Two great opening questions to really connect with your B2B customers

The persona interview – interviewing an existing customer to create a profile of what they (and prospects that look like them) want from your business and your marketing – is critical for establishing what kind of content to produce to attract traffic to your web site and convert them to leads. The persona interview informs the buyer’s journey (the path that customers take to go from strangers to evangelists.) So, how can we set the stage to get the best information from our customer? We like to open every conversation – whether it’s a casual one or a formal interview with the same question:

Tell me about your business? For new customers, this is our opening question

We ask this, even if we have done our research, because entrepreneurs have an uncanny way of distilling what they do, and why they do it, down into a few really illuminating catchphrases. At some point they’ll say “…so what I really mean is we do X and it helps our customers in Y” and that is the nugget that helps us understand and communicate their business brand value to prospective customers. They also tell us why they do it, what was the push for starting their business.

This question invariably leads into our other persona interview questions and helps inform our content strategy and development. It helps us map the buyer’s journey by understanding the buyer. And it makes them feel like warm and fuzzy. We are listening. We love these conversations precisely because we can use them to strategize.

We often put this question front of each of our client’s sales teams too. When they begin asking their prospects and customers this question, the doors begin to open a bit wider and the opportunity is uncovered to understand how products and services can truly help their customer.

How’s business?

For existing customers, this is a great way to reconnect with their business challenges. This informs your content development.

When customers tell me “I don’t know how to get on to do Facebook ads” or “I need help structuring my MailChimp lists” or “how do we get more people to our web site”, we develop content specifically related to those questions. Odds are, if your customers are asking you about things, other prospective clients want to know those same answers too!

Sometimes they tell us an even bigger story. In 2006, we worked with a small, innovative group of pipefitters (plumbers with union jobs) who had an idea to create an upscale truck with bathroom and kitchen furnishings. Through direct marketing, word of mouth and social media (which was still in it’s infancy), the guys would target specific neighborhoods for higher end homeowners who were looking to refresh their kitchens and bathrooms. The mobile showroom served both as a mobile advertising unit and a way to invite customers to see products right in their own kitchens (and baths). About six months and one clever direct mail piece into a targeted neighborhood, the owner came to us and said he was closing up shop. We couldn’t believe it! They had only just begun! What he said was chilling. He said he’d been talking to his mortgage and real estate friends and they were telling him we were headed for a housing crash unlike any other. That it was only a matter of time before the house of cards collapsed and took our economy with it. They were going back to their good union jobs as a safety net.

We were skeptical; after all, things had been growing, and in Michigan, a recovery was finally being felt after years of depressed growth. And this client was right. Not only was he right; he foretold what really happened in 2009. And we all remember THAT.

All of this, from a simple question “how is business?”

Want to ask your customers better questions so you can help them? Read this blog and then request our basic Persona Question Template.

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