Message & Media: Get on the Horn
When was the last time you talked with the people who buy your products and pay your salary? And no, email, Facebook and Twitter don't count. I mean a face-to-face or voice-to-voice conversation with those fine folks who keep you in business.
I mention this because I'm about to start one of my favorite non- writing assignments: phone interviews for an insurance client.
Customers are your expert witnesses—people who can provide you with marketing intelligence that results in marketing breakthroughs. I've used customer comments I've obtained through phone interviews as the foundation for writing control-beating headlines, subject lines, letter openers, Web page sidebars and lift letters like the one to the right for the luxury vacation company Maupintour.
In my opinion, nothing replaces the credibility and natural cadence of a customer quote. And for those of you with a tight marketing budget, customer interviews are virtually free. There's no huge research budget required.
Whether you're a sales manager, marketing vice president, product development engineer or a writer, like I am, your customers are a solid source of eye-opening anecdotal insights. They have no hidden agendas, no corporate turf to protect. They simply want the best-they-can-get-that-does-the job-at-the-right-price. And they won't pussyfoot around about what they like and don't like. That's why I enjoy talking with them. Happy or irate, customers tell you how it is.
So, if it's been a few months since you've had a conversation with a customer, it's time to pick up the phone and call. Here are a bevy of tips for how to effectively gather these comments so you make the most of your time (another resource that is often tight for marketers and customers alike). This is the same roadmap I've used for interviewing both B-to-B and B-to-C customers who have purchased everything from propane and business phone systems to health insurance, international travel, Asian skin care products and Kansas City barbecue.