Claire Suellentrop's Customer Research Process

Claire Suellentrop's Customer Research Process

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Claire Suellentrop, Author of Forget the Funnel, shares the customer research process for marketing.

Nothing can put a marketer to sleep more than talking about customer research.

But it is one of the most impactful and career-changing activities I’ve seen in my career.

Claire Suellentrop, author of a must-read book for marketers Forget the Funnel, agrees:

"It's one of the things that makes this customer research so valuable. It enables teams, whether product or marketing, to get a sense of where the market really is and how their market really thinks, and then look at their product through that lens rather than looking at it through their own internal lens"

Claire has worked with top companies like Calendly, Autobook, and Appcues to level up their marketing using customer research.

In this Marketing Powerups episode, you’ll learn:

  1. How Autobooks increased signup rate by 64%.
  2. Claire’s top customer research questions.
  3. When to do surveys over user interviews. 
  4. Why being a good person accelerated Claire’s career.

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcast and Spotify now, or watch it on YouTube.

I want to thank the sponsor of this episode, 42/Agency.

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⭐️ Claire Suellentrop's Customer Research Process

Customer research could be a tedious and time-consuming process. But it's one of the most impactful activities marketing teams can do.

Claire Suellentrop, Author of Forget the Funnel, knows this first hand. She's helped companies like Calendly, Autobooks, and Appcues to level up their marketing using customer research.

For Autobook, through customer research, they were able to increase their signup rate by 64% by focusing on its payment feature on the homepage.

Here is Claire's customer research process:

Step 1: Define your research goal. 🏆

According to Claire, defining the research goal involves considering different types of users and specific objectives. Clarifying your goal ensures targeted and impactful research outcomes.

"Depending on your goal, you would be talking to different types of users. So it could be current customers, or it could be new users, or it might even be on a specific type of product rather than another type."

Step 2: Choose the right format: surveys or interviews. 💬

Claire highlights the importance of considering the size of your customer base and the nature of your product when deciding on the research format.

Surveys are particularly beneficial for high-volume, low-touch offerings and products. However, she advises that surveys may not be as useful for enterprise companies with multiple buyers and slower sales processes. In that case, doing user interviews might be more valuable.

Step 3: Key questions to begin with. 🤔

Claire recommends two essential questions to kickstart customer research. her two favorite customer research questions are:

  1. "Before [product], what were you using to do what [product] does?"
  2. "What happened that made you realize your old way wasn't working?"

Claire explains that these open-ended questions uncover the customers' previous solutions and the triggering events that led them to seek new alternatives.

Step 4: Analyze the results. 🔎

Claire filters everything by the second question, "What was going on that caused you to realize you needed something new?" By identifying common themes and struggles in customers' answers, you can gain valuable insights into their pain points and categorize them effectively.

"We start with the pain because then the pain influences everything else about their decision making. By segmenting customers based on their specific pain points, you can tailor you strategies to address their unique needs."

Step 5: Prioritize by pain points. 🥇

Claire highlights the importance of prioritizing pain points to make informed decisions. She explains, "Whose pain feels the most urgent? Who has the most willingness to pay? Who's least likely to be a big burden on support?" By using the rubric provided in the Forget the Funnel workbook, businesses can identify the most advantageous pain points to focus on, ensuring alignment with customer needs and business goals.

Thank you also to the sponsor of this episode, Ahrefs Free Webmaster Tools.

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    🎉 About Claire Suellentrop

    Claire Suellentrop is a SaaS marketer, customer research evangelist, and co-founder of Forget the Funnel.

    Previously the Director of Marketing and #2 employee at Calendly — and now a marketing consultant for high-growth SaaS companies — she's seen firsthand that truly effective marketing stems from a deep understanding of existing customers. So she helps companies get inside customers' heads, then uses those insights to create compelling landing pages, high-converting websites, smooth signup flows and sticky onboarding experiences.

    🕰️ Timestamps and transcript

    • [00:00:00] The Impact of Customer Research in Marketing
    • [00:00:33] Customer research boosting audiobook sign ups by 64% - an insight with Claire Suellentrop
    • [00:01:22] Discussing Marketing Powerups: The Value of Proper Customer Research for Business Growth
    • [00:05:09] Uncovering the Core Benefit of Auto Books through Customer Research
    • [00:08:18] Unlocking Growth with Customer Research: A Discussion with Claire Suellentrop
    • [00:16:20] Discussing the Product Development Initiatives at Autobooks
    • [00:17:15] 42 Agency - My Recommended Demand Gen and Growth Agency
    • [00:18:00] Ahrefs Webmaster Tool
    • [00:18:46] Understanding Customers Through Surveys with Forget the Funnel
    • [00:25:50] Defining Your Most Valuable Customers with Claire Suellentrop
    • [00:28:59] Focusing on Most Valuable or Fastest to Close Customers
    • [00:32:58] When to Use Customer Interviews in Market Research
    • [00:36:02] How to Conduct User Research for Product Development?
    • [00:39:40] The Value of Customer Research in Business Expansion
    • [00:42:19] Ramli John Talks About 'Forget the Funnel' with Claire Suellentrop
    • [00:42:39] Claire Suellentrop Discusses Key Aspects of a Successful Career
    • [00:49:45] Ramli John Discusses His Influences and Mentors In Business
    • [00:51:10] Lessons from Forget The Funnel Co-Founder Claire Suellentrop

    Episode transcript

    [00:00:00] The Impact of Customer Research in Marketing

    [00:00:00] Ramli John: I think it put a marketer to sleep than talking about customer research. But it is one of the most impactful and career changing activities that I've seen in my own career. And Claire Suellentrop, she is the author of this must read book, Forget the Funnel. She agrees.

    [00:00:15] Claire Suellentrop: It's one of the things that makes this customer research so valuable. It enables teams, whether product or marketing, to get a sense of where the market really is and how their market really thinks, and then look at their product through that lens rather than looking at it through their own internal lens, where everyone knows that it's awesome.

    [00:00:33] Customer research boosting audiobook sign ups by 64% - an insight with Claire Suellentrop

    [00:00:33] Ramli John: In this Marketing Pops episode, first, you learn how customer research has increased audiobook sign up rate by 64%. 2nd, Claire's top questions to ask your customers to gain actionable insights. Third, when do you do surveys over user interviews? And number four, why being a good person has accelerated Claire's career. And before we get started, I create a free Power Ups cheat sheet. You can download, fill in and apply Claire's customer research process right now. You can find that link in the show notes in description. It's marketing

    [00:01:05] Marketing Powerups with Ramli John

    [00:01:05] Ramli John: Are you ready? Let's get started. That's not right. Are you ready? Let's go. Marketing Powerups. Ready? Go. Here's your host, Rambly.

    [00:01:22] Discussing Marketing Powerups: The Value of Proper Customer Research for Business Growth

    [00:01:22] Ramli John: Let's talk about marketing powerups. I'm super excited you all just released this book. It's right here for anybody tuning in. I'm super excited. This is like a must have book for any markets. I'm super excited to finally have this. I feel like I wish I had this when I started marketing because it would have saved me a ton of stress and heartaches. How do you feel now? You must be celebrating. How do you feel about the whole it's out? Yes.

    [00:01:56] Claire Suellentrop: Honestly, and I'm sure you can relate to this, it feels kind of surreal that it's no longer like Ng as in heads collectively. And it's really cool to get on calls with people who've read it and they're like, oh, yeah, yeah, this makes sense. Cool. Like, the fact that it's kind of like the fact that the framework is kind of filtering out into the world is amazing. And also, it is very humbling to hear you say, this is the book you wish you had a long time ago. We've gotten that feedback from a number of marketers who are like, I knew that learning from customers is important. I knew that not just picking tactics, random is important. But this kind of threads all of those loose ends together. And I can just follow a system now instead of trying to make it up.

    [00:02:49] Ramli John: Yeah, true. Because it's such what is this called? A fortune cookie tweet? Talk to your customers, you will say, but nobody really goes deep into what does that mean? How do you do it? How do you categorize it? How do you actually pull out the insights? And I feel like that's where this book fills in that details that people love to tweet or create memes or posts on LinkedIn. Your marketing is not good if you don't talk to customers. What do you even mean by that? Because if you talk to customers wrong.

    [00:03:25] Claire Suellentrop: Might won't be working right? Yeah, it's funny that you bring that up. There's a company that I have been chatting with recently. They've said, yeah, we've learned from our customers. We've run customer interviews, but it's still not like, it's not working. And so I asked if I could listen to some of the interview recordings, and I'm listening to them and the team is super well intentioned, but the way that the interviews are run are very much feature focused. Like, hey, did you know that we have this? We're able to find this feature, or like, they're not focusing on the right parts of the customer journey. And so of course, they're struggling to make good decisions from those. So, yeah, how to do it is not often covered. And I'm I'm glad to hear that, like, you found the nitty gritty helpful.

    [00:04:21] Ramli John: I love that. I I usually ask, like, a case study at the end, like, off a framework, but I feel like people have heard of customer research just takes so much time, it's not worth it. But there's a story that you shared in chapter three around Auto Books where you're able to increase sign up rates by 64% and people using this credit card payment feature that they have increased by 300%. What was that insight that helped that? Because I want to start here, because I want to grab people right away and say, hey, this is what you can get if you actually do and follow. What's the proper way to do customer research? A customer led approach, like what you suggested in the book, what is that result and what was that insight that you got that unlocked that growth?

    [00:05:09] Uncovering the Core Benefit of Auto Books through Customer Research

    [00:05:09] Claire Suellentrop: Okay, so lots to talk about here. I got lucky. I got very lucky at the start of this project because Chris Speck, who is one of the co creators of the Jobs to Be Done Framework, was the chief. I don't remember his title, but it was like Head of Customer Acquisition. So he had come in and started this new role at Auto Books and knowing the value of jobs research, he had already done all these interviews with the team and handed them to me on silver platter. So that was a unique scenario. Not a lot of marketing or product leaders come into a situation with all of that really well run research ready to go. We can talk more about what to do in that scenario. But to answer your more immediate question, the insight that we pulled from those interviews was even though Auto Books is a very so Auto Books is like full fledged or full featured finance management tool for small businesses, especially like Hyper Local or Brick and mortar businesses. If you do catering from your home, like, Auto Books is great for you. Or if you have a pet washing service or a pet sitting service, like, any of those localized businesses are a really good fit for Auto Books. And so when I started working with the team, the messaging that they were putting out into the world was, we're finance management. Like, automate all your finances. And that wasn't really resonating. Like, it wasn't hitting with SMEs. And so what the research uncovered was the thing that brought people through the door, that really made them get it was when they sent their first invoice electronically and got a payment electronically. Like, they didn't have to go through PayPal. They didn't have to buy and carry around a square reader. And when that magic moment happened, new users were like, Whoa. And then they became lifelong users. So that was the insight that then allowed us to look at their marketing assets and realize, okay, we need to really narrow down what we're talking about in all of our so the marketing message shifted from finance management to get paid online. I want to say it was like within two business days or straight to your bank account, something.

    [00:07:53] Ramli John: That makes sense. That was the future that unlocked. People understood right away. They get it, and they're like, yes, let's jump on this. And that was uncovered through some of the research that was already done by I believe his name is Chris, is that right?

    [00:08:10] Claire Suellentrop: Shout out, Chris. Thank you for working with Project.

    [00:08:17] Ramli John: I love it.

    [00:08:18] Unlocking Growth with Customer Research: A Discussion with Claire Suellentrop

    [00:08:18] Ramli John: It's great that he's done this research, but you mentioned earlier around often you would come in to a company and we talk to our customers all the time. We know what we're doing. And then you listen to some of their recordings. You like, this feature. Oh, really?

    [00:08:35] Claire Suellentrop: This is not really research.

    [00:08:37] Ramli John: In this chapter, you really talked about the importance of actually doing new research. What are some signals to you that you're like, yeah, you all are not doing? You're saying you are, but you're actually not following. Like, you're not actually getting the valuable gems from what you can get from customers.

    [00:09:03] Claire Suellentrop: First, I should caveat this with.

    [00:09:07] Ramli John: I.

    [00:09:07] Claire Suellentrop: Would say with some love to anyone who is running customer research and trying to figure it out as they go because it's fucking hard. It's like, no shame to you if you're like, if this sounds familiar, no judgment whatsoever, but there have been multiple occasions where Gia and I start working with a company and they share their interview recordings with us or their survey data. And some signs that it's not going to give us the gems are things like, it's primarily focused on demographics. Like, these are the typical titles, or most of our customers are in these regions. That oftentimes feels like important information to teams. But a new member of our team, Heidi, who is excellent, I think she might be. She's probably even better at jobs interviews. She describes that as being able to understand the demographics of your customer base is great for understanding correlation, but it doesn't give you the the causation of why they realize they needed to switch away from whatever they used to be using and find a higher your product. So that's often a red flag. Another common red flag is what you just touched on, which is in interviews, if the team is even by accident asking leading questions, then you're going to end up with research that is biased. So yes, the team I am potentially talking about potentially working with right now, they've done customer interviews. They've spent time on this very important activity. But in these conversations, they're asking customers like, hey, what do you think about this feature? We're like, hey, we're considering building X. What are your thoughts? Which again, doesn't go back to what you really need to understand to form a strong growth strategy, which is the causality of your customer going about their day before they've ever heard of you, realizing they need something new and choosing you. Yeah, I don't know if that was helpful or like way too rambly.

    [00:11:42] Ramli John: No, this is great. There's no way to rent. The more details, the better. You're talking to other marketers. I feel like those are really good ones you're talking about. I'm a big proponent of the I think I tweeted this once. Like, whenever a marketer says like, hey, let's talk about jobs to be done, I get super excited. This is like the one framework that's helped me level up my marketing skills for people who are not aware of it. You mentioned already. Yeah, right. People hire products to do something that they're trying to accomplish a goal or with a pain or something like that. And you're talking about uncovering those initial moments. What I'm trying to get at is obviously to interviews, but in this chapter, you talked a little bit about surveys and stuff. How can people find out that gems that would unlock the growth, like what we heard with Auto Books and other clients, the dozens of clients that you and GI work with?

    [00:12:51] Claire Suellentrop: I love this question. So if you're listening to this and you're like, we don't have time for interviews or another very common team line of pushback that folks here and reach out to us for help with is my team's already done research and so they're very hesitant to spend more time reaching back out to customers, annoying our customers, if we've already gone through this exercise. And starting with a survey is a much lower level activity to propose. And let's kind of like set the scene here. Let's pretend that let's pretend you're coming into a company as a brand new head of market and you've looked through what the existing team has already done in terms of research. It's very product focused, UX focused. It doesn't give you that causality gem of why customers choose this product, why they switch away from something. And if you're getting pushback, well, we've already done a bunch of interviews then saying, okay, cool, no worries. Let's start with a survey and see if that can give us the information we need. You're just so much more likely to get an okay, so how we think about surveys is like they are a super condensed little mini jobs to be done interview. And in the workbook that goes along with our book, we have a template that lists the exact questions we use when we run these these customer surveys. Some of my favorite questions in there are prior to product, what were you doing before? If you were using any other tools or solutions, what were those? Maybe you were using nothing. And then we leave that field open ended to see how people describe their past life. Actually, the entire survey is open ended. I should have clarified that. And then the next question is, okay, so you're using X or you're not doing anything. What happened that made you realize you needed something? Those are my favorite two questions because they uncover and since they're open ended, they're in a customer's own words, they uncover that previous life and that trigger moment or that causality of what event pushed someone to start looking for someone new. And we've got it. I think the survey overall is around like seven or eight questions, but those, I think, are the most powerful for uncovering those, like, gems you were talking about. When you run them in an open ended way, you also this sense check of how customers talk about their lives and their problems. And you can then look at your marketing and say, okay, are we matching these words and phrases or so good, are we using internal language that doesn't mirror how customers speak and think?

    [00:16:06] Ramli John: That's so good. I just want to make sure people who might have skipped over that well, those two questions, can you repeat those two questions, the first one and the second one like that we really need to focus on absolutely.

    [00:16:20] Discussing the Product Development Initiatives at Autobooks

    [00:16:20] Claire Suellentrop: First question being before product, name of your product, what were you okay, hold on. I got to think through the exact wording. The way that we phrase it is, before product, what were you using to do what product does for Auto Books? Let's use Auto Books to be more specific. I would write that question as before Autobooks, what were you using to send invoices and take payments? And then customers might say nothing or PayPal or cash and Microsoft Word, it could be all across the board. And then that second question is, what happened that made you realize your old way wasn't working? What happened that made you realize you needed something new?

    [00:17:15] 42 Agency - B2B SaaS Companies' Predictable Revenue Engine Builder

    [00:17:15] Ramli John: Before I continue, I want to thank the sponsor for this episode 42 agency. Now, when you're in scale up growth mode and you have to hit your KPIs. The pressure is on to deliver demos and signups and it's a lot to handle. There's demand, gen, email sequences, rev ops and more. And that's where 42 Agency, founded by my good friend Camille Rexton can help you. They're a strategic partner that's helped B two b SaaS companies like Profit, Awall Teamwork Sprout Social and Helpdoc to build a predictable revenue engine. If you're looking for performance experts and creatives to solve your marketing growth problems today and help you build the foundations for the future, look no further. Visit 40 to talk to a strategist right now to learn how you can build a high efficiency revenue engine.

    [00:18:00] Unveiling A Stressfree Webmaster Tools: A Potential Solution to Your SEO Problems!

    [00:18:00] Ramli John: Thank you also to the sponsor for this episode. A Stressfree Webmaster Tools now if you want to rank your website higher in search engines, you have to make sure that your website doesn't have any technical SEO issues.

    [00:18:11] Claire Suellentrop: Because if you do, that's like trying.

    [00:18:12] Ramli John: To run a race with your shoes tied together. That's how you lose and we don't want that. Luckily, A Stress Free Webmaster Tools can crawl up to 5000 pages to find 140 common technical SEO issues that could be holding your site back from generating valuable traffic. It can also help you find your strongest backlinks as well as analyze keywords you're ranking for and see keywords search volume and ranking difficulty. For each of those keywords, you can sign up for webmastertools or find that link in the description and show notes.

    [00:18:46] Understanding Customers Through Surveys with Forget the Funnel

    [00:18:46] Ramli John: Well, let's get back to the episode. There were some responses to auto books like what made you realize that the old way is not good enough? And for auto books it could be like I lost the cash, something like that, where you're really digging into what made them start looking for a solution. In that situation I lost the cash.

    [00:19:09] Claire Suellentrop: Is a very real one. Or the check got lost in the mail. There were a couple of people who were like PayPal locked down the transfer and I couldn't get the money. Very painful experiences, especially if you're a small business with very low profit margins, like every payment. So yeah, a survey can be a really low stakes way to get that information and not have to spend hours and hours on customer calls, scheduling, blah, blah, blah.

    [00:19:43] Ramli John: And I believe there's also obviously you have to have enough customers to survey in the book. I believe it's 300 or 500. Like if you have enough people you can send a survey to, it would be a good way to start essentially with a survey. That's what I'm hearing.

    [00:20:00] Claire Suellentrop: That's right, yeah. Numbers wise, the larger your customer base, and yes, in the book we recommend several hundred paying customers, the larger your customer base, the more valuable surveys are, also the more self serve your product is. So if you're selling into enterprise, surveys probably won't be as useful because there were likely multiple buyers. It may have been a much slower sales process. So surveys work especially well for those high volume, low touch types of offerings and products.

    [00:20:39] Ramli John: So then you send a survey out, it's seven to eight questions. You get like, I don't know, 100 responses. How would you categorize and pull out the insights from that? How would you pull out the gem? Like you've got into this huge data of words. Do you put it through a word cloud or something else to help you find those valuable insights?

    [00:21:05] Claire Suellentrop: This is such a good question. And getting this down on paper was one of the hardest parts of writing the book. Our process has evolved over time and our team member Heidi is actually, right now even like, leveling up, powering up how we do it as a team at Forget the Funnel, so she uses a tool called Enjoy HQ. I have not used it. Yeah. But for those who are interested in speeding up parsing, I would recommend checking it out. The way that we have done it historically is in our old school days, first couple of years of working together, we would use a spreadsheet or a Google sheet. We have since switched over to Airtable because Airtable's filtering capabilities are stronger. But where we start is that second question. We filter everything. By the second question. What was going on that caused you to realize you needed something new? And let's keep using Auto Books as the example. One of the themes that comes out is the cash or check got lost or I was struggling to keep track. Another theme might be, yeah, PayPal or square locked my funds. Another theme might be, I acquired a lifestyle business and their systems were just like, shit.

    [00:22:42] Ramli John: Yeah.

    [00:22:43] Claire Suellentrop: That was another real world scenario. One customer had bought a healthy but kind of low level storage business and she was like, you all are keeping track in a physical notebook. We can move to the cloud.

    [00:23:03] Ramli John: So good. Yeah.

    [00:23:06] Claire Suellentrop: So we start by finding the common themes in people's answers to that second question, and then that becomes the lens through which we categorize everything else. So we like to group all of the customers we've learned from into the buckets of what their struggle was. What are your thoughts there before I like, Keep going.

    [00:23:31] Ramli John: No, I love it. I start with the pain and then I guess you're going to get into, yeah, that makes sense.

    [00:23:38] Claire Suellentrop: We start with the pain because then the pain influences everything else about their decision making. They might be looking for different feature attributes to solve that particular pain. So the pain is really how we start to create segments or groups of customers we learned from. Well, in Auto Books's case, we didn't necessarily pick one job to be done above all others, but what it did enable us to do was start crafting different onboarding strategies based on which pain one was experiencing. So for example, one of the key themes in their struggles was I just started a new business and I have a lot to figure out and I just need to get paid quickly.

    [00:24:32] Ramli John: True.

    [00:24:35] Claire Suellentrop: Very different from someone who has been taking payments through PayPal or Square and had a bad experience. That person's going to be much more gun shy about trusting a new product. And so they have different messaging needs, they have different fears, they have different willingness, experiment with a new product. So they got very different onboarding sequences when they signed up. That's just one example, but we filter everything by the pain and from there. Normally Auto books again was an exception in this case, but normally as a team, then we level set on which pain or which job someone needs to hire the product for is most advantageous to better serve. Right now, not all jobs are created equal. Yeah. Thoughts there again? I know I'm talking fast.

    [00:25:34] Ramli John: No, this is good. Yeah, I'm just thinking about that when you say advantageous, it might not be the biggest pain per se, but it's a pain that you can serve the best compared to the alternatives, right? Is what I'm hearing there.

    [00:25:50] Defining Your Most Valuable Customers with Claire Suellentrop

    [00:25:50] Claire Suellentrop: What's another good example? You know what, I'll pull another one from the book just for easy reference. We worked with a social media management form and they found two pains or two jobs to be done in the customer survey that they ran. One was businesses that hadn't really figured out their marketing and they were trying out social media to see if that was a good channel to acquire new customers. And those people, their struggle was like, help me drive more traffic. Help me see if social is going to work for me. And then another struggle was really felt by company like small businesses that had already verified social was a good way to acquire their best customer. So now they were like, this is working. I need to automate stuff and move on to other business problems. Yeah. So the team was like, okay, let's think about these two types of people. Someone who knows it works, knows social media works, is going to be more likely to invest in tools to keep social media. They probably already have a decent content strategy. They're not sitting there wondering like, what should I post? Their business is proven to be a bit more viable if they already have market locked down. And so they were like, clearly this is the higher value customer. We can better serve these people and they get more value from our product. So then they were able to look around at their marketing and they realized we've been trying to kind of like speak to everyone. True. And a lot of our content plays, a lot of our webinars have been focused on that. More like newbie customer.

    [00:27:46] Ramli John: Interesting.

    [00:27:46] Claire Suellentrop: So they were like, oh shit. Yeah, we need to change who we're talking to.

    [00:27:51] Ramli John: That's interesting. I love that example, really defining who feels the pain the most, to put it in some way.

    [00:27:59] Claire Suellentrop: Right?

    [00:27:59] Ramli John: And then who can we serve the best with that pain?

    [00:28:04] Claire Suellentrop: In the workbook, which I know you have already been through all this, but in the workbook, there's a rubric to help teams kind of figure out which struggle or job to be done is most advantageous to focus on. And yeah, it's like, whose pain feels the most urgent, who has the most willingness to pay, who's least likely to be, like, a big burden on support? Who's a better fit for our business model? Sometimes a company has to make a choice between a really tricky problem that serves a higher revenue customer, but that customer is also harder to acquire. They require more handholding, and a self serve customer that is lower revenue but way easier to acquire a lot. So sometimes it's like, which can the product best support? Right?

    [00:28:59] Focusing on Most Valuable or Fastest to Close Customers

    [00:28:59] Ramli John: I feel like there's also sometimes momentum place at it. Like, who can we close passes might be an interesting factor for certain companies, especially.

    [00:29:08] Claire Suellentrop: Totally.

    [00:29:09] Ramli John: What's happening with the economy. Let's accelerate our sales cycle, essentially, or who is the most valuable could be interesting. So I like how you're helping them think about who should we focus on now? Because that trade off is super important because, like, you mentioned, trying to target everyone. It's like a recipe for failure, actually, and, like, not resonating with anybody else. At least here, people are thinking about it now.

    [00:29:35] Claire Suellentrop: I love that you brought up the economy and who can we build the most momentum with? I really like that description of it. Last week, I was on an office hours call with founders within the tiny seed network, and one founder was facing that exact challenge. She was like, well, we have one customer set that feels one pain. They drive way more revenue, but they're a lot harder to acquire and on board. And then there's another customer type that has a different struggle, but they get it. They self serve. It's a lot easier for me to reach them. And so where he landed in the office hours session was focus on creating an experience that acquires a lot more of those self serve folks. And then once you feel really good about their customer experience, then you can switch gears and be like, all right, now let's focus on this higher LTV customer. But I love that you brought up, like, it's about what we can do now. It's not as if we're going to say no or ignore all these other types of customers forever. But yeah, trying to focus on everyone at once is a fool's errand.

    [00:31:00] Ramli John: It's so true. I feel like, yeah, that's definitely a challenge. Especially I feel that might be more so true with founders, where they think their product is the best. And I'm not sure. I've worked with some founders where that's the case. Is that what you're finding? We're like talking to marketers, like, yeah, we get it focused versus founders, like, no, we got to do we got to do it all.

    [00:31:25] Claire Suellentrop: Yes. And just like improv. Yes. And a big challenge that we see a lot is the product team. They're experts on the product. They know everything it can do. They know how all around powerful it is. And there's pretty old by now, but there's a really good intercom blog post about this. The product team's job is innovation and pushing things forward. And the marketing team's job is meeting the target audience where they're at and trying to bridge the gap between where people's awareness is now and where the product is going. And it's really hard. There's a very natural tension between looking at the current market and where the product's going. And that, I think, is one of the things that makes this customer research so valuable. It enables teams, whether product or marketing, to get a sense of where the market really is and how their market really thinks and then look at their product through that lens rather than looking at it through their own internal lens where everyone knows that it's fucking awesome.

    [00:32:46] Ramli John: So true, right? Yeah, I love that. That's a really good point. You want to be thinking ahead and seeing what other problems you can potentially solve there.

    [00:32:58] When to Use Customer Interviews in Market Research

    [00:32:58] Ramli John: We've been talking a lot about surveys and I feel like this is a good start. When does it make sense to do user interviews or customer research through interviews? Maybe when the team is smaller. When the customer base is smaller or you're early stage or you mentioned earlier around enterprise, but is there like a point for you that you worked with a company or team and like, yeah, the survey is great, let's do some interviews. Or like, do you find like 99% of the time or 90% of the time surveys get you good enough insights that you can move forward?

    [00:33:34] Claire Suellentrop: You named a couple of great scenarios where interviews are good. Team is smaller, customer base is smaller. So you've just got fewer people to learn from. Other great times to run. Interviews are if your product has evolved and does quite a bit more than it used to be able to do. So a good example, there's a company we're working with right now and they entered the market a couple of years ago with a point solution and they are now expanding and they offer so much more. They've gone from point solution to all in one platform. And exactly as we were just discussing, the team knows how amazing the product is, but they're in their bubble and they need that customer input to bring them back to Earth and figure out how do our customers really talk about all of this functionality? Because we're using terms like seamless and no one in the interview said the word seamless. Just as an example.

    [00:34:49] Ramli John: It's a good example. All in one seamless. Innovative things like that.

    [00:34:54] Claire Suellentrop: Innovative. Oh my God. Another one that always bums me out is powerful. Like, what the fuck does powerful mean?

    [00:35:03] Ramli John: That's so true. What does that mean? Good point.

    [00:35:07] Claire Suellentrop: Yeah. So when your product has significantly evolved, that's another good opportunity, a major shift in the market. So like, COVID hitting was a really good time for people to like, rethink how they understood their customer base. Or with this more recent, like, kind of tech bubble or tech economy downturn, a lot of folks are seeing the people they thought were their best customers churning. So it's another opportunity to be like, okay, who's sticking around and what's so valuable to them that they're sticking around? Clearly we got to target more of those people. So a big market change, a big product change, those are both really good times as well as the ones that you mentioned. Smaller customer base, smaller team.

    [00:36:02] How to Conduct User Research for Product Development?

    [00:36:02] Claire Suellentrop: One other one is if you're selling into enterprise, that's also probably a scenario where you will need interviews. Surveys are just they don't go deep enough. They're way better fits in a lower touch product and customer experience.

    [00:36:21] Ramli John: I didn't really touch upon this, but it seems like depending on your goal, you would be talking to different types of users. So it could be current customers or it could be new users, or it might even be ones that are on a specific type of product rather than another type. Is that what dictates who you talk to? It's like, what are your goals? What are you trying to achieve here? And based on that, like, okay, this you should talk to. This is who we should send the survey to.

    [00:36:53] Claire Suellentrop: There's a couple of criteria that we always lean on and then yes, to your point, there's sometimes a little bit of extra criteria depending on your goals. So the criteria we always lean on are you want to filter down and learn from the customers who are paying. So freemium users or folks in your trial are not a fit right now. We need people who are already voting with their dollars. So that's number one, recently began paying is also really helpful because kind of as we just discussed, anyone who converted to paid when the product was very different or the market was very different won't provide the insight you need into what's true right now. So paying recently began paying and are meaningfully engaged. That metric of meaningfully engaged, as you well know, because as an onboarding expert, it's different for every product. It doesn't necessarily mean that they're logging in on a recurring basis, but they're getting value in whatever way your product delivers value on a regular kids. What's a good example of that? Well, like with auto books, actually logging into auto books does not inherently provide value, but sending a minimum number of invoices or even better, receiving a certain number of payments per month is a way better indicator that someone is bought in on the product. And I'm sure in your experience, you can come up with a bunch of really nuanced and much better engagement metrics than daily actives, monthly actives. So number three, paying, recently paying, unengaged. Those are like the criteria of good fit customers. To your point. Then on top of that, you might add people on this pricing tier or people within this geographic range where we want to expand our reach. But those additional details really depend on the company's goals.

    [00:39:19] Ramli John: So there's more focus on your best customers versus churn users is what I'm hearing. Churn customers, right.

    [00:39:27] Claire Suellentrop: It's not that churn research isn't valuable, but in this particular exercise, the goal is to figure out what worked for the best and then reverse engineer their experience to acquire more of those people.

    [00:39:40] The Value of Customer Research in Business Expansion

    [00:39:40] Claire Suellentrop: What you just said actually reminded me of another great reason or like, great trigger moment to do customer research. And Jason Knight, who is a product management consultant and a very funny podcast host, we were just on his podcast.

    [00:39:58] Ramli John: Oh, yeah, I saw that tweet. He's a good dude.

    [00:40:04] Claire Suellentrop: I really liked how he described it in a recent newsletter. He described it as if you're experiencing what he called revenue debt, where you and your team have kind of organically or haphazardly acquired all the different types of customers who you can convince to get into your product. But now you're like, okay, who do we really serve best? Calling back to something you referenced earlier in the episode, right now we're trying to appeal to everyone because we'll take anybody's money we can get and we don't like, we don't have a clear sense of who to really target. It's another great reason to do customer research. We just kicked off a project yesterday with a team experiencing that they serve a ton of different use cases. And so we've deliberately chosen with them not to filter by use case or industry or region because they're genuinely like, we don't know who we serve best. So they're using the minimal paying, recently paying, engaged criteria so that we can figure out, do you have a segment or a use case or an industry who are really valuable to target?

    [00:41:23] Ramli John: There's analogy. My mom used to work at a bank way in Philippines and now she's doing payroll. But the way that they would check counterfeit money is that they would study the real money and check on the security. What is the stuff like, what is real looks like so that they can find the bad. I feel like that's an analogy for this where if you focus on the best fit, then you can say no to the bad stuff and point it out right away. And I feel like that's exactly the reason why it works here, is like, focus on the best one rather than churn new this that just focus on the best and then you can find out right away if somebody coming in is good or not at all.

    [00:42:12] Claire Suellentrop: That is such an awesome analogy. Kudos to your mom.

    [00:42:18] Ramli John: Yeah, thank you.

    [00:42:19] Ramli John Talks About 'Forget the Funnel' with Claire Suellentrop

    [00:42:19] Ramli John: Well, I want to shift gears and talk a bit about career power ups, but I'm going to tell people for sure. Get the book. Forget the funnel. It's available on Amazon. I'm sure if the Google Forget the Funnel book, it's good. The toffel on the list, so please get it. I'm going to link it in the show notes in description. They also have a workbook with it.

    [00:42:39] Claire Suellentrop Discusses Key Aspects of a Successful Career

    [00:42:39] Ramli John: But let's talk about careers. You've spent several decades now, over a decade in marketing. You actually looked up your profile and you've done some stints as a music director at radio station and marketing director Calla Lee. I'm curious throughout this career you have now that you're written this book, what's helped you accelerate your career or power up your career to move forward? It could be around marketing or it could be something more like networking or soft skills that you feel helped you step forward and level up.

    [00:43:20] Claire Suellentrop: Yeah. As you called out, I've had a lot of weird and seemingly disconnected career steps prior to getting into SaaS and marketing, which is a different podcast episode altogether. But what looking back has been really valuable and was definitely a power up. I will get more specific, but to be broad, be a good person. And I say that instead of networking, because networking can mean all kinds of things. It can mean like trading business cards, and it can mean going to events. I say be a good person instead of networking because networking can mean going to events you don't want to go to or trading business cards or doing more surface level relationship building activities, whereas being a good person is being just generous and figuring out how you can help your peers. I mean, you're fucking great at this. Like, you have built such long relationships and a career out of being a good person and helping other people get where they're trying to go. And it's worked wonders for you. And looking back, I feel like that was such a difference maker. When the book launched this month, we had so many friends and partners and peers who were willing to give us a shout out in their newsletter or tweet about us or like, you do this amazing video review. And that didn't come out of nowhere. That came out of, like you said, almost a decade of building relationships and being generous in this space. And there's no way that we could have pulled off a launch like that in isolation by ourselves. So, yeah, don't just be a nice person. Don't be a superficial person. Be a kind, good person. And that will pay off in ways you can't even quantify.

    [00:45:39] Ramli John: I love how you called out that it's the opposite of networking. I feel like that's whenever you get into networking events, it's usually, like, people trying to get something from you. That's what I feel like you're calling out. Hey, maybe people have different definition of networking, but you're talking really about being generous and helpful. And it might not be at the top of your mind, but, you know, it's a small community, and when you help each other out, it'll come back around in some way. But you're not done sure how or where and when, but there's that generosity does come back when you put it out there. It's exactly what I'm hearing from this power up that you have.

    [00:46:25] Claire Suellentrop: Yeah. When I was, like, a tiny baby freelancer, I did this exercise where I identified other people who had their own businesses who I admired and I wanted to learn from. I made a little list in a spreadsheet, and I found their emails, and I reached out to each one, and I was like, hey, here's my backstory. I'm going into freelancing. I really look up to you. Could we spend, like, 20 minutes on a call? I just have some very specific questions about how you got to where you are. No pressure, obviously. And a handful of people were generous enough to grant me that. Shout out to Joel Kleckey, who runs Case Study.

    [00:47:13] Ramli John: Joel, he's so good. I just chatted with him.

    [00:47:15] Claire Suellentrop: Such a good guy. He gave me 20 minutes of time when I had no idea what I was doing, and he even took a chance on me and hired me for a small copywriting project. And that meant so much because I had so little on my freelance resume. And to this day, I will sing Joel's praises. I will refer people to case study buddy. His show of generosity just makes me, like, a forever fan.

    [00:47:49] Ramli John: Yeah, that's that's a really good point. And, like, just making that lasting impact through fan essentially has you don't have to call out names, but has there been other people that you can maybe shout out that's, like, kind of helped you in your journey? Obviously, GS one. Joe is another one, which I didn't realize because he's such a good oh, my God.

    [00:48:15] Claire Suellentrop: So many at that time. I also took what felt like a very scary, expensive plunge, and I enrolled in Joanna Webebs, like, freelance master class, not because I really needed copywriting skills, but I was like, I want to be like her.

    [00:48:37] Ramli John: Yeah.

    [00:48:40] Claire Suellentrop: So huge shout out to Joanna. Huge shout out to April Dunford for giving advice and helping shape the way that we brought the book into the world. Gia obviously, Bob Mesta, who I met at Business of Software, and that has changed the trajectory. So many people have been generous with their time or their advice or their introductions, and all that's made me want to do is turn right around and do the same thing. Extend the ladder back down to the next person who's, like, in their tiny baby freelance career.

    [00:49:21] Ramli John: So good. This just putting such a big smile on my face. I feel the same way. Where the reason why where I'm at is, like, people taking risk and just saying yes at the same time. I've turned around and helped out other folks and now they're helping out other folks. It's like a circle of help.

    [00:49:42] Claire Suellentrop: Yeah.

    [00:49:43] Ramli John: Cooler.

    [00:49:45] Ramli John Discusses His Influences and Mentors In Business

    [00:49:45] Claire Suellentrop: I want to know who some of your people are who really helped you.

    [00:49:50] Ramli John: Yeah, I would say Wes Bush was one of them. He's helped even before we connected. He reached out and supported me writing this book. You've been singing Mark Braces. But I actually look up to both of you and be like, hey, one day when I grow up, what they're doing? Forget the funnel. Super cool. Like, when I step out finally from the corporate world. I love what you all are doing. I feel like there's other people. That Eric. He's my boss now, but we were like friends before that, like, kind of gave me some tips. Andrew camplin is another one. I would say we've been connecting quite a bit, like figuring out marketing power ups and stuff like that. Yeah, he was my first sponsor for girl marketing today. And then he was the first sponsor for this. And you were going to say something about Camille.

    [00:50:53] Claire Suellentrop: Just similarly minded, generous with his time, willing to do you a solid. And whenever someone is in need of his type of services, he's the first person I think of. Obviously you need to work with 42 Agency.

    [00:51:10] Lessons from Forget The Funnel Co-Founder Claire Suellentrop

    [00:51:10] Ramli John: Before we wrap up, one final question, and this is another one of those, like, looking back, if you can give yourself, like, a younger, the younger version of Claire starting out, maybe she's working at that radio station, what would be a piece of advice? Like a piece of advice that you can send back in time, that you can give the younger Claire? And once again, it could be around marketing, it could be, like, around other things, but that advice would be something you can send to her to help her with life or career.

    [00:51:47] Claire Suellentrop: This is such a good question. And it's kind of difficult because, as you can imagine, if you did your earlier life differently, then you'd end up in a different reality than you're in right now. So it's like that's true butterfly effect. Like, do I want to change anything? But yeah. If I could, though, I would tell her, keep working really hard, which she did all the time and which I still do. Keep working hard, but don't be so hard on yourself. You are really hard on yourself. Chill out.

    [00:52:25] Ramli John: Yeah, that's so good. When you say chill out, you mean like work, work. Don't overwork yourself. Is that what you know? Like, maybe you're working 80 hours a week or seven?

    [00:52:41] Claire Suellentrop: I've I've always from a very, very young age, I've I've definitely had this, like, high achiever personality, which is great in some respects, but also the the shadow side of the high achiever high achiever personality is like tying your work worth. Yeah, that again, tying your worth to how much you do. Yeah. Like how successful you are, how good your grades are, how quickly you find a job, blah, blah, blah. It wasn't until much later on that I started to detach my identity from the work that I was doing. And that was just cause for a lot of unnecessary stress and grief.

    [00:53:32] Ramli John: I remember Asia Asia Orangeo talking about this. Asia also. Yeah, she's another one that's, like, been so generous, but she talked about this quite a bit. I feel like I wouldn't generalize, but a lot of high achieving marketers you're right. They're like, no, if I don't hit my KPIs, if this campaign doesn't blow up or like that thing that podcast or that doesn't get a million views in the first month, then I'm a failure. And I feel like that failure, I suck. I should quit. Quit and just go become a hermit or something like that, I guess. Like, you know, like, it's something that I've gone to therapy about, and one of my therapists have been like, hey, tied to something else, like family or being a good person, so to speak. So I feel like that's a really good takeaway there. Yeah.

    [00:54:36] Claire Suellentrop: Big shout out to therapy plus one.

    [00:54:38] Ramli John: Well, I hope you gained as much insight as I did with my conversation, Claire. I got super real there at the end. I really encourage you to go buy Claire's Ng's book Forget the Funnel. You can go to right now. You can find out everywhere on Amazon. You can also find out more about Claire on LinkedIn and Twitter. All those links are in the show notes and description. And thank you to Claire for being on the show. If you enjoyed this episode, you'd love the Marketing Powerups newsletter. Share the actionable takeaways and break down the frameworks of world class marketers. You can go Marketing subscribe and you'll instantly unlock the three best frameworks that top marketers use, hit their KPIs consistently, and wow their colleagues. I want to say thank you to you for listening and please like and follow Marketing Powerups on YouTube, Apple, Podcast, and Spotify. To feel like extra generous, kindly leave a review on Apple podcast and Spotify and leave a comment on YouTube. Goes a long way in others finding out about marketing bombs. Thanks to Mary Sullivan for creating the artwork and design. And thank you to Fisal Kygo for editing the intro video. And of course, thank you for listening. That's all for now. Have a powered update. Marketing Powerups you until the next episode.


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      Ramli John is the founder of Marketing Powerups and author of the bestselling book Product-Led Onboarding. He's worked with companies such as Appcues, Mixpanel, and Ubisoft to accelerate their growth.

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