Why and how should startups conduct customer interviews?

Why and how should startups conduct customer interviews?

Katelyn Bourgoin, CEO at Customer Camp, shared her insights with BonBillo Impact Bootcamp teams on why and how startups should navigate the customer discovery journey. Customer Camp helps startups get inside their customer’s heads so they can market smarter.

Highlights of Katelyn Bourgoin's Customer Discovery Workshop

Here are our key takeaways:

1. Why conduct customer interviews?  👂

Katelyn shares that companies who conduct research grow up to 3 times faster.  🚀

"ProfitWell did a huge study and found that 70% of teams admitted that they were talking to fewer than 10 customers a month to learn from them. They were doing sales calls, perhaps they weren't talking to customers to learn from them. They were saying things like customer interviews take too much time and they weren't making time for them. But guess what was happening to the peak teams that were making time for them? They were growing two to three times faster than the other 70%."

As a marketer, Katelyn found that 88% of the time her clients hadn’t yet figured out who their best customers were or spent any time understanding their needs.

In order to see growth, you have to know who your best customers are and spend the time to understand their needs. It not only helps with marketing but also helps companies with creating the right products.

ProfitWell finds that 70% of teams talk to fewer than 10 customers a month to learn from them.

2. What is the goal of customer interviews?  🥅

Katelyn quotes Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen: "Customers don't buy products or services; they "hire" them to do a job. Understanding customers does not drive innovation success, he argues. Understanding customer jobs does."

According to the "Jobs to be done" theory, there's something blocking us from making progress in the way that we want to make progress. And we essentially hire products or service providers to help us get our jobs done. And when those things work well, we will keep using them and we'll be happy. When they don't work well, we will fire them and look for something new to hire.

Clayton Christensen states "Customers don't buy products or services; they "hire" them to do a job."

Hence, the goal of customer interviews is not about pitching your product, but is really about understanding the customer’s jobs to be done. 

Katelyn recommends doing this by understanding the buyer journey. You want to understand what led customers to begin pursuing a solution in the first place because there's so much valuable insight there that can go into product design and marketing.

3. Who should startup founders interview?  🦸‍♀️

The customer buying journey starts with a trigger event. The trigger event is something that happens in your customer's life that makes them first realize they have a job to be done, that they have a problem that they need to solve. If somebody has not been triggered, they could look like an ideal customer for you, but they're not in the buying journey.

"The biggest mistake that people make with customer discovery is they talk to people who look like their ideal customers, as opposed to people who are actual buyers, people who are actually buying products from them today, or people who are looking for solutions, like the ones that they offer."

Katelyn recommends prioritizing who to interview in the following order.

  • Gold - People who recently bought from YOU
  • Silver - People who bought from a direct or indirect competitor
  • Bronze - People who are currently in the buying journey and actively looking to buy a solution to solve the problem you solve

"If you want to figure out how to sell more, you should talk to actual buyers."

4. How to conduct customer interviews?  💬

Katelyn Bourgoin conducts a mock customer interview with Vedant Kanoi about his experience buying a knife set.

In the mock interview Katelyn demonstrates an interview method used by some of the world's biggest brands such as Intercom, Eventbrite, Ikea, Amazon and McDonald's. They're using this customer buying journey interview to really understand their customers.

Watch the full mock interview below.

Here are some of the questions that they dive into:

  • Why did you need a new knife set? 
  • How does it fit into the work that you do?
  • Did you move recently or renovate or you're planning to move?
  • In addition to this knife set, are there other things that you're buying for this new kitchen?
  • Do you have like a list of things that you need to get?
  • Tell me about when you decided you were getting rid of your old knife set?
  • Did you ever work as a chef?
  • Walk me through your search process. Do you go to Amazon right away or did you do some other research?
  • Do you remember what it cost?
  • How much time did that take?
  • Did you have an expectation of what you were going to spend?
  • Was there anything that made you anxious about it? Anything that might've stopped you from buying them?
  • Do you remember what the rating was?
  • What was the brand?
  • Say that you had a friend who was looking for a new knife set and you wanted to convince them that they should buy this one. How would you tell them to buy it? What would you say to them to convince them to buy it?

Want help with your customer interviews?

Get Katelyn’s Clarity Call Cheatsheets to understand your customer’s buying journey and get marketing results worth bragging about!

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