The Informational Interview
What is the most effective (and free) tool for businesses to learn about their customers?
An informational interview.
This will transform your sales and marketing approach by expanding your knowledge of your target market. You will learn who is in your target market and what products or services they need most. They will let you know the best way to approach them and what presentation method works best. A well-constructed interview should give you everything you need to know.
Here is a great example – and an incredible result!
Henry Ford asked his fellow citizens how he could transform their travel experience. They told him they wanted a faster horse! Ford’s visionary mind knew that a machine (engine) could run faster than a horse, so he found a way to build automobiles in a factory faster and cheaper than any of his competitors. His assembly line process made cars possible for average people.
Oh, and have you heard the one about…
…Steve Jobs. In an era where the BoomBox was the biggest (literally) trend in the music industry, he invented the iPod. Nobody knew they needed it, but the possibility of carrying hundreds of songs in your pocket was astounding. It was a huge success and the start of an electronics revolution.
Boom! What other inventors and disruptors come to mind?
Nailing the Informational Interview
First, let’s acknowledge that it might be awkward for some people. You’re asking them about their wants, needs, and desires and that’s not always easy in a business setting. They probably know that this conversation is more about you than them. After all, it’s called an interview.
Properly designed and executed, the dialog reveals what they feel is valuable and what it means to them in their personal life. Here are some useful tips to help you develop a guide for the conversation.
Tip #1 – Framing
“How can I improve the way that we do business with you?” Make it clear that their feedback is critical to your mission. The information they share will be used to improve the service you provide them.
Tip #2 – Create Distance
Nobody wants to be put on the spot. If your subject feels that way, they won’t tell the truth. If they perceive the discussion as confrontational – “Why don’t you like me (or my company)?” – they will recoil in shock.
It’s better to ask, “What is it about my industry that ticks you off?” If you already have a decent relationship, they should feel like you’re on the same side. It’s about “those other guys”. This allows them to save face while also telling you what they really think.
Tip #3 – Ask the Right Questions
One set of questions will not work for every interview subject. You should reflect on your experience with the client and adapt the questions to be pertinent and relevant to their perspective.
Once the interview begins, you should be flexible based on their reactions. An answer may beg for a follow-up – do it – even if it takes you off track for a bit. If they are struggling to produce an answer, rephrase the question. If they are really stuck, move on to the next question.
At some point, the gates will open, and their words will pour out. When that happens let them go on even if they are just rambling. Then, you’ll get your reward.
Tip #4 – Record, record, record
Record and transcribe the interviews. This allows you to get the EXACT wording your customers are using. This is very useful in marketing and sales. Need to write a copy for your landing page? You now have the words your customers use to describe their pain points. Need to refine your sales pitch? You have the exact words your customers use to describe their wants and needs. And you probably have a few stories that will resonate with your prospects because they come from… your CUSTOMERS.
Help is Available
If you plan to conduct informational interviews, and we recommend that you do, a great resource is The Pumpkin Plan by Mike Michalowicz.
For help with developing questions, or even someone to conduct the interviews, Growth Simplified provides the expertise you need to get this task done.