Message & Media: Get on the Horn
1. Focus groups and surveys have their place, but they don't replace one-to-one customer conversations. While phone interviews with select customers may not be statistically sound, they are extremely valuable.
2. Who should you interview? Ask your salespeople, account service and customer service reps for candidates to call.
3. Before you call, gather background information about the individual you're calling, such as name, title (B-to-B), role he or she played in making the buying decision, length of time as a customer, product/service purchased and reason the person is on your call list (former customer of a competitor, resolved a problem or issue for him, came back after migrating to a competitor, etc.).
4. Talk to new customers who have recently made the buying decision, as well as established customers who have stuck with you through thick and thin. Both have insights that can help you connect with prospects.
5. If you are a freelancer like I am, have someone from the client side introduce you with a pre- interview call. It establishes immediate rapport and streamlines setting up the interviews. If you are hiring a freelancer for this assignment, set up the initial call.
6. Prepare a list of questions—some specific, others open ended. Run these questions by your client for input and approval.
7. During your interviews, listen between the lines for additional questions to ask.
8. Include the date and time you talk with each person as part of your written interview summary. You never know when and how this will come in handy.
9. When you first call to set an interview time, introduce yourself and give a brief reason for the interview (e.g., "I've been working on some new advertising materials for ABC Company and I asked to talk with customers like you to help me understand how people make their buying decisions.") This makes your intentions for the interview clear from the very beginning.