Episode Summary

Did you know you can get some of the most valuable marketing data by interviewing your own customers?

It probably sounds easier said than done, but don't worry. Press play and we’ll teach you exactly how to approach customer interviews right now.

On this episode of B2B Power Hour, we talk to Ryan Paul Gibson of Content Lift to learn all about his in-depth customer interview process. As the Founder of Content Lift, Ryan uses his years of experience to help B2B marketing teams run customer interviews and make stronger data-informed decisions with their marketing budgets.

The first step in the customer interview process is to choose the right customers to interview. You'll want to talk to anyone who closed recently, as they'll be the most eager and excited to join a meeting.

If you're a newer company or don't have enough customers to talk to yet, you can still work through this process! Find people who fit each stage of your buyer's journey and talk to them — they can still provide valuable insights. Ask how they're making decisions to solve their problems, where they're conducting research, and how they found a solution that met their needs.  

Once you find the perfect candidate, keep the conversation friendly and easygoing. While you want the interviewee to feel like it's a relaxed conversation, you need a list of objectives to check off as you talk through their buyer's journey.

Aim for eight to twelve interviews: any less than that and you won't have statistically-relevant data, any more and you'll start to see diminishing returns.  

So, what exactly do you do with this data? It can be used for virtually anything you need: copy adjustments on landing pages, new case studies, building buyer personas, or even helping sales adjust their strategy.

Listen in and discover everything you need to know about interviewing customers, from how to choose the best interview candidates to which questions to ask. Plus, we share how you can apply interview data to your marketing efforts.

What he does: As the Founder of Content Lift, Ryan helps B2B marketing teams run investigative customer interviews and make better decisions with their marketing budgets.

Key quote: "I'd rather spend three months learning how I'm going to spend my marketing budget wisely than just spending a year pouring money down the drain, guessing what's going to work. It happens — I see it all the time."

Where to find him: Twitter | LinkedIn | Website

B2B Power Plays

Top takeaways from this week’s conversation

📝 Let marketing lead the charge for surveys and customer interviews.

You'll get the best results from customer interviews if marketers are leading the conversation.

Why shouldn't sales handle it? Sales isn't focused on marketing. What an account manager might ask during their research is different from what a marketer is looking for. Plus, the context of sales conversations is usually focused around closing a deal.

Marketers have in-depth knowledge about their ideal buyer personas, the steps they're currently taking to drive people to take action with the brand, and the questions that need answering.

🎯 Here's who you should (and shouldn't) target for an interview.

Ask for interviews with people who have just closed.  

They're excited to use the product and are more likely to agree to a meeting to discuss their buying process. Any older clients probably won't be able to answer your questions with the detail you need.

Ideally, your interviewee will also be the one your team interacted with the most. You want to start with the person who was there throughout the process and played a part in driving the deal forward.  

Once you have your ideal interview candidate, ask for 20-30 minutes of their time for a chat about how they came to purchase your product.

🤝 Make your interview a friendly conversation that still gets you the answers you need.

While the interview will be a structured conversation, it should feel like an easygoing chat over a cup of coffee.

Ryan recommends going in with a list of objectives you want to hit and checking them off your list as you go through the interview. If you read questions verbatim, you might be more focused on the next question than actively listening to each answer.  

Here are a few of Ryan's top tips for interviewing customers:

  • Research the buying journey. You can work with sales and marketing teams to build this out.
  • List out exactly what you want to know, whether it's objectives throughout the buying journey or distinct things about the product.
  • Ask open-ended follow-up questions, such as, “That's interesting, can you dive into that more?”
  • What made you trust the sales team?” Use this answer to let sales know what is (and isn't) working — this is one of Morgan's favorite questions to ask.

Episode Highlights

Inflection points from the show

[2:09] Surveys vs. customer interviews: Ryan compares surveys and customer interviews, digging into the valuable data customer interviews can achieve that surveys rarely do.

[5:41] The importance of qualitative (and quantitative) data: While both types of data are important, qualitative data is typically preferred because it tells you the 'why.’

[7:12] Marketing should take the lead for customer interviews: Marketing and sales teams have different objectives. An account manager won't ask the same questions as a marketer. To get the most out of customer interviews, Ryan explains why he prefers marketing teams to be at the helm.

[14:08] Who to interview if you don't have enough customers: If you don't have enough customers to interview (yet), find people who fit each stage of your buyer's journey and talk to them. Ask how they're making decisions to solve their problems and where they're conducting research.

[20:25] How to identify good prospects: Figure out the types of prospects that come to your business and close quickly. Focus marketing efforts on that segment.

[25:42] Asking for a customer interview: Ask prospects who have just closed for a quick 20-30 minute chat. They're more likely to agree right after the sale as they're excited about using your product.

[29:50] The perfect customer interview structure: Ryan explains his go-to customer interview format, from defining objectives to asking open-ended questions.

[34:19] The role of practical empathy: Morgan brings up the concept of practical empathy and its role in helping you understand the buyer's journey.

[38:50] How many interviews you should aim for: Ryan recommends getting eight to twelve customer interviews. You can get away with as little as six but any less than that, it'll be hard to get statistically-relevant answers.

[43:40] How to turn your interview data into sales: So, what do you do with all of the amazing data you collected during customer interviews? It depends on what you need, but you can use it to build buyer personas, update marketing copy, or create case studies.

[47:22] Ryan's power hour: Ryan would spend his power hour talking to customers and figuring out how and why they buy. More importantly, he wants to know where he's going wrong and test out his assumptions.