Matthew Vick

8 Simple Steps for Conducting Killer Customer Interviews

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Whenever kicking off a new client engagement, a thorough vetting of how the brand is being positioned, messaged, and perceived—both internally and externally—is in order. Customer Interviews provide a valuable opportunity to audit the entire approach through which we should be communicating with our target—presenting the right message, to the right person, in the right place, at the right time.

So, what’s the quickest way to get to the bottom of this? You could analyze industry trends, or deep dive into consumer data, but often the path of least resistance (with the most informative results) is this: just ask! This may seem obvious, but you would be amazed how many companies neglect to take the time to do exactly that with any regularity.

It’s hard to read the label when you’re stuck inside the bottle. Customer Interviews offer critical insights about why, how, and where a prospective customer might choose your solution over that of a lateral competitor—that are often missed or misunderstood from an internal perspective.

If you are struggling to gain market traction with your marketing efforts, experiencing stagnating sales and declining consumer sentiment, or just want to gut-check your current approach from soup to nuts, customer interviews can offer rich returns for a modest investment of time.

See below for 8 simple steps to structuring and conducting winning customer interviews:

  1. Evaluate Your Audiences

    Think critically about the different parties involved in the chain of Buyers for your product or service. Does one role or job title handle the entire process from evaluation to decision? Is the thought process different across parties, or industries-served? The answers to these preliminary questions will inform the breadth of the different groups from which you will need to solicit interviews.

  2. Define Your Objectives

    What questions do you seek to answer? Begin by aligning your objectives with the individual groups you will need to interview, then move on to defining the top-level buckets of desired insights to further explore with these target audience(s). See below for a few key opportunities to help get you started:

    • Moment-of-Action: What were the circumstances that led your customer to begin looking for a solution to the problem that your product or service addresses? Answers to this line of questioning will provide useful touch-points you can leverage to build better rapport and alignment in your messaging, as well as illuminate some less traditional potential avenues for promotion.
    • Thought Process: What were the most important considerations when making the decision about which solution to ultimately adopt? What tipped the scales in the end, and what carried little weight? Answers here will help you triage the key points to hit in your advertising creative, keyword targeting, and/or destination landing page copy that will instill confidence in your familiarity with your prospects’ mindset, and thus would be better suited to provide an effective solution than a less aligned competitor.
    • Evaluation Process: How, and where, did your customer go about the practical process of identifying and weighing the potential solutions available on the market? What channels did they use, and why? These answers will help you dial in your media mix—ensuring that you invest appropriately when building your marketing presence, only in the areas where your prospects are.
  3. Structure the Conversation

    To paint a comprehensive picture with each interview, leverage the inverted pyramid structure. Begin with broad questions about the respondent’s overarching role and experience, and work your way down towards specific, pointed questions for each objective bucket as the interview progresses.

  4. Don’t Confuse Hypotheses with Fact

    Confirmation bias is a serious concern with interviews, particularly when the interviewer is close to the subject matter. One of the biggest mistakes you can make in your survey design is to gloss over questions you think you already know the answer to. Don’t be afraid to reconfirm the things you already believe to be true, because it’s the exceptions that truly matter.

  5. Secure an Ample Sample

    In an exploratory interview, you don’t need statistical significance to identify trends. However, it is still critical that you conduct interviews with enough respondents to confirm correlation, and eliminate outliers. Start with a minimum sample size of 3, or an ideal range of 4-6 (per unique audience group), for best results.

  6. Conduct Interviews Verbally, Not in Writing

    Conducting interviews verbally enables you to read the respondent in real time, so you can adjust your line of questioning as-needed to further unpack important insights. An organic conversation is always preferable to a structured, written survey—which may result in terse, overly conservative, or uninformative results.

  7. Budget Your Time Properly

    When scheduling your interviews, set proper expectations. 45 minutes – 1 hour is typically necessary to fully explore a comprehensive line of questioning for each dimension of the survey you identified in the objective-setting phase.

  8. Revise Your Questionnaire

    As you complete interviews with multiple members of a given audience, common threads will begin to emerge. Don’t be afraid to re-adjust your line of questioning to get to the heart of these areas more efficiently in subsequent interviews within this group.

Follow these 8 simple steps and you’ll be well on your way to uncovering some meaningful (and often truly surprising) insights about your customers which you can leverage to great effect as you further optimize your marketing approach for the future. Happy interviewing!

5 Signs It’s Time to Refresh Your Website

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Is Your Website Hurting Your Sales Efforts?

Your company website is perhaps the most valuable asset in your marketing arsenal. It provides the lowest barrier to entry for prospects and existing customers alike to learn more about your product or services, and acts as a 24-hour sales rep, providing relevant information to that drives sales. At least that’s the idea.

Your website can be a powerful tool to drive conversions and help your business thrive, when done correctly. When it’s not, it can act as a roadblock to your efforts and actively deter new prospects from taking a leap of faith in working with you. Oftentimes our clients will ask us if we feel they need a new website. The answer is not always “yes,” so take the time to review this checklist to see if your website is helping, or hurting, your sales efforts!

Evaluate Your Website with This Dead Simple, 5-Step Checklist

  1. It Isn’t Mobile-Optimized: This is the first thing I check when deciding whether to recommend a website refresh. As of 2014, we finally passed the tipping point where more people, on average, used mobile devices to browse the internet than desktop or laptop computers. Previously, in order to make your website accessible from a mobile device, you had to create a separate, oftentimes stripped down, version of your website. The hallmark of this approach was the “m.domainname.com” prefix. But no longer! Responsive Web Design (RWD) allows your website to contain the exact same content, and provide the exact same experience, to a mobile user as a desktop user. Your site will simply dynamically rearrange itself to fit the appropriate screen size.For a search engine like Google, whose primary value to users lies in its ability returning relevant search results based on a given query, favoring sites that perform evenly on mobile devices—where many of its users are—is critical. Google’s algorithm does just that, granting a ranking boost to websites that are mobile-friendly. If for no other reason than avoiding the hit to your SEO, the choice to upgrade your site pays for itself.
  2. It Contains Inconsistent Aesthetics: Prospects and customers look to your website as validation of your credibility. Your website is a reflection of your overall business. If you rely heavily on stock imagery that does not perfectly align with your offerings, or use a haphazard collection of colors and fonts across your pages, this can reflect poorly on your business’ credibility. Prospects want to receive an even experience of your brand. By codifying the color palette, fonts and the style of images in use on your website, you present a consistent and credible brand image to visitors, which will ultimately build trust.
  3. It Lacks Critical Content: Your website is an interactive piece of sales literature. Every piece of information contained on your site should serve a specific goal, while minimizing fluff. Ask yourself the following questions:
    1. Are all of the benefits of your product or service reflected accurately and comprehensively?
    2. Are all of your eligible prospect audiences represented on your site?
    3. Are you addressing the key motivators of each audience that would encourage a sale?
    4. Are your calls-to-action clearly articulated and direct?
    5. Can a prospect easily understand the process of what to expect at the time of purchase, and what happens immediately afterwards?

If you answered “no,” to any of the above questions, you should first assess whether you know the answers to the questions and seek them out if you don’t. From there, ensure that these are reflected accurately when you refresh your website.

  1. The User Experience is Poor: So your content is on point; it addresses all of your audiences and provides all of the information they need to make an informed decision about whether to work with your company. But if it’s even slightly difficult for your audiences to find the content that speaks directly to them, you are going to lose sales.
    1. Is critical information buried, or difficult to locate directly? Ensuring that your pages are titled and organized in a logical way that matches the thought process of your prospects is an essential first step.
    2. Do you minimize the number of clicks a given audience would need to find all of the information they require? Unnecessary complexity is just as bad as gaps in content.
    3. Does your homepage, or top-level section pages, act as sub-navigation for the rest of your site? The header is not the only way to navigate a website. In fact, it’s often not the primary way that users experience your site. Web browsing is an exercise in train of thought, so minimizing distractions and providing sparks of interest that help users parse the information that relates to them from that which does not—no matter where they are within the site—will be a boon to the user’s overall experience.
    4. Is anything broken? This may seem like a no-brainer, but something as simple as a dead link, to something as large as a malfunctioning checkout process in the case of an eCommerce business, will, at best, damage your credibility – and at worst, lose you a sale.

We live in an age of instant gratification, and if users find it challenging to immediately locate the answers to their questions with little to no thought expended, they will look elsewhere.

  1. Absence of Lead Capture: Picture this – you’re running great promotions, maybe even an ad campaign or two, and prospects are visiting your website left and right. Congratulations! But what if they aren’t immediately ready to make a purchase? Do you have a way to capture that person’s information? Or would they be lost back into the ether entirely? Don’t lose your prospects. Unless you’re selling an impulse product, your prospects likely need to be nurtured before they are ready to convert. Give them an opportunity to. Ensuring that there is a straightforward mechanism for customers to provide you with their contact information, oftentimes in exchange for more detailed content about your product or service, serves the dual purpose of keeping them happy, and giving you, the business owner, another means to nurture your sales pipeline.Lead capture forms should be placed prominently throughout your site. However, you should avoid at all costs being overly obtrusive, as this negatively affects the user experience described in #4 above.

How did your website fare? Are you firing on all cylinders, or did you miss a few steps along the way? If you have any questions about your website’s efficiency, or how it could be better optimized for conversions – please let us know and we’ll be happy to help!

Tips for Using LinkedIn as a Lead Generation Tool

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LinkedIn is widely regarded as a go-to social media platform for recruitment purposes; streamlining the application process for job seekers, the sourcing/screening process for recruiters, and facilitating direct communication between the two. There is also a pervasive misconception that LinkedIn’s value begins and ends at these recruitment-centric applications. In practice, LinkedIn is also a powerful platform for lead generation purposes.

LinkedIn is rated as the most effective social platform for generating B2B leads, far outpacing Facebook, Twitter and all other social media in terms of its efficacy. Since members on the platform are self-volunteering to maintain a record of relevant professional data points, the targeting capabilities for LinkedIn are incredibly powerful when placed in the hands of savvy marketers. This robust targeting information also holds a high degree of accuracy compared to other lead gen channels, since the onus for maintaining an accurate and current profile rests squarely on the members themselves.

LinkedIn Advertising Products At-a-Glance

  • Sponsored Updates: Much like Boosted Posts on Facebook, LinkedIn’s Sponsored Updates product allows marketers to serve content directly within the newsfeeds of target members—interspersed amongst other, organic posts from members’ existing connections and followed-companies. The elements of a Sponsored Update include a brief message of up to 600 characters (truncated at 150), an outbound link, and an image displayed below the post. Unlike Facebook, there are no stipulations in terms of the amount of text you can include within the image portion of your Sponsored Update. You will need a company profile as a prerequisite to advertise on the platform, but marketers have the ability to drive traffic off-platform, to their own websites and landing pages, as well.
  • Sponsored InMail campaigns: LinkedIn’s native private messaging tool can be leveraged to send targeted emails, known in LinkedIn lingo as ‘InMails,’ directly to member inboxes. Marketers define their targeting parameters and draft the email content to be delivered to their pre-defined audience, including static and rich media, such as an image or video, within the body of the InMail itself, a custom call to action, and a small display ad unit to the right of that content.We are currently in the second generation of the Sponsored InMail product, an incarnation which now boasts a ‘100% deliverability’ guarantee, meaning that the delivery to your target list is staggered to be sent to members only when they are physically active on the platform. Additionally, LinkedIn mandates that recipients of Sponsored InMails can only be served paid content once, by any company, within a 60 day period—meaning that you essentially “own” that contact for 2 months once targeted.

Targeting

LinkedIn offers the same robust targeting parameters for each of its ad products, allowing marketers to reach both broad and well-defined audiences depending on their needs. Your query can either include, or exclude, the following dimensions as you build your ideal target audience, and stack criteria to get even more granular in your results:

  • Company Name
  • Company Industry
  • Company Size
  • Location
  • Job Title
  • Job Function
  • Job Seniority:
  • Member Schools
  • Fields of Study
  • Degrees
  • Member Skills
  • Member Groups
  • Gender
  • Age

Navigating the LinkedIn Advertising Services: Self-Serve VS Managed

LinkedIn offers two core types of ad services on the platform: Self-Serve and Managed. The central difference between these two approaches is whether or not you will need to work with a LinkedIn representative to implement a campaign.

At the time of writing, only Sponsored Updates are available through the self-serve platform, meaning marketers have the ability to define their own audience, budget and creative without input from a LinkedIn rep. You are also responsible for the monitoring and optimization of your campaign for increased performance.

The Managed offering, on the other hand, comes with the assistance of a dedicated team at LinkedIn to help you set up, monitor and optimize your campaigns. However, this assistance comes with a caveat in the form of a minimum spend and engagement duration, to the tune of roughly $25,000 over 3 months ($8000 per month) to start. Sponsored InMails are currently only available through the Managed offering, but Sponsored Updates can also be included as a portion of your spend—and are typically encouraged as part of the media mix.

Sources inside LinkedIn indicate that the Sponsored InMail campaigns will become available as a self-serve product in late 2016.

Tips for Success

Sponsored Updates

  • Use the Image as Branding Real Estate: Since LinkedIn does not limit your use of text overlay within your image, take advantage of this flexibility by including relevant information directly within the image itself.
  • Give it Time: The gut reaction is going to be to monitor your LinkedIn campaign like a hawk—especially with average recommended CPCs between $6-$10—but give it the time it needs to ramp up. Allow your ads to run for a minimum of 2-4 weeks, isolating potentially confounding variables before you make adjustments.
  • Leverage Landing Pages: As is the best practice with any segmented campaign, take the time to create a custom landing page for your Sponsored Updates to drive to, that speaks exclusively to the content of the Update. Remove all extraneous website navigation elements, and include a single CTA, so visitors don’t lose focus and keep their eyes on the prize. Finally, and most importantly, install a mechanism for lead capture on your landing page in order to turn anonymous clicks into actionable leads, and make it a roadblock to attaining whatever content is behind your CTA.

Sponsored InMail

  • Use a Peer as Your Signatory: LinkedIn allows you to assign the sender address, also known as a signatory, to either your company, or to an individual. Avoid having your message glossed over as another piece of sale-mail, and define a signatory that will be viewed by the recipient more as a peer, or a resource, as opposed to someone who wants them to spend money. This will add both credibility and personality to your send, increasing your odds for engagement.
  • Edge Out the Competition: Since LinkedIn limits the number of paid InMails a member can receive to one per 60-day period, the first company to get in front of that person essentially owns that channel for the next 2 months. Prioritize contacts who are of high-value to your competitors, and monopolize their inbox real estate.
  • Hit ‘em Twice (Or More): Take it one step further by hitting your highest priority contacts with multiple sends, end-to-end, to not only keep your brand top of mind, but to continue to lock down their inbox for 120, or 180 days.

Have any questions about how to better leverage LinkedIn for lead gen? Feel free to let us know!