only assume what their real needs are—and you know what happens when you assume.
Talking to customers also opens up a whole new set of possibilities for relationship.”
11. Find out their biggest pains and struggles
Joanna Wiebe — Founder of Copyhackers
“Struggling moments! Only your customers can tell you the actual parts of their workflow and/or day-to-day lives that your solution can (or does) make better.
Once you talk to them, you quickly find out their biggest pains and struggles, and you can then use that brilliant voice-of-customer data to:
Write copy that sounds like you’re reading your prospects’ minds and
Improve your product or service.
(You can also come up with new product ideas—that’s especially useful if you can move fast on your products, like info marketers can.)
Result? More money.”
12. The difference between what you think they want and what they actually want
Paul Graham — Co-founder of Y Combinator
“The most important thing you can learn from talking to customers is how what they actually want differs from what you think they want.”
(Note: Paul goes into more detail in this essay. He said, “They’ll like you even better when you improve in response to their comments, because customers are used to companies ignoring them. If you’re the rare exception—a company that actually listens—you’ll generate fanatical loyalty. You won’t need to advertise, because your users will do it for you.”)
13. Whether or not you’re building the right solution for them
Alex Turnbull — Founder of Groove
“The single most important thing you can learn from talking to your customers—and there’s a ton—is whether or not you’re building the right solution for them.
The biggest mistake we made was not doing enough customer development during the building of our prototype, and we spent 6 months and $50,000 building a product that nobody wanted, a mistake that took us over a year (and yes, a lot of conversations with customers) to recover from.”
14. How to improve your operations and reduce churn
Jay Baer — Founder of Convince and Convert
“Without customer feedback you are literally flying blind. This is especially true for unhappy customers. 95% of dissatisfied customers never mention it, they just fade away forever. This robs you of the insights you could use to improve your operations and reduce churn.”
15. Understand and solve their everyday problems
Laura Roeder — Founder of Edgar
“People aren’t interested in all the bells and whistles of what you offer so much as whether or not it solves their everyday problems.
The more you talk to your customers, the better you can understand those problems, so you can improve yourself with a clear goal in mind rather than just blindly tinkering and hoping for the best!”
16. Understand the needs of your different segments across the entire customer lifecycle
Laurie Kuhn — Head of Strategic Solutions at UserTesting
“Increasingly, marketers are acting as the customer experience evangelists for the brand and product/service. Talking to customers helps marketers validate and/or learn the needs of different segments across the entire customer lifecycle.
From there, marketers can drive change and rally an organization by bringing the customer voice to life, helping to break down internal silos that have historically lead to fragmented customer experiences.”
17. Build something your potential customers will truly love
Corbett Barr — Co-founder of Fizzle
“Unless you’re a mind reader, the best way to ensure you build something your potential customers will truly love is to talk to them directly.”
(Note: Corbett dives deeper into the topic of customer feedback in this article. He said, “On The Fizzle Show, we often recommend talking with customers frequently, through both in-depth one-on-one interviews, responsive and frequent email conversations, and through surveys.
Each approach has different benefits. Interviews are great for really getting to know one customer’s perspective, problems, and how your solution fits in. Surveys are great for finding out how well you’re doing across the board.”)
18. Learn the words they use to describe the success they’re having with your product
Oli Gardner — Co-founder of Unbounce
“Marketers and business owners often have an over-glorified version of one’s value proposition in their minds, based on internal knowledge and language.
By talking to your customers, you can learn the words they use to describe the success they are having with your product.
A brilliant exercise that you can do to leverage this is to ask a few of your customers to write your homepage headline for you. Fascinating to see your value proposition *actually* written in the voice of the customer.”
19. Discover their joys, challenges, problems, and curiosities
Kevan Lee — Content Crafter at Buffer
“Talking to customers helps you see the world through their perspective—their joys, their challenges, their problems and curiosities that you can help solve with your content and products.”
20. Knowing exactly what they’re struggling with
Bryan Harris — Founder of Videofruit
“Most important thing = Being on the frontline and knowing EXACTLY what they are struggling with.
Using their exact words and questions in your marketing copy and sales pages is one of the smartest things you can do.
Then make sure your product actually solves their problems.”
21. Understand who truly considers your product a “must have”
Sean Ellis — Founder of Qualaroo and GrowthHackers.com
“The most important thing startup marketers can learn from talking to their customers is understanding who truly considers the product a “must have” and why it is a “must have.”
With this information you’ll know who to target as future customers and which benefits to highlight.
And if no one considers your product a must have, then you should be focused on changing the product rather than growing.”
What do you think?
What do you think? What’s the most important thing marketers can learn from talking to their customers? If we never talk to our customers, what are we losing out on? Please share your thoughts and comments with me on Twitter.
Huge thanks to all the amazing people who contributed to this article! Please share if you think it was useful!