Steal our playbook, and start getting better results from your customer research!
You need to understand a lot about a business before you can begin to deliver insights. Here’s our process for getting up-to-speed quickly.
Now we have an understanding of the product, its market and competitors, we can begin to dig into the research process.
Typically, most SaaS companies are looking to clone their best customers, so we recommend these are the best people for you to interview. These are usually the accounts that spend the most and churn the least. However, it’s important that the people you interview can remember what life was like before they adopted the product, so newer customers who are fully onboarded are ideal.
You can also learn a great deal from interviewing other user types:
We recommend you aim to interview 7-10 participants per user type. Beyond this number, you begin to find that many of the responses are similar to those already interviewed, so interviews can become less insightful.
How you find and invite participants will depend on who they are.
Existing customers are the easiest to invite to interview. You already have a relationship with them, and they often see your interest in their use of your product as valuable to them. As you are asking for their precious time (usually 30-60 minutes), we recommend you offer an incentive of $50-100 in gift cards. Also offer to make a charitable donation on their behalf instead, as not everyone is able or comfortable accepting some kind of reward.
Once you have selected the customers, we recommend you invite them by email. A well-worded and incentivized initial email should get you a 20% signup rate. A second email will typically add a further 10-15%. Make sure the email looks like it comes from a senior person. No one wants to speak with marketing or sales, so use the CEO’s name or the Head of Customer Services.
Subject: Can we get your [Product name] feedback?
Hi [First Name],
As you know, we're always working to improve [Product Name]. One of the ways we do this is by getting feedback from our customers like you.
I would like to personally invite you to participate in a customer research initiative we are running with a handful of valued customers.
The research will be done over a Zoom video call with [name of researcher]. Because of the in-depth nature of the questions, we expect the call to last up to one hour.
We appreciate your time is precious, so in return we would like to offer you either a $100 Amazon card or a donation to the charity of your choice.
Anything you tell us will only be used internally to improve our understanding of your needs.
To participate, please book a time with [our researcher] using the link below:
Book your [Product name] feedback session:
[Calendly or Hubspot meeting link]
Thank you for being an [Product name] customer. Your support is greatly appreciated!
Recently churned customers are obviously less likely to respond, so they may need a greater incentive to want to discuss in detail their reasons for leaving. Assuming you still have their contact information and permission, you can email them using a variation of the customer email invite above. Except signup rates to be low, typically around 10-15%.
Ideal customer personas can be acquired for interviews in a number of ways. You can use a service like UserInterviews.com or research and invite participants using LinkedIn. If your type of customers are not B2B or don’t use LinkedIn, then a platform like Apollo.io can be used to find and email prospective participants.
Competitors’ customers are the hardest to find and acquire for interviews. However, there are several ways to find them, including scrutinizing competitor case studies and user reviews, buying data from third parties and researching using UserInterviews.com and LinkedIn. Incentives for this cohort should be the highest: $200+ for a 30-60 minute interview, as they don’t know or trust you. Expect response and signup rates to be low.
Interviews should be scheduled to fit in with participants availability. Using something like Calendly or Hubspot meeting will allow participants to schedule interviews easily. UserInterviews.com has its own scheduling built-in to the platform.
If you are conducting the interviews yourself, avoid the temptation to double-up on the purpose of the interview. Examples of this are using research interviews to try to get case studies, testimonials or even account upgrades! Your intent should be clear and have a single purpose.
The best interviewers are those with no axe to grind in terms of product, marketing or sales agendas. Aim to be genuinely open, objective and curious as to what participants have to say.
Allow yourself plenty of time between interviews, as the best interviews can run over the time you have allocated. Don’t try to schedule more than four or five interviews each day, as it will become overwhelming for you, and will leave little time for anything else.
Ensure you record both video and audio for all your interviews. Services like Zoom include transcription services or you can use a service like Rev.com to automatically create interview transcripts later.
Don’t try to take notes during the interview. Concentrate on following your discussion guide, and listening and responding to the participant. Don’t be afraid to dig deeper into their responses to understand their reasoning behind it. Don’t be afraid to stray from your discussion guide if the insights you are getting are valuable. The path to the best insights isn’t always straight and easy!
We recommend analyzing interviews in a number of different ways:
For each participant, enter their responses directly from the transcript in a new sheet (just duplicate the sheets in the template). It's essential you do not rephrase what they said as you want to capture the voice of the customer.
This sheet is a summary of all participants responses, and is used to compare them.
Use this sheet to summarize the different jobs (use cases) that you have found for the product. Not every customer will use a product for the same reasons, so it's important to not make too assumptions about the job the product is doing. It's fine to start with a hypothesis but be prepared to discuss a different use case if it comes up.
In the Four Forces sheet, copy all the participants' responses verbatim from your interview transcripts where they share express any of the following:
Customer research does not end with insights. What you have learned needs to be used to change your situation for the better. Here’s where we turn your insights into action!
Personas exist to help everyone involved in product, customer success, marketing and sales align on a clear definition of the customer, whether they are a user, decision maker, economic buyer, gatekeeper or influencer.
It seems obvious but depending on what you sell and to whom, the user is not always the same person as the buyer. For example, an Enterprise SaaS buyer committee could include stakeholders from a wide range of functions, including users, management, HR, IT, (security, privacy and compliance) and finance, to name a few.
So assuming you have a pretty good idea of who your users, decision makers, economic buyers, gatekeepers and influencers are, you now need to capture what really matters in your personas docs.
Start by using this framework by Adrienne Barnes:
Once you have these defined, add the most important Push, Pull, Inertia, Anxiety and Impact statements you discovered for this persona.
With your interview insights and updated personas you can now begin to refine your positioning and overarching value proposition.
Here’s how to do it:
As part of any research project, we’ll provide you with refined positioning and overarching value proposition. We’ll also create a brandscript to help you tell your product story in a more compelling way.
Now you have your updated personas, positioning and messaging, take this opportunity to review your website:
We’ll conduct an audit of your main sales pages as part of every research project, and provide you with recommended changes to both copy and content.
In light of what you have learned from interview participants you can now review your marketing. Start by asking yourself these questions:
With every research project we provide insights into where and how buyers look for solutions like yours. In addition, we’ll share how they want to learn about new solutions and what frustrates them along their customer journey.
By conducting research you can deepen your understanding of how and why customers buy, including:
Interviews with your ideal customer persons and competitors’ customers can be particularly valuable as they can provide insights you may not have already experienced during your sales process with existing customers. Afterall, how do you know you are missing something if you only sell one way to customers?
We’ll provide you with a report on any sales success gaps we find during our research process.
In conjunction with other techniques, qualitative research can help you to build a complete picture of how to improve your product for users. However, the value of interviews is in the depth and quality of feedback users give, both in explaining the problem they are trying to solve as well as their idea of a possible solution. Gaining continual qualitative research insights from users should be part of your product’s development process.
Analyze the product feedback you received from your interviews. How does this align with your existing product requests and roadmap? If there is a difference, ask yourself why, and what you can do to address it.
We’ll provide you with details of any product issues or requests for improvements that we find during our research process.
Your deliverables will depend on the reasons for undertaking your research as well as who you are sharing your findings and recommendations with. By way of an example, here are the type of deliverables we would produce for a typical research project:
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