Why did your best customers choose you?
Unless you’re somehow the only option in your niche, chances are they had other options to choose from. So why you?
Getting to know your best customers by asking them powerful questions like this can be incredibly valuable. The more you understand your best customers, the better you can engage others like them.
Bruce La Fetra has spent years transforming customer interviews like these into an art form. Bruce is a Business Development Catalyst and Client Whisperer at Eastwood Strategy Advisors who works with professional services firms to help them mine their best customers for powerful data.
I was fortunate enough to sit down with Bruce to learn more about his process for extracting powerful information from current customers.
Bruce’s favorite byproduct of this process is when business owners see growth despite writing fewer proposals and chasing fewer prospects – because they’re winning everything they go after. In his words, this means “they’re really focusing on not just where they can win, but where they want to win.”
Check out the full interview below:
Step 1: Interview your BEST customers
You don’t want to blindly interview all of your customers in bulk. Rather, the key is to focus on your best customers.
This step can be a bit confusing, however, as not everyone has the same definition of “best.” But that’s okay! The business owner down the street’s definition of “best” should not influence the definition used by your company.
According to Bruce, your best customers are the customers you would want to clone. They may be your most profitable customer, but they might not be. Perhaps they are the customers you most enjoy working with. Whatever the defining characteristics, be sure to interview those in your portfolio that you wish you had more of.
Note, this is not the time to get sidetracked by an “ideal customer” or an “avatar” you’ve never actually met or engaged with. Your best customers exist and you’ve worked with them before.
Step 2: Talk about THEM, not you.
The interview process should be all about the customer, not your business. You want to use this time to figure out how you fit into their business (not how they fit into yours).
Keep in mind that your best customers are busy and they’re usually focused on something other than your work together. By learning from them in this way, they are doing you a big favor. DO NOT USE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO SELL THEM SOMETHING. No one wants to hear another sales pitch when they’re not looking to buy.
The goal should be a better understanding of your clients needs, their wants, and their perceptions. You want to leave this conversation with the following:
- How do you fit into their lives?
- How can you make their lives as easy as possible without compromising your process?
- What parts of your work do they enjoy the most?
- What could be removed without decreasing perceived value?
Keep in mind that you don’t need to ask them these questions exactly as they appear above. They might not be too excited to be asked what could be removed from their services, for example. But by probing and understanding which parts of your offers are more valuable to them than others, you’ll be able to adjust your deliverables accordingly and update them for the next customer.
At the end of the interview process, you want your best customers to feel seen and understood. Not only will gaining a true visual of who they are and your role in their lives help you serve them even better, it will also help you more effectively convey your message and connect with others like them.
Step 3: Avoid confirmation bias.
This step is critical and should be observed throughout the entire process.
We are guilty of confirmation bias when we only pay attention to data that supports our preconceived notions. Confirmation bias clouds results and tells us more about what we’re thinking than what the customer is thinking.
Therefore, it’s so important to enter this interview process with an open mind and leave any preconceived notions or guesses you may have at the door.
The steps for avoiding confirmation bias are as simple as they are essential:
- Listen and gather information.
- Wait to analyze the results at the end.
Bruce tells us, “It really takes a tremendous amount of discipline to say, I’m not going to try to draw any connections until there’s enough dots to try to connect them correctly.”
We need to be disciplined and rise above that tempting confirmation bias! Try collecting your notes and only reviewing them when you’ve completed at least half of the interviews (but ideally all of them). Sure, you may think of additional questions you wish you’d asked, but it’s a risk worth taking. The risk of shutting off your ability to truly listen due to confirmation bias is a greater one.
So there you have it! 3 steps to help you learn from your clients:
- Interview your BEST customers.
- Talk about THEM, not you.
- Avoid confirmation bias.
You can use the steps above to conduct your own interviews. If you’re new to this or just want the help of an experienced professional, feel free to reach out to Bruce here. He regularly conducts 45 minute Client Whisperer Assessments to help you see your business the way your clients see it. It can also help you identify any gaps in positioning, messaging, and marketing strategy.
Want to learn more about leveraging the clients you have to get more of the clients you want? Feel free to apply for one of my complimentary diagnostic sessions and we can review these concepts and uncover anything else that might be holding your business back.