How to find out what your customers are thinking

Posted By Tania Varga on 18th February 2016

How much easier it would be if marketers were mind readers?

Think of all the time we would save researching, analysing, predicting and trialling if we could just take the guesswork out and know for sure what our audience were thinking, what they wanted and where they will click next.

Whether you are building a new website or creating a content strategy, the root of your goal is always centered around your audience, your customers. Typically as marketers we feel we are closest to the brand and therefore the customers, which means often we end up making assumptions on how to design our site or write the content.

To avoid working off of a ‘hunch’ – if you don’t have access to the insights gathered from social listening or data teams, or perhaps you just want to get some more targeted persona information – surveys are a great way to gain real insight from the customers themselves or the teams closest to them.

The two types of surveys you need

There are two kinds of surveys you should look to use – one for your client facing teams and the other one for your current clients.

Customer-facing teams

These are typically your sales and account management or customer service teams. They often have an untapped resource of knowledge when it comes to understanding your audience’s needs and particularly their questions and pain points. The sales team will have a good indication of typical objections and why business might not close. Knowing this, along with what the team would find useful to help close business, can add valuable insight for content production.

Here are a few things to consider including in the internal survey:

  • Who are the key people you speak to? Are these same people in charge of the final purchasing decision (ie. are they the decision maker?)
  • What research have they done prior to contacting you? Do they reference a particular resource?
  • What are the major barriers that you need to overcome to close a sale? (price concerns, quality of product, knowledge of service, etc.)
  • Which competitors are being mentioned by your customers and/or prospects?
  • How knowledgeable are your customers / prospects on current trends and industry jargon?
  • What content do you send over to help convert the sale or secure your current customer?
  • What do you feel could be provided by you to help make the sales process / account management process easier or faster?
  • Are there specific questions that are asked by many customers on a regular basis?

Current customers

Alongside the data you get from your customer-facing teams it’s important to do you own impartial research to help validate what your internal teams have said when it comes to your customers.

Your customers are a great indicator into the kind of content and features that are being used on your site and what is missing. It is also helpful to understand what they most care about and their pain points. Similarly, this can be a great way to discover where they are online and what topics and publications interest them.

It’s important to speak to the clients who represent the kind of business you want to attract in the future, so they can advise you on their needs and the content you can create to solve their problems.

Here are a few things to consider including in the external survey:

  • What are your overall business goals and KPIs?

  • How does our business / product / service help you meet those goals?

  • What services / products (of ours) are important to you?

  • What was your reason for using our service? What would you say your needs or pain points are?

  • Where do you receive the majority of your information about our products / services?

  • How do you stay up to date on industry news?

  • Which parts of our website do you visit most frequently?

  • How often do you like to be contacted? Are you interested in receiving newsletters or having access to thought leadership content about our offering or the wider industry?

  • Is there a certain type of content (product guides, blogs, news, videos, etc) that you would like to see move of on our website?

  • What made you choose our company / product / service over competitors?

Once you’ve conducted these surveys and gathered up all the information, you want to make a summary document that highlights similarities in persona information and also points out core pain points and key phrases.

We often take this one step further and include social listening (if appropriate), competitor insights and look to plot all of this detail into a customer experience map to help identify areas for content creation. However, in just doing these surveys you are already one step in the right direction to ensure your website and content work isn’t based purely around your understanding of what your audience wants.

Learn more about developing a content strategy.