This article is all about conducting buyer interviews. As you may remember from our guide on developing marketing messages that generate revenue, there are four steps to work out messaging that will have a direct impact on your bottom line. The most important and perhaps the most challenging one is talking to your customers. Your goal should be to understand why they needed a product or service such as yours and what convinced them to select you as a supplier. Obtaining such insights is fundamental for your digital marketing efforts. It allows you to communicate messages that trigger your audience to make purchasing decisions.
Here's some helpful info for you
To facilitate this process for you, we have prepared two things:
- Ten tips that will help you smoothly arrange and run such interviews
- A free tool containing questions that you should ask and a layout that will help you organise the things you hear into clear categories. Download the tool below.
The conversations we suggest you have with your customers are not quantitative, but qualitative. You should ask open questions, drill down into the answers and be curious. In other words: depth is more important than the number of conversations. This said, for a typical B2B service or a high-value product, it is usually enough to conduct 10-15 interviews.
Apart from your customers, you may also try interviewing past leads who didn’t convert to clients. The process is the same; you just need to understand what drove them away from you, instead of what made them buy.
Don’t worry. It may feel a bit awkward to do this in the beginning, and you might be concerned that your clients will not appreciate the exercise, but it becomes much easier after the first 1-2 interviews. The truth is people like being asked for their opinions as it makes them feel important.
Without further ado, here are our ten tips:
Buyer Interview Tip 1: Explain the reason for the conversation
Regardless if you are booking a meeting with a customer you have a good relationship with or not, always be transparent and explain the reason why you want to talk. You are refining your marketing and would highly appreciate the insight into the process that led your customer to select you as a supplier. If you have a good relationship with your customer, then you might mention that during one of your regular calls. If you don’t, send a short email. Try to meet for a coffee or lunch. Otherwise, phone conversations are fine as well.
Buyer Interview Tip 2: Confirm the time
The first thing you want to do right at the beginning of the conversation is to confirm the conversation's duration (30 minutes are usually enough). Make sure to do that so if it turns out they have less time for you than expected, you can adjust your plan accordingly.
Buyer Interview Tip 3: Make sure the conversation has a natural flow
Although you should have a script to support you, do not let it dictate the flow of the conversation. Your customer should not have the feeling they are being questioned and you’re ticking off one topic after another. Ask open questions and let the conversation flow naturally. Sometimes after asking one question, you will hear things that are related to other topics you want to cover anyways. Follow that topic. Don’t try to redirect the conversation back to the initial topic immediately.
Buyer Interview Tip 4: Ask for crucial information first
It is possible that the conversation will be interrupted and your customer will need to cut it short. For this reason, it’s good to always begin with the most important things, so you have them covered should the interview come to an abrupt end. These are things such as:
- The decision-making criteria that your customer took into account when selecting a supplier?
- What led them to select your solution?
- What do they value most about it?
Buyer Interview Tip 5: Let your customer speak
Do not interrupt at any point. There will probably be moments when they will provide long-winded answers that are not necessarily straight to the point. That’s very natural and if you interrupt, it will probably be considered impolite. A much better tactic is to let them speak and at the right moment, ask a relevant question, That way you cleverly divert the conversation back to the topic you prefer to hear more about.
Buyer Interview Tip 6: Drill down
If your customer provides a generic response to an important question, make sure to zoom in on that answer. For example, if you hear that, while conducting research on suppliers, they decided to contact you thanks to a case study on your website that they found relevant, make sure to find out:
- Which case study was that exactly?
- What exactly about that case study sounded so relevant and interesting to them?
This way you will collect valuable information that can truly support your marketing, rather than clichés that you can find on most websites and marketing materials. Using clichés can significantly limit the return on investment on marketing efforts.
Buyer Interview Tip 7: Confirm crucial points
Every time you hear something especially valuable, e.g. a unique perception of your service or a surprising purchase criterion, make sure to repeat it back to your customer later on in the conversation to confirm you’ve understood it correctly. This is important because it helps avoid misunderstandings and ensures that the messages emerging from the interviews set strong foundations for your digital marketing efforts' success.
Buyer Interview Tip 8: Use our tool for taking notes
Do not record the conversation, although that would make processing information much easier. This would require asking your customer for permission and might make some people less open to sharing insights with you. Take notes instead. For this purpose, we have prepared a tool for you that contains questions we recommend you ask and a layout that will facilitate your note-taking.
Buyer Interview Tip 9: Ask if you could be referred to a peer
Before you wrap up the discussion, ask your customer if they could put you in touch with a peer from another business who might also benefit from services or products such as yours. This is especially important in B2B where the purchasing process may vary from business to business and there is a lot of value in being exposed to this variance.
Buyer Interview Tip 10: Email a summary of the key points
On the same day of the conversation, send your customer a thank you note for their time. In this note include a summary of the key things you have learnt in a few bullet points and:
- Ask them to confirm you have summarised their input correctly
- Ask them whether there is anything they would like to add
This is another measure to avoid misunderstandings and to give your customer the chance to share additional information that they may have forgotten to mention during the conversation. If the client is happy it might be also a good time to ask for references that you can put on your website.
Good luck with your interviews!