It s been an interesting and busy couple of weeks. We ve been putting the finishing touches on a survey for one of our key accounts. In preparation, we did a series of interviews with account executives about why their customers attend the event.
It s easy to understand that account guys want to get their customers and prospects to the event. Once there they can dazzle them with shiny objects and overwhelm them with the full glory of the enterprise. It is as good a chance to get close , as an account executive can hope for this side of the golf course…
The more interviews we conducted, the more we wondered, why do customers really come? Surely it’s not to avoid disappointing their account executive… Why do they give up two or three or four days if you count travel time? Corporate customers are busy people, and they are not likely to give up precious days unless they are going to get a return on time spent.
What’s in it for them?
Is there a quid pro quo?
What if customers use an event to accomplish their own goals be it completing a procurement process, gathering information for a long term plan, networking to gain a deeper understanding about what it takes to do a successful implementation?
While we were in the middle of this fast forming revelation, our friend Chris came calling. Chris is the quintessential entrepreneur who has built a very successful online boutique for unobtanium toys. He s the guy who has figured out how to make a vocation out of our avocation We had been working with him on his new website, and had been making good progress, but we felt that he had gone overboard on very picky design details. Ever helpful, we proposed that there might be other things that were more important to his customers than the gradient in the upper left corner and gave him a list of for-instances.
The next morning, Chris presented us with the first pass of a survey he had put together using one of the many available free online survey tools. (You can read more about picking an online survey engine here.)
His first pass was pretty good for a rookie, but his focus was on the details that he was wrestling with in his site design. The ones that he thought mattered to making a sale…. Sound familiar?
That s when we thought about our new insight and wondered how his customers might want to use his site to accomplish their own goals. That would tell us a lot about what mattered in the design and how things needed to be organized. Chris got it right away, and we rewrote the survey together. He added a couple of nice incentives, then sent an invitation to participate out to his entire customer mailing list.
For the rest of the day, we were barraged with emails from him with messages like:
In an hour and a half, I have 127 fully completed surveys. As good as this is, there is gold in the text comments. Wow!
Within 24 hours, 700 customers from around the world had responded. It was about a 10% return which is pretty impressive, and it is a very solid sample. That is a good story with a happy ending. But as it turned out, the fun was just starting.
I m embarrassed that I didn t do this sooner. What an eye opener Tools were there waiting for me Ughhh. Moving forward .
So what is the moral of the story? And why should you consider doing something like this if you are a small business?
Just as I was pondering how I was going to explain this, Seth Godin s daily post entitled Hard work on the right things showed up:
I don’t think winners beat the competition because they work harder. And it’s not even clear that they win because they have more creativity. The secret, I think, is in understanding what matters.
It’s not obvious, and it changes. It changes by culture, by buyer, by product and even by the day of the week. But those that manage to capture the imagination, make sales and grow are doing it by perfecting the things that matter and ignoring the rest.
It s pretty clear that the survey gave Chris deeper insight into what matters to his customers. He scrapped the website design he spent the last month on because he learned that what he thought was important, wasn t. Hat s off because not everyone can do it to be fair, it s obviously easier to do when you are a one-man band.
In Chris’ typical cut to the chase style he wrote:
This survey had a profound effect on me. It got me WAY outside my bubble, and allowed a glimpse at how people perceive my biz. While mostly positive- there were clearly areas where I need to shore up some weaknesses. The good news is that those weaknesses can be addressed relatively easily. Nothing really too complex here. Lower pricing. More selection. More frequent communication . Oh and update website 😉
What difference would these kinds of insights communicated to you in your customers own words make to your business? Have you ever done a survey or customer interviews? What did you learn? What do you need to know about how your customer sees your business?