How to Approach Your Customer Research

by | Feb 13, 2020 | Hot Takes 🔥, Marketing | 0 comments

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  • What questions do you ask?
    • This completely depends on your goal. What are you trying to accomplish with this set of research?
    • Because the questions we ask are going to be directly correlated to what we want to learn.
    • Possible goals could be:
      • Acquisition — do you want to uncover acquisition channels and figure out where your customer hangs out? 
      • Activation — Do you want to understand the exact buying process that your customer went through before deciding on your product? Do you also want to unpack maybe some of the hang-ups they had with your product?
      • Retention — why did they churn? What would they replace you with?
  • Get really good at asking your questions as succinctly as possible and then not saying a peep after. 
    • As humans, we naturally avoid anything that feels uncomfortable, so when we ask questions, we want to give our customer a leg up by adding in extra qualifiers and almost feeding them answers before they actually answer the question. When you try to qualify your question with extra words, you allow your customer to get lazy and not think for themselves. One of the questions that I ask is “When you want to learn more about your industry, where do you go?” and then I pause…. and say nothing else. Sometimes I’ll get a reply back because they want to qualify their answer, but I just ask it and see where it goes. You’ll be amazed at the responses you get when you let the customer really think about their answer. 
  • Don’t be afraid to unpack vague answers. 
    • Customers aren’t going to know something is vague, and if it’s your first time doing customer interviews, you’re not going to have any idea either until you’ve done a few. 
    • But if you hear a vague response like “Yeah I like to listen to podcasts”, don’t be afraid to ask them which podcasts. Or if you hear “I’m responsible for all of the office stuff”, don’t be afraid to dig deeper into what office stuff. The devil is in the details, and by asking customers to clarify their answers, you’ll discover hidden tidbits you didn’t know before.
  • Do not incentivize your customer research.
    • When customers are incentivized either through a free month or gift card, you end up wasting time on people who aren’t actually emotionally invested in the product and they’re emotionally invested in getting the freebie. So if you can help it, avoid it entirely. I promise you you’ll get better feedback by talking to people who are actually taking time out of their day to chat with you. 
    • If you want to throw them a little something afterwards, go for it! Just make sure they have no idea until after the interview is done. 
  • Example questions. 
    • Please describe your role. 
    • When you want to learn more about your industry, where do you go?
      • For the B2C folks, where do you spend your time? Online? Offline?
    • What was the first thing you wanted to accomplish when you logged in?



What’s up founders. Welcome back to another Hot Take. In today’s episode we are going to… Whoa episode, video. I meant video. In today’s video we’re going to be talking all about how should you approach your customer research, and one of the hands down most popular questions that I get ever. There’s really just four very specific things that I would recommend. The first thing is, and this is also a very common question that I get, but what questions should you be asking? I’m actually going to reverse engineer that one and say, have a goal in mind for your customer research. The questions that you ask during your customer interview are going to be directly correlated to what you actually want to accomplish in your interview. What do you want to accomplish with your research initiative? Are you trying to troubleshoot activation problems? Are you trying to understand where your customers hang out?

Is it really focused on acquisition? Are you trying to figure out why do people churn? Maybe they are customers who have churned and now they are really cancellations and you’re trying to unpack, well, what happened? Where did we go wrong? What was going on? There’s all kinds of different ways that you can approach your customer research, but hands down the best advice that I can give is well, have a goal in mind. What are you trying to learn? What are you trying to unpack? What are you trying to troubleshoot? That’s really going to determine what questions you ask. If you’re asking about acquisition, you’re going to be asking lots of where and how kind of questions, like where do you hang out and also what was going on in your world that led you to search for a solution, or what was even going on in your world period?

How did you try to solve it? If you’re looking for like activation, if you’re troubleshooting something in activation, you’re going to ask more like motivating questions. So what’s motivating you like right now? What is the first thing that you were trying to accomplish? Why did you do this first and not this first? When you signed up for the account, what was the first thing that you wanted to accomplish or do? Those are going to be more around activation and then of course retention. Where did we go wrong? What happened? Talk to us. Did you find another solution? What made that better? That’s really what’s going to determine your ultimate questions.

Okay. Number two. The second thing I would always recommend when it comes to approaching customer research and interviews will really just be your ability to ask your question but don’t feed your customer an answer. This is actually ridiculously hard because as humans we don’t really like uncomfortable or weird conflicty environments and asking someone a question and then not kind of like adding a little bit of padding at the end to make it not feel so awkward. It’s so hard to not do that and every fiber and our human being, in our core wants to, give the customer like a little bit of like a slide.

Like, I’m going to ask you this question but I want to it feel as nice and fluffy as possible. Here’s an example, please describe to me your role. But like the things that you do every day and you know, talk to me more also about how you spend your time, like during the Workday. You see how I asked the question, or at least, I stated really the prompt. But after that I added all this extra fluffy stuff. Now, what’s also really fascinating is the last thing that you say, the customer’s brain is going to latch onto that, and they’re just going to basically pair it back, whatever it is that you say. So be careful that like, if you have a question or a prompt, just say it. Can you please describe to me your role?

And then say, not a peep after. It is remarkably difficult, but you will get used to this over time. You don’t want to feed customers your answers. The human brain is super lazy. It will latch onto the wherever it is, the last thing that you said. If you find yourself feeding customers answers, you’re just going to hear yourself right back. So make sure that you just ask the question, or say the prompt, don’t add any qualifiers after. If they ask questions back like, well what do you mean, kike in my job? You can confirm or deny or provide a little bit more context, but try not to feed customers answers to your own questions. Your interviews will just basically be the same, but also you do the customer a service. You don’t actually let them really think about it, and when you let the customer really think about it, that’s what you get all the juicy details. So just be careful about that.

Number three, unpack vague answers. You are undoubtedly going to hear very vague answers and I’m not going to lie, you’re not necessarily going to know if they’re vague until you do a few of these interviews. I find by the second or third interview just in general of practice with interviewing customers, you’ll start to hear a lot of the same things over and over and over again, and you’ll start to form other questions in your head too. You’ll just start thinking about like, well, what does that really mean? So, for example, you might hear really vague answers. Like, I mean, yeah, like I spend time online, and as the interviewer you might be thinking, well where online? Podcasts? Blogs? Like where? Don’t be afraid to unpack a vague answer. If you get something that is a really broad spectrum term or like just, just not really specific at all, don’t be afraid to unpack, and you can do it gently, of course.

You don’t have to be combative about it. It’s actually really easy. “One thing I like to say is, oh, interesting. Tell me more.” I absolutely love saying that. I spent a lot of time online. Oh, interesting. Tell me more. Where online? So easy. Don’t be afraid to unpack vague answers. And like I said, you’re not necessarily going to know what’s vague until you do a few. But after you get the first two to three under your belt, you will start to get those like, oh man, we should’ve dug deeper on that. That just sets you up for success for all the next interviews to come.

Number four, do not incentivize your customer research. Now this is so controversial because it’s so natural for a founder to think that no one’s going to want to talk to them, that they’re going to have to give customers free things and money basically for them to even want to talk to them, but I completely, one disagree and two, you will be surprised at what an incentive will actually do to your customer interview. I’ve been on both sides of the fence and I’ve got to say when the customer is not incentivized at all, you get the hands down best clearest feedback.

When someone is incentivized because they just want the Amazon gift card, or they just want the free coffee or they want the free month. That’s what’s motivating them. They’re not motivated to give you good or… I don’t even want to say good, but they’re not really motivated to talk much, or help you with like this insight, or this insight driven project. They’re just not motivated by that at all. They don’t necessarily care about giving you good information. They only care about getting the gift card, or getting the thing, and you don’t want to talk to those people anyway. You really want to talk to the people who are willing to do it for free. They’re taking their own time out of the day. Those are the people who are going to give you the absolute best insights, and it’s also a very clear indicator of the people who feel the most pain and who do ultimately love your product.

You don’t want to talk to people who don’t love your product but do love Amazon gift cards. Just hands down. If you don’t incentivize the research, you’re just going to hands down, get way better feedback. The people who are on the call with you actually care, and not about the gift card, or whatever it is that you’re giving them for free and those people are likely to give you the clearest indicator of who actually has product market fit, who really truly is your best fit paying customer, and who is emotionally invested in what it is that you’re doing.

Because if you’re getting a customer on the phone, it’s because you’re probably solving a pain for them, and that’s a great indicator. A lot of founders do get afraid they’re not going to get anyone on the phone, and I have never done a customer project or a customer research project, I should say, or strategic project where I’ve not been able to get customers on the phone. They will, I promise attend. You just have to remind them and also if you don’t incentivize them, you’re going to get the best feedback no matter what.

All right, everyone, I really hope that that helped. I hope that you learned something. If you want to make sure that you do not miss a single Hot Take, don’t forget to subscribe down below. My name is Asia of Demand May Event, and I help early stage founders with their very first growth milestones. Thank you again so much for watching. I really hope that this helped. Thanks again guys. Bye y’all.