Too many designers, product owners and innovation officers have never spoken to a real customer
Why do your customers choose you? Why do they choose one offer over another? What is stopping them from buying? Many companies never take the time to ask and learn the answers to these simple questions when crafting a growth strategy.
The problem? Many companies believe they are customer-centric, but in reality, too many designers, product owners and “innovation officers” have never spoken to a real customer. Just like the sun, which provides free and sustainable energy, direct dialogue with your customers can offer limitless power to fuel a company’s growth.
Here are 5 simple questions I recommend every company ask its customers to push its growth strategy further and faster.
A word of caution here: You will uncover an enormous number of misunderstandings between you and your customers as you proceed with these questions. If you like things just the way they are, then stop reading. If you want to immediately begin to craft better customer experiences (in just a few short hours) then please carry on.
#1 “Why did you actually become a customer?”
Sure, you covered one of their needs or desires, but do you really know why people bought something from you?
Was it the brand, a recommendation, your prices, or maybe your guarantee? Most companies know far too little about why a customer is a customer. This is remarkable because the knowledge you gain by asking will help you critically understand features, value propositions, or aspects of your product that were either not important or perhaps even unknown to you before.
You can only optimize your product or marketing in a targeted manner with an understanding of your customer’s reality.
Understanding the “why” behind the purchase decision is priceless. By knowing why a customer chose your product, your organization will be more effective in its marketing and product development.
How do you ask?
Perfection is the enemy of the good. Don’t delay by worrying about the perfect tool to solicit this feedback. The best and easiest thing to do is ask every new customer directly by email, “What was the main reason you bought our product?” If you like, you can trial simple survey tools without having to think about implementing a complex CRM connection.
How do you process the feedback?
You can cluster the results directly in tag clouds or, with increasing data rates, make them quantitatively measurable as correlations. For those customers with interesting and exciting answers, organize a follow-up call or email. Mine the gold!
#2 “What almost stopped you from buying?”
Every new customer who chose your offer also had a moment of hesitation and uncertainty. And guaranteed, there were alternatives to your offer. Despite it all, this customer landed with you. That’s great!
Do you know what almost stopped your customers from buying?
If they hadn’t given you their business, what would the alternative have been?
Which competitors are closest to your offer?
Include this question in your initial outreach.
It’s best to include this second question directly in the same email as the first. It might cost you an hour, but the results can lead to many new or returning customers.
In e-commerce, huge amounts of marketing budgets are wasted trying to acquire new customers, instead of investing it in customer loyalty and retention. With the help of these answers, you may be able to bring valid arguments to better optimize your customer acquisition cost (CAC). If you haven’t already, read what Jill Avery, a lecturer at Harvard Business School, said to our GO colleagues:
“Firms need to decide whether they want to spend resources on customer acquisition, on customer retention, or if they would be better off spending that money on improving the underlying product/service (R&D, service delivery, etc. spending). It is no use acquiring customers if they won’t stay around long enough to generate value for the firm. It is no use spending to keep customers coming back if you are spending more money to keep them than they are worth.”
#3 “What do we sell anyway?”
There’s likely a huge misunderstanding between what your customers see, interpret, and do with your business compared to your perception.
You believe you know everything about your product, your competitors, the strategy, the roadmap, the features.
Your customer doesn’t know any of this.
Your customer makes their decision on the basis of a completely different reality, in a different context, under completely different conditions.
If you don’t close this gap in your knowledge, your chance of growth, and innovation plummets. You can only optimize your product or marketing in a targeted manner with an understanding of your customer’s reality.
It’s easy to go astray. Consider this scenario: you build your site “mobile-first.” There is a lot of white space, which you and your designer find very chic.
But, the white space on your website is translated in the mind of your customer as a signal of “high quality” or even, “expensive.” Is that what you wanted? Countless companies belatedly discover after an expensive redesign that a lot of space signals subconsciously to consumers a higher price. This expensive misunderstanding would have quickly come to light via a simple 5-second test.
The solution to understanding how your customer sees you is simple.
All you need is a few seconds of their time to grasp their perception of you.
Show your digital property to real customers for five seconds.
After five seconds, your customers (anyone really) have already made their first judgment about your offer and the quality of your product. They can tell you how many employees you have, since when the company has existed, whether you have customer service (or not), how experienced your company is, and much more.
Once you get the hang of it you’ll find that you can use the 5-second test to present screenshots, landing pages, website ideas etc. to anyone who doesn’t know what it is you’re trying to achieve.
How to do it?
Just print it out and go out on the street. Show the website, e-newsletter, etc. for just five seconds and ask people:
- What is being sold here?
- What kind of offer is that?
- What did you remember?
- How would you rate the offer?
Spread this feedback around your company as deeply as you can.
If you want to know how something like this can be easily implemented online, talk to me any time.
#4 “What problem did you really want to solve with the purchase?”
You’ve probably heard this one before, “People don’t want to buy a drill. They want the hole in the wall.” I’d go further. They want the picture they’ll hang there.
Do you know the actual goal your customers have when they interact with your business? Do you know what your product or offer is really used for? To find growth opportunities, it is important to understand the complete customer journey. Ask them:
- So, what prompted you to go out and buy…?
- What started the whole process in the first place?
- What made you hit the buy button today?
Many companies have not yet taken the time to fully understand their own funnel. It’s a shame. As growth strategists, we know that optimizing certain funnel areas in the customer journey can have profound business impacts.
Once they’re ready to buy, your job is really to get out of their way.
Experience shows that most companies focus on an area of the customer journey that is too small. More specifically, they focus on the part where customers already know they want to buy. The customer journey is usually much longer and is littered with expectations, fears, and concerns along the way. Getting to these early stages in the customer journey is exactly where you need to start to find growth opportunities.
In the early phase of the customer journey, your customers are often not even aware that they may have a problem.
“Good innovations solve problems that formerly had only inadequate solutions—or no solution,” says Clayton M. Christensen in his piece about Jobs to Be Done for Harvard Business Review.
In the second phase, your customers recognize the problem but don’t yet know the solution. After that, they become aware of a possible solution and they look for the providers, then they compare and so on. Once they’re ready to buy, your job is really to get out of their way.
The more important task and opportunity is to figure out what triggers your customers to get from one stage to the next. Reach out and speak with them to get started learning.
#5 “How is my product becoming a habit?”
I admit this is probably the most difficult of all the questions. It is the only question that you can only ask and answer yourself. It’s also the most strategic question you can ask yourself about your business.
Let me ask you, why are Amazon, Booking.com, and AirBnB so successful?
It’s because they have become a habit for most customers.
Today, when people think of wanting to order something online, they immediately think of Amazon. This behavior is irrational, but cognitively very simple.
Companies that are successful today understand how habits are formed. Leveraging applied behavioral science, these high-growth companies know how to create habits in the first place.
Creating habits means building in reinforcing flywheels and cycles:
- Things have to be easy
- Simple things are easy to repeat
- Things that I can easily repeat are more fun if they also make me feel good
- A repetition needs a trigger
- What should this trigger be like?
And so on…
Nir Eyal describes this process very clearly in his book, Hooked: How to Create Addictive Products.
Since your credit card is saved with Amazon, shopping is straightforward. And because you want to get as much as possible out of your Prime subscription every year, you regularly look for deals and products. Deals come to you partially based on your previous shopping patterns and behaviors. Can you see how a habit is formed?
Companies often start off with a good plan or intent to create habits, but then overlook or forget the necessary triggers to make them form.
Before you spend heavily on buying more Facebook ads, stop and review how well your business includes triggers to form habits for your customer. The reflection will pay off.
What is stopping you?
If you’re stuck optimizing in the margins or struggling to land on an innovation that will have a big business impact, then turn to these questions. The answers yours and your target customers will share with you if you simply take the time to ask will yield incredible value. Plus, since you’re reporting what real customers are saying about your business, you’ll be able to blast through biased opinions and stagnant internal politics. As the saying goes, the customer is always right.
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