Event Recap: Discovering Your Customers’ “Elevator Rant”

Event Recap: Discovering Your Customers’ “Elevator Rant”

Quick: what do you think your customers say about you when you’re not around? Is it good, or bad?

That was a point that Bob London of London Ink made at The Marketing Alliance’s (TMA) recent fall event. He presented a session focused on how marketers can discover what he refers to as their customers’ “Elevator Rant” – what they complain about on the elevator when their marketers are not around.

The premise of the session was that listening to customers is the most critical (and inexpensive) step in the marketing process, yet too many companies look at things from their own perspective and not from that of their customer. And Bob’s not the only one who believes this.

Bob shared a McKinsey & Company report on “How B2B companies talk past their customers” which states “the themes that many B2B companies consider important for brand imaging appear to have minimal influence on buyers’ perceptions of brand strength.” Things that marketers like to tout — being a driver of innovation, having a global reach, and modeling corporate social responsibility — actually hold no statistical significance in a customer’s decision to purchase technology.

Adding to the woes of marketers everywhere, Bob also pointed to a SpiceWorks report that although 95 percent of marketers are investing in social media (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter), only 23 percent of IT buys consider that platform when making a purchasing decision. The two most significant influences on a purchaser’s decision were actually found to be peer recommendations and ratings and reviews – two areas that marketers can’t directly influence.

So what does Bob suggest? Apparently he’s on the same page as the Pope and advocates spending time finding out what is important from the customers’ perspective. Instead of just saying the same thing as everyone else, find out what will actually resonate with your customers by taking the novel approach of talking to them.

This all seems like a no brainer, but answer this question: when was the last time you sat down and talked to your customer with absolutely no agenda about their pain points and what keeps them up at night? You might be surprised at the answers.

Bob suggest companies and marketers follow a simple formula to discover their customers’ elevator rants:

  • Meet with a mix of clients and prospects
  • Conduct 15-20 interviews
  • Allot 30-45 minutes for each interview
  • Make the interviews completely agenda-less
  • Ask insightful questions that convey genuine curiosity
  • Above all, do not be defensive

Bob also groups the questions into three buckets:

  1. Questions about their business
  2. Questions about your own industry and peers
  3. Questions specific to your company and/or product

Over the years, Bob has used this approach to interview hundreds of decision-makers. Each time he’s always walked away with the feeling that, in general, at least eight great things happen when you listen to your customers:

  1. Insights are gained: The most valuable outcome, because they lead to new opportunities.
  2. Use cases are identified: New ideas for how customers are using your product or service.
  3. Upsell/cross-sell opportunities arise: Follow up with solutions to their challenges.
  4. Referrals become a possibility: The best ones are the ones you don’t have to ask for.
  5. Testimonials are written: Promote the positive things people say in your marketing and sales.
  6. Problems are solved: You can’t address them if you don’t know about them.
  7. Awareness has been raised: They’ll think of you when they have a problem.
  8. Goodwill is earned. It’s nice to be called on without being sold. You are not taking the customer for granted.

It really was a great session that included a lot of passionate discussion from the audience. If you’re interested in seeing Bob’s full presentation you can find it on SlideShare, but I highly recommend seeing Bob give this presentation in person as his passion for this topic really is infectious.

Were you at the most recent TMA event? What did you think?