Claire Suellentrop: Getting Out Of The Echo Chamber – How To Use JTBD To Perfect Your Product’s Messaging

When marketing a product, it’s common for founders to focus on the product itself. “Look at our cool features! We help you do XYZ activity, but better!” This is a recipe for getting lost in the noise.

Instead, capturing your customer’s attention requires focusing on her ultimate motivation (“job to be done”), which is to transform her current life-situation into a preferred one.

After this talk, you’ll understand how the ‘jobs-to-be-done’ theory helps SaaS companies create effective positioning — and a proven, step-by-step process for uncovering your best customers’ ‘job-to-be-done’.


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Claire Suellentrop: So no shame in saying when I made that Twitter handle Twitter wouldn’t fit my first name and last name all into one handle. Which has caused a lot of confusion over the course of my career. So I have talked about jobs to be done and how you can use it specifically for marketing as opposed to just for product development at a couple of conferences. I’ve never talked about jobs to be done when Bob Moesta is in the room.

So I told Bob I would try not to mess this up.

So originally this talk was called, it was supposed to be about product positioning. And as I worked on the deck and made it more relevant to the BoS community I realized this isn’t going to be about positioning it’s going to be about messaging which is a little bit different but they’re both they’re very related. So although it says positioning on the schedule this is going to be about messaging. And what’s funny is messaging working on your messaging has been getting a bit of a bad rap lately. So just a couple of weeks ago Mike Volpe who was previously CMO of HubSpot since he’s in Boston I was really afraid he was gonna be here too. Tweeted this out and created a very long volatile conversation on Twitter: ‘so many people want to help with messaging.So few people want to help with demand gen and sales do the hard work’, which really set me up nicely for this. And I would agree with Mike that demand gen and sales are really hard work when you’re trying to grow a product grow an audience and increase the number of customers you have. But I would also liken demand gen and sales to like running a race. So if you’re building a business and building a business is like running a race. There’s the training, there’s how you eat beforehand to fuel yourself properly. Demand gen in sales is like the actual running part. It is the hard part. So messaging is really how you feel fuel for the race.

(Oh thank you. Thank you. Because I’m like really off my group. – Claire receives help with her slides)

So messaging is how you fuel up for your race right.

This is the funniest any of my conference talks I’ve ever been. Thanks Bob. All right. Give it up for the A.V. team. Also.

So if messaging is how you fuel up for your race, then I think we’d all agree it’s common sense you wouldn’t want to fuel your race with a box of greasy fries beforehand and this slide actually makes me a little bit sick. Looking at it because I’m trying to get back into running right now. It’s not going well. We all know that if you were to a couple hours before going for a race eat this box of fries your performance would not be the same as it would be if you fuelled up on something like oatmeal or nuts or fruit. And I’d like to look at messaging in a similar way. So if you’re using weak messaging in your marketing campaigns in your sales emails then yes you’re definitely doing the hard work you’re, you’re getting out there and you’re running. But how those efforts perform is going to be entirely different. So when I say, when I mentioned, you know that there’s a difference between positioning and messaging those words kind of sound buzzy and marketing-ey. And before we dive into how to use jobs to be done to improve your messaging let’s talk for a minute about what positioning and messaging are and where they kind of fit in the spectrum of marketing. So positioning is a really foundational thing that should be happening really before you ever develop any of these other things on top. Positioning is deciding which market you want to be in which product category you want to be in right. Who are you serving and how do you want them to think of you. Do you want them to think of you as an email tool? an analytics tool? something else entirely? If you don’t have that right you’re never going to know exactly who to compare yourself to in your target market size. So positioning is really foundational and then messaging are the actual concepts the messages that you need to use to help your audience understand why you’re different why you’re better why they would pick you over anything else. Copy is the literal words you’re using to convey those messages right. And campaigns, I use the word campaign because I couldn’t think of a better one. But campaigns is everything that you do where your copy shows up in the world. So that could be marketing right, it could be advertising, landing pages. It could be the copy on a sign if you’re if you’re sponsoring a conference. It could also be your sales emails. It could be anything, your campaign so to speak are everywhere that your audience sees your brand for the first time. So now we’re on the same page about where messaging is between positioning and copy and so on. I want to tell a story about failed messaging and to do that I have to get a little bit granular and talk about my usage of a particular product. So bear with me on what may sound like some boring details. So this is a screenshot of a tool called YNAB which is short for you need a budget. It’s finance and budgeting software. Has anyone used or familiar with YNAB. OK. So a couple of people. Cool. So my husband and I have been using YNAB to manage our personal finances for maybe three to four years. And then when I switched over to consulting after leaving my in-house role I set up an account to also manage the business finances. So I’m a pretty hardcore user of YNAB by now. And what was great about YNAB for a long time was that instead of tools like, I haven’t used Mint in a long time, but when I when I was first looking for a solution a lot of tools will tell you after the fact. Here’s what you spent. You’re like great. All the money’s gone. All this is doing is depressing me. This is not helping me forecast or plan for next month, next quarter. YNAB, actually helps you. Teaches you to work with the money you have on hand and budget it accordingly. Now if you’re talking about quick growth this may not be the tool for you but for personal finances it was great, until it wasn’t. So a couple of, I would say maybe a year or so ago, YNAB released a major, major update. So first of all they went from being purely desktop and a one time purchase to SAAS which is a great business choice but they also really really changed a lot of the features. One of the main ones was that in the old version of the product I’ve got a screenshot here of a fake, completely fake, budget but in the old version of the product if you overspent in a month then at the end of that month and in the following month there’d be this big yellow or red negative number and that feature was really important to my husband’s and I use case because he, he works within a company and the way that their expense system works is throughout the quarter he puts a bunch of stuff on his personal credit card and then at the end of the quarter gets a big reimbursement. So when he is making business purchases he’s eating into the amount of money we have but we know we’re gonna get it back. So we have a category that’s basically like Stephen’s expenses. And at the end of the quarter it’s you know one hundred to a couple of thousand dollars deep depending on if he traveled for work or all kinds of things. So we needed we needed that, that view so that we would understand how much money we were going to get back. And so that we could appropriately plan around that. Well  YNAB eliminated that feature and instead of allowing you to see the debt you’d created month over month they just subtracted your overspend from the total available money you had to live on which makes sense if you really adhere to their system of only spending the money you have. But that’s just not realistic for a lot of people, us included. So the problem there was that if we wanted to keep using YNAB we had to create all kinds of weird work arounds so that we could properly track that debt and creating weird work arounds in your budgeting software is a terrible idea. Right there’s so much room for human error, it’s really easy to accidentally steal from your future self. Right. If you’re if you’re not sure how much money you really have on hand it was incredibly, incredibly stressful and it’s still stressful. I am literally still shopping for a solution. So if you sell personal finance software, let’s talk, but this is a struggling moment right? And most folks here by now are familiar with the concept of jobs to be done. So we don’t need to like we’ll talk about it lightly but my husband and I are really stressed about this every time we budget or balance our previous spending. So this is enough stress that I have been shopping for a solution for a long time now. Notice though that I’m not shopping for a solution to like some old way of doing things. For example budgeting using pen and paper or budgeting using a spreadsheet. I’m actually already using a tool that’s supposed to help me. And I want something different than this tool right. I want a competitor that’s got a feature set that fits me. And here’s what happens when you google around for personal finance tools. So here’s YNAB’s home page at the time of my creation of this deck. And it’s not bad: ‘gain total control of your money’. It could be really appealing if I previously had no financial system in place it’s OK. But look at some of the competitor websites that I found in my in my real life search for a better solution. ‘Ready to take control of your finances?’. And then it says: track spending and manage your budget and seal your accounts. I already do that. Like I don’t this doesn’t tell me how Tiller is any different than what I’m already using and to switch finance management software is a pretty high cost switch right. This is a lot of data that I’ve got to migrate. I’ve got to learn a new system I have to create new habits. This is not an easy tool to switch from. So I keep searching, keep searching: ‘take control of your finances with Quicken’. I could add additional screenshots of home pages (I see someone who’s cringing here who’s worked with this particular company!). But I could post additional screenshots but I think it would it would kind of over overemphasize the point that to a point at which we don’t need to go. But in my search for a better solution all I came up against were other solutions that gave me the exact same message. All they were telling me was: ‘we’re going to do the same thing YNAB does for you’ which is not what I need right. I’m looking for something that speaks to the particular struggle I have and will tell me that I can get the flexibility or the customization that YNAB is not giving me and I’m not seeing that from any of these. You look at these things: ‘take control of your finances’ ‘ready to take control of your finances’ and you think well why are they all copying each other? This is so common. Right? If there’s nobody on your team who has a really solid understanding of how to speak to your customer struggle, it is incredibly easy to just do a quick search of what your competitors are writing and tweak it a little bit. As these companies have done: slap that on your home page or on your advertisements or on your dedicated landing pages wherever it is that you’re trying to reach your customers. The other way this happens is brainstorming exercises. And if the way that you and your team have come up with your company’s messaging is through a brainstorming exercise then I would completely agree with Mike (who’s previously CMO of HubSpot, now he’s an investor, he runs his own company) that this type of messaging exercise is garbage because here’s what happens. You and your team get in a room together. You’re working with your own biases right. You have this deep understanding of your product that your customers definitely don’t have. They’re not at your level and you start to break it down. OK what makes us special? somebody in the room says ‘you know our product is really powerful we have some powerful features’ someone else says ‘Woo. I like that word powerful it’s great’. And then somebody else says ‘powerful. Yep that’s it’. We are powerful software. And then you have your messaging and you go out into the world and you realize that you’re running on greasy fries. So this is why it is so important. Even though it feels like a  ‘feel good marketing exercise’ this is why it’s so important to get very strategic about identifying what your ideal customer is struggling with and speaking to that struggle in your marketing and showing ‘hey we get you we understand what your specific problem is. And we’re here to solve it’.
I think I am like a little bit too ahead on a couple of different slides. I mentioned that these slides are kind of irrelevant because I said all the important things.

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So what I want to do in this talk is walk through the exact exercise that I’ve used to come up with compelling messaging, right? messaging that isn’t copycat messaging, messaging that wasn’t thought up in a brainstorming exercise internally and not ever vetted by customers. To do that is where we actually start to talk about jobs to be done. I’m realizing this talk may be fairly quick because this audience doesn’t need a lot of education on jobs to be done which is very different from the times in the past that I’ve gone through this concept. But as a very, very light high level refresher: it’s the theory that people don’t buy things because they’re interested in your product specifically. People buy things because they want to make themselves better or their own lives better in particular ways. Right? I’m not inherently interested in what personal finance software I use. I don’t have brand affinity to a particular software. It’s that I’m trying to take away my own stress right? That’s what really matters to me. I like to use this visual representation of what making one’s life better kind of looks like. This is what happens to me, this is what happens to you, to any of us when we go shopping for a new solution. So we’re going along in our life and everything is normal and then something happens that triggers a struggle, for me and my particular scenario it was that the tool I was using introduced a major feature update that completely changed how I had to use the product. But it could be anything; it could be something that happened between you and your spouse, something that happened at work. Of course it’s going to depend on the products you’re selling but a struggle always arises from a certain situation. And eventually that struggle becomes so great, it may take some time depending on what the struggle is, but it becomes so great that you actually go out to find something different. So in my scenario that was Googling a bunch of software. You may ask your friends what they use, you may see something at a conference that sparked your interest. It could be completely different depending on what the product is, but you seek a solution to struggle. And when you find a new solution and the struggle is resolved then your life is better. Right? Because there’s not this pain anymore. Now eventually your needs will evolve again and you’ll have a struggle again which is great for companies because they can figure out ‘OK what do we provide next and next and next?’ But the struggle, for this example, the struggle is resolved and you can go on and your life is better and with personal finance I really wish my life was better but it’s still not. Your messaging should speak to that event that triggered the struggle right? or the struggle itself. And then how your product is going to make life better. That’s what you want to try to really hone in on in your messaging.

Now there’s a little tool that’s been used by some practitioners out there called a job story which is really helpful in defining what your customers’ struggle is. And I’m going to show you some worksheets and things to really get to the heart of your customers’ specific struggle. But the main idea of a job story is to condense a lot of information from many different customers into one experience that you can kind of use to lead your messaging and your marketing efforts. And it’s when blank when a particular struggle arises. Help me ‘blank’ how your product solves their struggle so I can ‘blank’. And at last ‘blank’ is how is your customer’s life better right. Are they less stressful. Well actually I’ll just show a very simple example of that exact job story and action in a minute. This is a more visual way of looking at it. When kind of in the timeline version but the ‘when’ the ‘help me’ and the ‘so I can’ are what you’re trying to get at. So my struggle with my personal finance software is that when my partner and I have to front really large expenses and rely on reimbursements which we do all the time it’s a very normal part of our daily life. Give me the flexibility right to separate those from the rest of our spending’ That’s the struggle I’m not able to separate that out so that I can feel confident that our work is accurate. And we’re not accidentally draining our bank account and at six months into the future we’re suddenly going ‘where did all our money go?’. So you don’t see any of that in in these particular brands’ messaging. And I do want to make the case for some of your customers just not being a good fit for your product. There are, as was just discussed, there are ideal customers. There are the people who instantly get it. They really want to use it, they love it. And then there are people who are ‘meh’ and so because of that, frequently, when working with clients I’ve gotten pushback that we don’t want to get that specific on our home page. We’ve got so many different types of people coming to our Web site. How could we possibly drill down that deeply? So you may be thinking: well these companies were just trying to stay broad enough to entice a large number of people to come, and learn, and go through the web site and figure out if it’s for them. But your customers really aren’t thinking in terms of broad. And if you’ve got a product that is fairly horizontal, it serves a lot of markets, I’d really encourage you to drive them off of the home page as quickly as possible and into an area of your Web site that truly speaks to their specific scenario. It’s gonna get you a lot further. In my search for a new personal finance software, when I came across these three very similar headers on these different competitors’ web sites I thought ‘you know I wonder what’s out there? I wonder if anyone’s running adwords to a specific landing page?’ Is anybody trying to focus specifically on people who are using YNAB that are unhappy and even going after that market? The answer was actually no I didn’t see anyone targeting me through AdWords which was interesting and it’s a different conversation but I did find that the top search result was Reddit – YNAB users are a massive Reddit community. There is so much talk on Reddit about whether you’re using it right whether you’re using it wrong, how to do it, because it kind of involves, not kind of, it involves a lot of habit change for many people and it’s very very active. I drilled in and I thought ‘I wonder if other people are struggling with this problem because ‘YNAB alternatives’, as the first result, is probably pretty active. So look at the number of people who upvoted this post YNAB alternatives. Two hundred ninety five people, two hundred and ninety five people are actively seeking and really feeling some pains now that YNAB has released this new update. Right. And this is only the people who participate on Reddit. How much more of their customer base is feeling this and not expressing anything because they don’t have an outlet for it.  I’m not an active Reddit user. I read things on there but I would never take the time to upvote, yet I’m representative of this larger group. So there’s clearly something here. Then I dug into some of the individual posts. So ‘YNAB 4 alternatives’ (YNAB 4 is the new the new version that they pushed that has caused me some problems) and look at these words. These are not about give me control. Right. They’re: ‘my finances have been a mess because I cannot grasp this new software’ or this person who said ‘the new features are pretty useless and sometimes they interfere with my usage’. This is clearly a larger problem .  I’m not some random edge case. And I understand they may be trying to go and target a specific segment of users but, if you’re a competitor, you have a lot of people who are waiting for you to speak their language.  This is probably one of my favorite ones ‘accidentally stealing from the future’ because it really well encapsulates how I feel as well.

This is stuff that is ripe for testing on a landing page somewhere. So the point is that if you are a competitor of YNAB or, insert the product that you’re working on, doing this research and figuring out whether people are searching for alternatives to your competitors can unearth whether or not there’s a struggle that you could be better speaking to and, imagine how effective that might be for you. If you tested a campaign that was X Y Z alternative. There are actually a number of products I know (we can talk about these specifically if that’s helpful later) but who have on their own marketing site actually a section that is alternatives like: how we’re different from X, how we’re different from Y, how we’re different from Z

So you if drove traffic to those pages. What would that look like for you. Turns out it’s actually pretty effective. So this is yet another personal finance software, you can see they have also used the copycat ‘ready to take control of your finances’ messaging because they looked around, saw everyone else was doing it, went for it. My business partner worked with this company. Really in a lot of their marketing strategy but improving their messaging was a big part of her process. And it’s the same process, that I’ll walk through in a moment, that I use as well. She ran some customer surveys to this companies best most engaged users and what she got back was that people wanted customization. They wanted flexibility. They were really in the same boat that I was in. So my business partner very intelligently took those words, rewrote the header of this  particular home page and changed it to say ‘the only way to fully customize the way you manage your money’. Now she’s not even an expert copywriter. This is someone who very much touts herself as a ‘I will help you with strategy and then I will coach your team through how to implement it’. She’s not a Joanna Wiebe of copy hackers if anyone is familiar with that brand right. This is not her forte, but doing this increased the number of conversions from the home page to the pricing page by 200 percent. Now these people didn’t all go straight to a trial which speaks a lot to needing to understand: OK what do we have to do to get them to the next step and the next and the next. But the point is these are people who were interested enough in the solution. They were the right traffic that, instead of immediately bouncing, they thought OK what’s the price of this compared to what I’m using now. They were, we can make some good guesses that they were, in the right market and maybe they needed to narrow down. There’s a lot of ways to even improve upon this. But the point is this this occurred or was run from someone who’s not even an expert copywriter. This is something you can do. So there’s two ways that I would recommend doing this. And I’ve talked to a couple of other folks who use jobs to be done. And everyone’s practice is a little bit different. But what I like to do is both surveys and interviews. So Bob is obviously very very heavy on the interview side. I prefer interviews because you get really deep insights from them. But surveys will give you a wider swathe of information to work with. So I’d recommend doing both. And I’ve run through this process both in-house and then with clients and then with my own services and products and it is something that becomes, first of all just routine. It becomes easy to do. And second of all you will walk away with so much information about your customers that is never a bad thing. So if you’d like to use the templates that I myself use you totally can.

I was really excited that I could get BoS 2018 as a link. I figured that would have been a little bit more competitive but That doesn’t actually add you to any marketing lists. It goes to a typed form and I’ll ask your name and email and then I’ll send you everything. So let’s walk through what those look like. So in sending out your customer surveys, similar to the talk that that took place right before this, I would not recommend serving everyone in your user base. You want to choose your survey platform, like type form – you can use anything you want, Survey Monkey or Jot Form etc. and you want to identify a couple hundred of your most high value customers. So when I say high value I’m talking the people who immediately understood the value of your product, their sales cycle wasn’t extra extra long their engagement with the product is really really high. They haven’t churned and you have to win them back right. They’ve been a healthy user and paying customer. I had a conversation with someone last night about the newness of these people and whether that’s important. If you have a large enough customer base I would look at folks who signed up within the past year or six months or so because they’re going to have a fresher memory of what their buying process looked like. If you don’t have that you can you can extend it. It’ll be OK. But new is ideal relatively new is ideal. So then you email them the link to your survey and you let those results roll in for a while. I have found that 25 to 50 is a good benchmark for when is enough. If you get more than that. Fantastic. But not everyone gets more. It really depends on how many customers you have the ability to send a survey too. But this is kind of the rule of thumb that I work with. Then you want to hold back about 40 of those customers because you want to email those people and rather than asking them to fill out a survey you want to ask them to get on the phone. I am ninety nine percent sure that that link also has the email templates that I use when I’m doing this outreach. I don’t quite remember but I’m pretty sure those are in there as well. Keep it super friendly keep it super short and I actually don’t encourage incentivizing people like ‘We’ll give you an amazon gift card or a free month of the tool’ because that can skew your results. It can make people think that this is a testimonial call and it’s not right it’s not a testimonial call, you’re trying to figure out their story of what they did when they were seeking and eventually found and then tried out your product. So the customer interviews: you’re going to email those remaining folks that you haven’t sent your survey invite to and invite them to a short interview 30 to 35 minutes. I have found that to be a decent amount of time to get some good information. Of course if you could stay on the phone with them for an hour you could go even deeper. But the longer the interview gets the harder that yes becomes for them. Right. So 30 minutes is a good rule of thumb and then aim to hold at least 10. Before that it’s gonna be really hard to identify the patterns in people’s journey, the patterns and in the struggle they felt and the life they were seeking. And then I have a list of interview questions I use. Now there’s Bob and I talked about this very briefly.

You can also come to the table without questions but instead with the hypothesis of what their journey looked like and kind of free form the questions. I like to use a list of questions to stop myself from accidentally asking for opinion because asking someone what do you think of our product is really not inviting the correct information. So I like to use this question list as my little guide. The list of questions that I’ll use. There’ll be a screenshot in a minute is pretty long if you don’t get through all of them that’s fine and we can talk about really. We can talk about the mechanics of holding the interview after this if that’s helpful to anyone. After that you want to make sure that you’ve recorded every call that should not be something that you’ve done without documentation of it. And I would highly recommend recording and not taking notes because you need the exact words of your customers. You don’t want your own shorthand you don’t want your own interpretation of what was said. You need the raw transcript. I love red dot com. I’m a cheerleader for because they provide really really high quality transcripts within like 24 hours. I’m not getting compensated to say this I have no affiliate link. It’s just really useful if you do this work over and over and over so upload your call recordings to rev and you’ll get back word for word transcripts that you can start searching through to find the key words.

So why do I have this slide? OK so once you have done this work right. So once you’ve sent out the surveys and you’re getting at least 25 to 50 responses in which you’re working on those interviews and you’re getting the transcripts rolling in you’ll start to find the patterns in each step of this journey so to speak. You start to find the patterns in what the top struggles were, how people went searching for a struggle – which is excellent input for figuring out which marketing channels you should be exploring and which your audience clearly doesn’t use, how people found that struggle and then why life is better what you what words they use to describe why they’ve stuck with your product. This is a little screenshot just of how I parsed the survey replies and it’s a bit wordy so if it’s hard to read I can come back to it but the questions that I tend to ask are things like “When did you realize you needed something like this”, right. “What happened that made you think OK I’ve got to go searching for something new”. So that’s the one from the Job story right. The Help me pops up in the survey questions 3 and 4 and then so I can write. How is my life better gets answered in the survey question 5. So I’ve created these questions and mapped them very specifically to helping you figure out what was the job trying to be done here. The interview questions are the same. This screenshot is not super easy to read but the interview is a much more in-depth version of that very high level little five question survey and you’ll notice as I mentioned earlier that we’re not looking for feedback. We’re not looking for opinion. We’re trying to figure out a story. It’s like it’s like you’re trying to film a documentary of what was going on in that person’s life step by step.

And that’s why these questions are geared to help you do that once you’ve gotten all of this qualitative data back. You’re going to have a ton of a ton of information so there’s different methods for sorting out what the most common phrases and words were. A word cloud is a great option if you want to go that direction. I really like and I’ve created like this. This screenshot that I’m showing you here this worksheet is what I call the voice of customer document and what it is a series of tables that I use to sort out what the most common events were that triggered the struggle how most customers went looking. Which again really informs marketing strategy. Top differentiators that set your product apart right. So once you once you are ready to start talking about features in your messaging you know what to emphasize. And then the aha moment that prompted the purchase and how life has become better. Right. What should you emphasize in terms of “here’s how you will feel after you purchase our product”. So you use all those and you get yourself out of this like brainstorm session mentality right. You’re no longer using words that you and your team came up with out of thin air or your marketer came up with when they were trying to be clever. You’re using customer data to inform how you speak your customers – it’s mirroring. Right. So. Once you’ve done this you can be confident that you’re actually fueling up all that hard work that you’re doing with the right fuel and you’ll see your performance go from here up to here. Oh and this is a goofy slide with emojis on it. So that link is here one more time. I’m happy to leave this up. But at this point I’m also happy to go to questions.

Attendee: At the interview stage one of the things we’ve had difficulty with is actually getting… we’ve got a small set of potential people that we want to invite 22. How do we how do we get them to actually agree to do it? So do you have to pay them? Should they just want to do it by themselves? Do you have any thoughts about that?

Claire: When Rahul mentioned that the… I don’t remember his exact term for this particular type of user. I use the phrase ideal customer but ideal customers want to talk about themselves. They want to talk about the product. And so I can share the mechanics of how I get these people on the phone. What I do is I send the email saying hey would you be interested in this. And if I get a yes back. So the first thing I’m doing is asking for an initial yes. Has anyone heard the theory of getting to yes? Like the more yeses you can get from someone the more likely they will say yes to the most difficult one, just purchasing or getting on a call or whatever it may be. Once I get a yes then I send them link using a scheduling tool, I send a Calendly link that lets them pick the time that’s convenient for them. And I have found roughly a 25 percent original e-mail to booking rate. Now that that can vary widely depending on the type of customer that you’re working with. It can vary based on a lot. There’s many variables there but just make sure that you are sending this out you’re sending these invites out to enough people that you can aim for that rate. You’d be surprised people are actually, of course they’re busy right, but people are actually if they if they’re your ideal customer if they’re really engaged in the product they’ll you’ll be surprised at how happy they are to talk about their experiences with it.

Attendee: Thank you very much, very insightful conversation we’ve been doing couple actually a number of customer interviews as well before mapping our Web site. And it’s interesting you mentioned recording the calls because not only you may not be great with taking notes like I am not too fast typing but you also want to share it with the team. And what I found when I asked people and I assume like you said audio recording of what people tell you either the video recording – when I told them that well it’s only for internal purposes for us to improve the product, do you mind if I record our conversation? It was drastically different the way they spoke to me and how they shared information was drastically different from when I didn’t record and when I kind of warned them in advance they felt what I notice they felt more like warned and perhaps a little bit cautious about what things they say and they were thinking like am I saying… it felt like they were trying to find the right answer to my questions which definitely isn’t the thing I was looking for. There isn’t a right answer. So the question is how do you make sure that you record it and you don’t run into legal problems but you also don’t make the person biased.

Claire: It’s a really good question. Can I ask some follow up questions? What’s the type of customer that you’re getting on the phone? Who is this person?

Attendee: It’s say when we were doing interviews when we shifted to Team functionality within our product from a pure individual personality customer and they were mostly either team leaders like a design team lead or founders and CEOs at a smaller small to medium sized businesses.

Claire: OK so it sounds like largely business people. Right. Business people professionals. So I’m not sure if you’re doing this already you maybe. I have only had one occasion where someone was uncomfortable with a recording in which case I was so unprepared for that because I’d never gotten it before it then I was like OK well I guess we won’t record. It really took me by surprise. And so I did end up trying to take notes. And that was probably one of the biggest waste of time because all I had was my own shorthand of this person’s account. I couldn’t integrate that into all of the raw data. If at all possible when getting on the phone before jumping into the interview I try to have an informal like small talk conversation and I try to explain to them like hey here’s what I do. And usually I’ve done this as a consultant working with a client. And so I’ll say you may have seen my email address was different than x y z company. It’s because I’m working with them to help them better understand like you and what your story was. This is definitely not you know trick questions. Consider this very much a conversation and not really an interview. And then I try to steer the recording and letting them know it will be they’ll be recorded. I try to be very careful about how I introduce that. So instead of saying Do you mind if I record this I’ll say so we are recording this, like you said it’s not going anywhere. This is purely just so that I don’t have to take notes. But please rest assured the recording will not be saved or anything like that. And I try to essentially like give them a first try to disarm them and make them feel comfortable as if we’re just having a conversation and then I let them know the recording is not going to go anywhere right. So if they’re really serious about it I’ll make a note to myself delete this file after we’ve created it and I’ll keep the transcript from for usage purposes. But that way they have no there’s nothing they can’t come back and say well we still need you to delete the transcript if that’s helpful.

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Attendee: Yeah. That I guess is different. We probably will try, I think the small talk is the bigger differentiator because I didn’t do that.

Claire: You brought up very briefly you mentioned you know the you let your users know that these are for internal purposes and I should mention doing these interviews obviously is helpful in many aspects right. So there’s product the product development aspect and there’s the marketing aspect these are wildly useful as internal educational tools. So when I was in house and I conducted all these interviews for our different segments of customers, I then turned all of those interviews and transcripts into part of the Team onboarding xprocess. And so for the first week that someone joined our company part of their responsibilities early on as they got up to speed with the product was listening to these calls, listening to these interviews so that they could gain that much more empathy before starting their job. So if you can keep the recordings I would suggest that you do. But if you have to get rid of one to make a customer feel comfortable it’s not the worst thing in the world right.

Attendee: Thank you so much for a really helpful talk. I want to bring segmentation to this conversation because the J in JTBD is plural. Yes. OK. You seem primed for it so could you comment on how to apply this thinking this framework to having multiple answers and how we might apply it using things like you know like the stuff the Brennan Dunn is doing at RightMessage to be able to express multiple messages, multiple positionings, to multiple customers.

Claire: So as you very well described when you’re doing these interviews and conducting these surveys you may find that there’s not one job that your customers are doing. It’s very likely that there’s not one job that they’re doing. They may be doing it for multiple reasons. And I with that info – in one of the screenshots I used was a what I call my voice of customer doc in that voice of customer doc I will actually duplicate the top messages table or the top struggles table and I’ll start basically filtering the rest of the doc based on everyone who is struggling with this job gave me all of these answers. Everyone who is struggling with this job gave me all of these answers. And that creates a smaller sample size to work with on each one. So additional follow up or additional research to more customers may be necessary but then you can actually start getting much more targeted in your marketing messages. So actually right now I’m about to kick off a project with a client and this client has stated some people use our product for x, other people use it for y, other people use it for z. What do we do? Right. So my plan in working with this client is to get on the phone with this same quantity of people in each use case and then we will actually… This is gonna sound like a crazy amount of work but if you do it gradually over time you can get there. We’re actually going to be building out slightly different marketing strategies to reach each segment and speak to each segment in the appropriate way.

Mark Littlewood: You know Asia I’m guessing that since you’re working with Claire this is what’s called a plant question…

Attendee: Honestly it’s just not planted. Whatever you’re going to know this is actually super not planted. OK so there are many companies here who I’m sure are like yep this is amazing. I’m into this. I’m ready. But they might be working with other teams or leaders who might say well we don’t want to bother the customer or we don’t want to bug them or it could even be like I actively don’t have access to these people or implementing something like this. What advice do you have for people in that position.

Claire: So to me I hear two similar but different positions one is I don’t want to bother my customer how do I get over that. Which is a very legitimate concern and can stop a lot of research efforts whether it’s this or whether it’s running a poll on your site or whatever it may be. The first thing that I would stress and I’m sure you’ve dealt with this I’ve had to deal with it as well. The first thing I would stress is this is only temporary. We’re not going to do this to every customer forever and ever. This is this is it one-time exercise for this year or whatever maybe two. We’re only reaching out to the people who already love us. So no we don’t want to bombard them with email after email and say hey why didn’t you schedule a call. You sure you don’t want to schedule a call? As Rahul mentioned, keep outreach to each customer a one-time outreach and if they don’t respond let it go. But I would emphasize to the leadership team that you’re working with that. We ‘re only reaching out to the people who are already super loyal to us. They already have some affection for our product they’re super engaged. They’re the ones who are the least likely to be bothered versus someone who gets our emails and never opens them, never uses the product. Those are the people that we’re not even going to spend our time on. So there is that. And then what was the other scenario? Not having access to the data?

Attendee: Two potential scenarios I guess maybe that research process is being blocked by a team guarding the customers was much like we would like to as long as it doesn’t happen at once. Yeah. Yeah. Sometimes it happens. How do you navigate those those kinds of conversations kind of getting those people on your side?

Claire: There was one time I did have a customer success team that that was not interested in this project because they said well we already sent NPS surveys so we want to send another survey. The first thing you can do is present it not as marketing is going to come in and take over but this is a collaboration opportunity. Right. And that same hesitation from customer success can exist within the product team or whichever team that you’re that you’re receiving that friction from, I would present it as this is information that’s going to help me. But it’s also gonna help you and your department do your jobs better because you’ll have a clearer idea of what the success metrics what success metrics actually matter versus what we only thought mattered but are still leading to churn. So can we can we tag team on this. Can we give you guys the survey and ask you to filter down and help us only find the people in our database where the right people. And can you be in charge of sending the survey. And we’ll follow it. We’ll follow up. We’ll tag team every week to see how progress is going. But we would be happy for your team to be as equally involved in this because it will be definitely equally as helpful. The one that’s really tripping me up is lack of access to which of these users are most engaged because that becomes a that’s more of an architectural problem. I don’t know if there’s an easy solution for that because ultimately you may you and your team may have to go back to the drawing board in terms of how you’re monitoring your customer data and how you’re monitoring customer activity. So I think that one I’d have to do more thinking on whether there is a good fix or whether that might be the one scenario in which you’re stuck. You may need to do a lot of reworking of how you manage your customer data and then revisit this which obviously does not spell great things.

Attendee: Yeah. Brand new to it and full disclosure as of two days ago was a salesman. Just a question and some thoughts because I think in kind of uncovering where to take that conversation or how to introduce that I think a lot can be said to looking at the sales cycle of the specific client. Right. And kind of always looking back as to how we’re now in a position where we need to make some asks because I feel with the team that I’ve worked with the CSMs it’s an easy conversation when you maybe as a sales rep can identify someone through the sales cycle who’s been super engaged maybe as the buyer going to be a super user is going to hand this platform off 20 people and say this is yours but I did it with you. And I think to your point I think we really need to realize that there are people raising their hands always to say how much they love you. And so I think some places that we’ve found is just user forums and again depending on your customer base and size you’re not going to get that right away. So that was just a share. I guess my follow up on that question for you is do you kind of in the periphery when you come into an organization take a look at what already exists from customer user groups and use that to maybe identify people and educate on people that they already have in their realm which I think a lot of us already do and don’t realize that you can maybe easy identify and pick to you know use in this example?

Claire: Yes well I think two answers. So there were one I would I would strongly agree with you that in a business where the sales team is a is a major part of the buying process right – so we’re talking further shifting toward enterprise products versus self-serve SMB products – two things inherently the customer base is probably to be a little bit smaller because it’s lower velocity sales but larger deals. So because of that the view is whoever is running this project has just fewer customers to pick from in that scenario. I definitely agree with you that I would be going both to CSMs and sales and asking who are the people you know are our best people because the larger the larger the deal sizes the more likely those teams will have deeper relationship with these really engaged customers. So definitely agree that makes a ton of sense when you’ve got a sales and CSM team to work with and then the second thing was around like something about different types of customers? I would ask the internal team how did they identify engaged. What does that mean to them? And I would use their internal criteria. So engaged can look really different depending on your type of product right. If it’s an app that you have to log into to get value from. And typically coming in I’m not the expert on the product by any means. So I need the sales and the CSM team to identify for me what is engaged what is successful even look like in terms of cherry picking what I tend to focus on… if we need to reduce the scope of the project and focus on just like this. This unjust most successful and they say well we have five different segments or we have five use cases – are we going to interview 50/60 people? I will typically start with the one that is most beneficial to the business which typically means highest ACV. So if you’re trying to figure out like OK which of our useful. Which of our successful customers do we start with. That’s what I’d be looking first.

Attendee: Very good talk. Thank you. Do you have any other specific tactics for addressing the struggle so like you brought up for example having landing pages for you know insert competitor name here alternative. What techniques have you found that have worked well kind of maybe long tail ish approach

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Claire: So I think to really dive into that, we’ve got to talk about the different… is anyone here familiar with the concept of – we all know what a buying journey is. It’s not No need to need, need to eval, eval to buy buy to success. It’s more. There’s there’s a concept that I rely on a lot called the stages of awareness and the stages of awareness are essentially how tuned in someone is to the competitive landscape before they find your product. So a good example for personal finance software – potential buyers can be at different stages when they feel a particular struggle and suddenly need that software. So there’s the completely unaware stage whatever they’re using previously it’s fine for them. They have no struggle at all. They may be like super old school maybe they’re not doing anything. Maybe they just have no personal finance management system at all. And that hasn’t become a problem for them yet. Maybe they’re using pen and paper because they don’t like adopt new technology very quickly. There’s that stage which is fully unaware those people are going to need to be spoken to and you’re going to need to develop marketing for them. It’s very different than someone like me who’s hyper aware of the of the of the competing solutions. So we’ve got unaware pain or problem aware. These are these are people who are starting to feel the struggle but they may not know yet about other compete competing solutions. They may just be like man budgeting sucks. I never know how much money I have. This is really messy I can’t plan but they haven’t really started thinking should it be why NAB versus Tiller or Tiller versus Quicken. They’re not thinking that they’re not. They’re not that advanced yet so there’s unaware, pain aware. Solution aware is people who like me are actively looking at competition. So I mentioned a very specific tactic where on your website you might have “here’s how we’re different to these five competitors”. That’s a really good way to resonate with someone who’s solution where they’re actively comparison shopping. That’s not a way to help someone who is unaware or pain aware right they’re just not their needs aren’t that complex yet most aware is people who they’ve heard about your product before they they’re probably using a different solution. Another like Who is it going to be better it’s going to be better than what I’m using now. So you could actually say that I’m probably product to where I know your brand name and I’m trying to actively vet your better. So what do they say unaware pay nowhere solution aware product aware and then most aware is people who are coming to your website literally to sign up or purchase it. You just need to get out of their way. So this would actually turn into an entirely different talk but a good marketing strategy is going to speak to people at every single one of those stages of awareness. If the people that are closest to purchasing are typically those who are further along in those stages. So if you’re in urgency mode and you’re like How do we get people who need us right now you want to be thinking about those people. If you’re planning for the long term you want to be thinking about OK. People who are not as far in those stages of awareness. How do we start getting in front of them and marketing the problem the pain so that they can eventually come to us when they understand that they really need the solution. I hope that answers your question.

Claire Suellentrop

Claire Suellentrop

co-Founder & COO, Forget the Funnel

Claire has spent 10 years helping SaaS companies go from startup to scale-up by turning customer insights to fuel revenue-generating marketing & growth programs. 

She’s worked with bootstrapped founders, VC and PE backed teams and global corporate teams including Wistia, MeetEdgar, Death to the Stock Photo and many other fun SaaS companies. She’s passionate about demonstrating the impact of adopting a customer-led approach to business growth.

Before co-founding Forget the Funnel, Claire was Director of Marketing and #2 employee at Calendly.

Check out other talks by Claire here.

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