Yes, I’m asking you. When was the last time you picked up the phone and have a conversation with your customers?

In the middle of all the tickets you’ve created and meetings you’ve been to - how up to date is your understanding of the customers you have?

Sure, you may know about what customers are coming in and those that are leaving, but with that focus - you are missing out on the customers that keep the business going and growing.

What if I told you we could increase the revenue per customer while improving satisfaction? What if I said you are missing out on a sizable portion of revenue? What if I told you a channel for acquiring customers can be three times more effective than what you are doing?

This is the art of customer development, and I’d like to briefly explore these topics and how to get started, TODAY.

Why market to current customers?

Sure, it’s easy to give lip service to our current customer base.

“We are customer-obsessed” or a variation of it, is somewhere in your company’s mission statement, and it may be something that gets talked about during an offsite, but think about how often you’ve talked to current customers in a proactive way?

We usually talk to our customers reactively, in fact, if I look in your customer conversation tool (think Intercom) my guess is that any and all proactive conversation is in sales or retention. The “why” is simple - our incentives are aligned that way - Net Churn and Activations are going to get eyes immediately when talking to leadership.

That isn’t customer-obsessed, that is keeping the ship together. Why not talk to the current customer base? Sure the numbers aren’t sexy, but over the long term, you are guaranteed to learn the following:

Question -> Metrics/Output

Why does the customer trust you ->  Customer satisfaction, pricing analysis

Why does the customer share your product?  -> Referrals

What would the customer buy from you? -> Follow-on products

All of these things are good for business. All of them are going to make you look good.

Win-Win.

So let’s get started, how do we move forward?

Qualitative Interviews

Well, let’s chat with some customers. Sometimes the simplest thing to do is to just pick up a phone - and that’s what we are going to do.

A qualitative interview is deceptively simple - picking up the phone and just talking to someone is something we do on at least a weekly basis.

Like all research, the devil is in the details.

Now, this article is by no means comprehensive - there are several resources to help you take it further down the line, but what I want to introduce are three types of questions to help you develop who the customer is when you talk to them, and how they will help you understand who your customer is.

Remember, these are not questions that you ask, they are questions you are trying to understand.

Why does the customer trust you?

Your customers come to you for a reason, and I am going to bet the reason you think they do is wrong.

In fact, when I consulted, every single client I ever had never knew WHY customers were coming to them. They had an idea, but that idea was wrong. Nothing made that more concrete than hearing it from the customer’s own voice.

When you ask “trusting questions” - such as “walk me through why you chose our product over others” you’ll get a story that can help you change your product to align to the customer’s needs over your companies wants.

You’ll also know how to better charge for the things people use versus the “feeling” or “competition” a lot of customers price from. This almost never drives a customer’s price sensitivity. I’ve seen companies double prices and INCREASE the close rate - why?

Customers know you are doing a service, and if you do it well, they won’t mind paying.

Why does the customer share your product?

Your customers talk to each other. They may not do it directly, but they write blog posts, give presentations, and share what they are doing on social media.

People want to share what’s happening in their lives, and yet, most companies I’ve seen considerably undervalue the power of referrals.

Author and consultant Jay Abraham talks about this often - referral customers buy more, complain less, and cost almost nothing to acquire.

You’ll be able to jumpstart that referral program by asking customers questions like “walk me through the last time you’ve shared this”

What would the customer buy from you?

Your customers have other problems. Our products don’t exist without context - your customer base exists in a world full of secondary issues.

If your product is performing well, you have their trust and one of the positives of building trust is the ability to gain trust because you do your job so well.

You can use this trust to learn about the other things your customers need and help solve their problems.

When you ask questions like “what else has been frustrating lately” you gain seeds to understand the next product that might be worth building.

Sure - they’re customers, but who are they?

I can’t tell you about what drives them - that’s going to differ from company to company. What I can tell you is that developing them as customers will help guide your company into building something that does just that.

When you pick up the phone and talk with your customers proactively, you’re building a relationship that will last - especially when you know who they are.