Five Hacks to Accelerate Customer UnderstandingBy Matt Heinz

Increasing the depth to customer understanding – what they need, what they’re prioritizing, and what outcomes they seek – is the key to effective product development, sales, and marketing success.

Traditionally, tapping into that insight was time consuming and expensive.

It required focus groups, dozens of interviews, and weeks of work to gather a small amount of value.

Today, we can accelerate that learning and value with a few smarter strategies and “hacks” that require minimal time and effort.

Here are a few that work particularly well.

Customer Understanding through the Journey

Where did the prospect start before they even thought about solutions? What pain or problems existed first? What observation or experience served to “loosen the status quo” for the prospect to get them thinking that change was better than staying the same?

These and similar questions can help you understand precisely the stages your customers go through before they’re ready to buy. And the better you understand these stages, the better you can map your product, your sales and marketing efforts, your content, and positioning to walk alongside the customer and help them make positive change.

Beyond the Spheres of Influence

We’d like to think what we offer to our customers is the center of their universe. In reality, most of the time this isn’t the case.

What else has their attention? What objectives do they have beyond what you’re directly offering?

Oftentimes these other priorities have more in common with your sphere of influence than you give credit to on the surface. And regardless of that overlap, the better you can engage customers and prospects on their own ground and their entire ground (not just your sphere) the faster you can develop trust, credibility, and preference.

Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

The questions we ask customers rarely get right to the heart of what they truly care about. The simplest way to drive through to the core need/pain is to ask why.

Whatever question you just asked, when the customer gives their answer, ask why. And when they answer that question, ask why again. And again and again and again.

This can feel redundant at first, but the extra layers of the onion that get pulled back, and the extra insights into the true motivations of your customers, is almost always worth it.

Buying Signals on Social Channels

If you understand the true motivations for your customers – the reason they’re seeking change in the first place – you have the ability to filter for signs of these buying signals in a variety of contexts.

You’ll often find the first sign of need or status quo change on social channels. Employees complaining about changing circumstances, or the start of persistent problems that will lead to a desire for change.

Use the insights you’ve gathered in the steps above to start looking for these early buying signals on channels such as social media that require little or no cost to access.

Customer-facing Employees

Focus groups are great, but the people you can learn from every day are right around you.

Your salespeople, customer service reps, and others who talk to customers every day can be a great source of insights.

Remember to follow the “ask why” methodology with them as well to help unlock the true motivations of your customers.

What ideas and hacks do you have for unlocking customer understanding and value in your business?

photo credit: Koshyk via photopin cc

Matt Heinz

Matt Heinz is the president of Heinz Marketing and brings more than 15 years of marketing, business development, and sales experience from a variety of organizations, vertical industries, and company sizes. Matt lives in Kirkland, Washington with his wife, Beth, three children and a menagerie of animals (a dog, cat, and six chickens).

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