Asking Customers Questions – Startup Marketing At Its Finest

reesesProduct and marketing are chocolate and peanut butter to a startup.  They taste delicious together. Side note – I love the Reese’s cups commercials.  Use your product to grow your marketing, and your marketing to grow your product.  PB. Chocolate.

Any attempt to bring a new product to market should be preceded by a minimum of 50 conversations with customers.  No joke, y’all. The rationale lives in the previous post right here.

If you format your conversations correctly, the questions you ask should unearth:

  1. If your product actually solves the problem you think it will.
  2. If customers will pay for it.  Making money is kinda important when you have none to start with.
  3. A list of potential customers to call upon once your research is done and your product is built or updated.
  4. What marketing message you should use to appeal to your customers.

That last point is where product and marketing blend together scrumptiously.  Pay close attention to the words your future customers use.  They will literally tell you how to sell them through their language and phrasing.  Listen for the nuance.  Read between the lines.

To get you started, here’s a list of sample questions you might ask.  I would recommend having more questions than you need, and questions of different types, so that you are never left hanging on call, wondering where to steer the conversation.

BUCKET O’ QUESTIONS – What is your life like today?

  • What are the top three items your team is focused on today?
  • What things do you measure to determine if your work is successful or not?
  • On the list of priorities, where does [your problem / your industry / your niche fall]. Why is that?
  • What is happening in your industry right now?
  • What are your customers currently experiencing or saying to you?

BUCKET O’ QUESTIONS – What is in your way?

  • What’s the most difficult part of your job?
  • If you could wave a magic wand and fix one thing, what would it be?
  • What in your daily routine slows you down more than it should?
  • If you tried to solve these problems, what is your company’s willingness to support that?
  • How does this problem affect other departments?

BUCKET O’ QUESTIONS – What happens if you are successful or if this fails?

  • What does a successful solution to this problem look like to you?
  • Describe [your industry] nirvana to me
  • We’re exploring a new idea that would make [your problem] easier.  What is that worth to you or your company?
  • How much is solving that problem worth?
  • If the problem doesn’t get solved, what would the reaction be?

TIP – How to ask a question
Make it a single sentence. Ask it, then shut your mouth.

  • Good Example – How much time do you spend manually running reports each day?
  • Bad Example – Do you spend time running reports manually, like a little bit, a couple of hours, days, not too much?  What do you think?

People speak more the less you talk.  As the saying goes – two ears, one mouth. Use proportionally.

TIP – Don’t ask yes or no questions.  Ask open ended questions.

  • Good Example – Tell me about how you run reports each day
  • Bad Example – Do you run reports each day?

If we’ve gotten to this point and you’re not writing down their responses, you’re a fool.  Take lots and lots of notes, and share with everyone on your team.  Beg them for their feedback.  Different people will interpret responses differently, and you’ll have better analysis as a result.

TIP – Refine your questions after every call.
Some questions work, others don’t.  New questions pop-up.  Include them in your next round of questions.

After the first 15-20 calls, summarize all the notes into an executive summary, pulling out key highlights and messaging.  Shazam!

In the next post I’ll share my own personal methodology for kicking off and maintaining customer calls over a period of weeks and months.

 

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