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You probably don’t know what your customers want, but they do

The Drum 18 Feb 2021 12:20
By Jon Martin-18 February 2021 12:20pm

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You probably don’t know what your customers want, but they do

I’ve worked in web development for 13 years now and have had the pleasure of working on hundreds of projects, ranging from small blogs to complex bespoke applications. I’ve seen the web evolve from the beginning of Web 2.0, through the rise of mobile and into the modern age of data collection.

One of the recurring themes in many of these projects is people making the same mistake, and I’ve made this mistake myself many times: you base the decisions you make on just the opinion of the business the site is for, and the agency’s opinions based on expertise.

That’s not to say their opinion is invalid, quite the opposite.

The agency doing the project has become a specialist in its field and has years of experience developing its craft. The agency has seen a lot, done a lot, and is well experienced. It knows its onions.

A great example is a customer buying a drill. They’re not buying the drill, they’re buying the hole they want to drill. It’s the outcome they want, not the actual tool. And yes, I’m sure there are plenty of people that just like buying a good drill. Ask yourself, are you thinking in terms of holes or drills?

There is plenty of good news here though. User testing, customer research and digital data analysis are all highly evolved specialisms in their own right.

As the business with the customers and data, there is one thing you can do yourself with relative ease, and it’s even easier with the support of a qualified agency.

This really is simple, and you should start doing it tomorrow if you aren’t already.

That same logic can be applied to customer research as talking to just five people will give you more insight than talking to none. Even better, ask every prospect that calls you the following questions by building them into your initial sales questioning.

  • How did you find us? (Most businesses already ask this on the contact form – this can be a barrier. Ask it in conversation with them instead.)

  • Who are they? This will vary depending on whether they’re a B2C or B2B customer, so you may wish to ask their job role, or understand their personal situation.

  • What problem were you trying to solve?

  • What motivated you to contact us?

  • What’s the outcome you’re trying to achieve?

A great example in the agency world is recognising that our customers don’t want to buy our SEO services or products. They want their site to rank better against their competitors. They’re buying the hole, not the drill.

There’s a methodology that’s been evolving since the early 90s called ’Jobs to be Done’, which those that are familiar with Agile’s User Stories may recognise. The questions I recommended earlier will help create these jobs to be done. They follow a simple framework:

When I am (the situation the person finds themselves in)

So I can (the desired outcome).

As a husband and father of 2 children,

I want to buy a reliable and high-quality drill to avoid paying a tradesman

From this one statement, you’ve abstracted away from selling drills and now understand who they are, what their problem is, why they want to do it, and what they’re trying to achieve.

So why does this help us?

Using this simple set of statements, we can build in messaging to our website to evoke feelings of a father delighting his children, or achieving a state of bliss by keeping toys off the floor (OK, maybe those with children will find that unrealistic), or how spending £20 more on a better quality drill will save you hundreds of pounds in tradesman fees.

Jon Martin is technical director at Hallam.

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