December 9, 2014

Customers Will Tell You The Craziest (And Best) Things

Why is that many companies spend so much time  pursuing potential customers, and so little time after they become paying customers?

It is a huge mystery and, frankly, a terrible way of doing business.


By not speaking with customers, it sends the message their business isn’t really valued and there’s little or no interest in building a relationship. And let’s be clear: emails powered by marketing automation software don’t count as “talking” to customers.

Talking to your customers is a no-brainer because it delivers a boat-load of value and insight. You learn what your customers are thinking, the services and products they like or dislike, the problems they’re having, and how you can make improvements.

And, as important, it says to customers that “we care about your business”, and that you want to make them a key part of how the business operates.

Unfortunately, many companies don’t talk to customers. Maybe they don’t care, maybe they’re too busy or complacent, or maybe they’re afraid. Unfortunately, none of these are excuses.

The importance of talking to customers was thrust into the spotlight recently when a client, Jumbleberry, decided to get feedback and ideas about how to make its customers more successful. Jumbleberry CEO Danny Lee and myself set up a series of 15 to 20-minute interviews to ask some straightforward questions.

Here are some of key things I learned:

1. Customers are more than happy to talk with you. In fact, they’re often more than happy. Since so few companies actually talk to customers, you score huge points immediately by being different. And if it’s the CEO doing the outreach, it’s even more powerful and impactful.

2. If you ask for 15 to 20 minutes, you can easily get a lot more time. Once a customer gets on the phone, they are not at all anxious to hang up. In fact, they see it as a huge and rare opportunity to provide direct feedback and ideas.

After we went though our questions, it was interesting to hear customers ask about Jumbleberry’s growth plans. This suggests the company’s customers see themselves as partners in achieving success. (Note: Jumbleberry is an advertising network focused on cost-per-acquisition, or CPA, campaigns.)

3. Customers will happily tell you what they like about your service and, as important, they will tell you about things that make them unhappy. The criticism is more valuable than the positive because it offers a different perspective. As Bill Gates says “your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”.

4. Talking to customers is a great business development opportunity. Nothing says we value and want your business than talking to the CEO. It provides customers with encouragement and motivation to do more business with you.

5. It delivers a lot of competitive insight and intelligence. While it’s great to hear how your company is doing, some customers also do business with rivals, who are doing business better or differently. It’s a great opportunity to get the inside scoop to make strategic and tactical adjustments.

6. You get a much better picture of your customers – their interests, needs, motivations and points of pain. The more know, the better you can serve them and improve at selling to potential customers. And the best part is getting this insight is simply a matter of asking them questions and listening to their feedback, ideas and needs.

Bottom line: When it comes to customers, love them rather than ignore them. Don’t be afraid, shy or reluctant to talk to them. After all, they decided to purchase your product, so the least you can do is give them some attention.

More: Mark Suster has a good post on how not respecting your customer will undermine your success.

For start-ups and fast-growing companies looking to jump-start their marketing, I provide strategic and tactical marketing services: everything from Website audits and messaging (aka corporate storytelling) to Website refreshes and long-term projects to establish a solid marketing foundation that drives sales.

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