Katya Ryabova's 3 customer questions for unlocking growth

Katya Ryabova's 3 customer questions for unlocking growth

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Katya Ryabova, Founder of SMM Headquarters, shares 3 questions most marketers don't ask their customers.

There's nothing that can power-up your marketing than asking your customers the right questions. It often holds the key to unlocking the next level of growth.

Katya Ryabova, Founder of SMM Headquarters, uses 3 powerful questions to help subscription-based businesses uncover actionable insights and identify growth opportunities.

In episode 60 of the Marketing Powerups Show, you'll learn:

    • Katya's 3 customer questions for unlocking growth.
    • How to make people feel comfortable during customer interviews.
    • How marketing teams can stay ethical while driving growth.
    • A powerup that has accelerated Katya's career.

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

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⭐️ 3 customer questions to unlock growth

Speaking with your customers directly can uncover a goldmine of growth opportunities. But you need to ask the right questions. Katya Ryabova shares her go-to questions for illuminating actionable insights:

1. What does XYZ mean to you?

Customers often use broad terms like "easy to use" or "time savings." Dig deeper into what those terms specifically mean to each customer. Their definitions likely differ from your assumptions.

"Well, for the lack of a better phrasing, what does easy to use mean to you? Does it mean that you don't have to go through five steps in the product to get a specific number that you need to look at?"

2. Could you give me a specific example of _____?

Asking for examples further clarifies meaning. If a customer has trouble articulating something, an example can speak volumes. Plus, examples frequently reveal unexpected insights.

"It can complement the first question. It can also act as a substitute if they're struggling even explaining what something was specifically to them. But taken together, they should give you a very good picture of that term you're trying to kind of analyze. And deconstruct is the verb I'm looking for."

3. Would you like to add anything I didn’t ask about?

This final open-ended prompt allows customers to discuss what matters most to them. They may offer feedback or illuminate an entirely new area worth exploring further. It also wraps up the interview on a positive, customer-focused note.

"It's also a chance for them to share something that it's important that they want to share. And a lot of the times I say no, we covered a lot of ground and I don't have anything to add. Thank you very much. So it's not a time waster by any means. It is a nice way to end the interview on a very open note where you're giving them a chance to talk about whatever they want to talk."

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    🎉 About Katya Ryabova

    Katya Ryabova is the founder of SMM Headquarters, a marketing consultancy focused on helping subscription-based businesses grow through customer research. She has over a decade of experience in marketing, previously serving as the marketing director for an accounting startup and working in academia as a researcher at the University of Toronto. Katya is a proponent of using customer research to challenge assumptions and gain actionable insights that fuel ethical, sustainable growth.

    🕰️ Timestamps and transcript

    • [00:00:00] Unlocking Growth with Customer Questions
    • [00:00:44] The Power of Customer Research in Marketing
    • [00:07:56] Customer Interviews and Jobs to be Done Approach
    • [00:10:17] The Importance of Digging Deeper in Customer Research
    • [00:14:54] Understanding the Value of a Product
    • [00:20:22] Understanding the Importance of Customer Research
    • [00:24:20] Tips for Conducting User Research Interviews
    • [00:28:12] The Importance of Ethics in Marketing and Customer Research
    • [00:32:32] Flexibility and Learning from Mistakes: Career Powerups

    Episode transcript

    [00:00:00] Unlocking Growth with Customer Questions

    [00:00:00] Ramli John: There's nothing that can power up your marketing than asking your customers the right questions.
    [00:00:03] Ramli John: It often holds the key to unlocking the next level of growth.
    [00:00:07] Ramli John: Katya Rabova, founder of SMM Headquarters, uses three powerful questions to help subscriptionbased businesses uncover actionable insight and identify growth opportunities.
    [00:00:17] Ramli John: In episode 60 of the marketing Power show, you learn first of all, Katya's three customer questions for unlocking growth.
    [00:00:23] Ramli John: Second, how to make people feel comfortable during customer interviews.
    [00:00:26] Ramli John: Third, how marketing teams can stay ethical while driving growth power up.
    [00:00:30] Ramli John: And number four, a power up that has accelerated Kach's career.
    [00:00:33] Ramli John: Now, before we get started, I created a free power up cheat sheet that you can download and use Kacha's three questions for unlocking growth.
    [00:00:40] Ramli John: Get it now marketingparups.com or find the link in the show notes in description.

    [00:00:44] The Power of Customer Research in Marketing with Katya Ryabova

    [00:00:44] Ramli John: Are you ready?
    [00:00:45] Ramli John: Let's go.
    [00:00:46] Ramli John: Marketing power ups ready, go.
    [00:00:54] Ramli John: Here's your host, Rambly John God yes.
    [00:00:58] Ramli John: I'm super excited to chat with you about research and marketing and ethics and really digging into your experience here around marketing and your background in research.
    [00:01:09] Ramli John: Before we jump in, I know you're a big fan of customer research.
    [00:01:16] Ramli John: I've already had a few folks come on the show.
    [00:01:19] Ramli John: We talked about Claire Solidrop, about customer research.
    [00:01:22] Ramli John: But I just want to reiterate this for people who are listening, why customer research is so powerful and so useful for people who are know marketers who are tuning in here, maybe just like why is this so important to you?
    [00:01:36] Ramli John: Why should marketers care about customer research?
    [00:01:41] Katya Ryabova: Customer research, for me, is a way to remove assumptions from the equation.
    [00:01:46] Katya Ryabova: Maybe not completely, but I think the biggest mistake we make, maybe mistake or misconception that we have, is that a lot of decisions that we make about strategy, about growth, about tactics, even, they're all based on some assumptions that we make about the customers, about the product, about behavior, based on what we learn from other people, from other marketers.
    [00:02:11] Katya Ryabova: And I think assumptions are inevitable.
    [00:02:16] Katya Ryabova: We can never know everything.
    [00:02:17] Katya Ryabova: We will have to make educated guesses.
    [00:02:19] Katya Ryabova: Sometimes that's okay, but when we rely on them too much, that's where we kind of enter that theoretical territory where we think something might work, but then it doesn't and we don't know why.
    [00:02:33] Katya Ryabova: And customer research brings us closer to the customer, sort of like duh kept an obvious but also we need to keep in mind that we're serving the customer.
    [00:02:46] Katya Ryabova: Ultimately, with marketing, we're trying to bridge the gap between the product and the customer, and we're trying to bring the product that will serve the customer to the customer that will benefit from it the most.
    [00:02:58] Katya Ryabova: So we really need to understand what's important to that customer, to that elusive, ideal customer profile that we're trying to research.
    [00:03:06] Katya Ryabova: And what better way to do it than going directly to the customer we're trying to understand.
    [00:03:13] Katya Ryabova: I think there is this idea that research is a big, scary thing that takes a while.
    [00:03:19] Katya Ryabova: It's long, it's expensive, it can be.
    [00:03:22] Katya Ryabova: It can be as long and as expensive and time consuming as you want to make it.
    [00:03:26] Katya Ryabova: But there are also ways to make it more manageable and still make it work for you so you can still learn what you need to learn and operate not just on assumptions, which again are inevitable, but also complement that with the knowledge that you get from the customer.
    [00:03:44] Katya Ryabova: It just works.
    [00:03:45] Katya Ryabova: It just works better.
    [00:03:47] Katya Ryabova: It's like stumbling in the dark versus having a bit of a flashlight illuminating your way.
    [00:03:52] Katya Ryabova: Again, you won't be able to see the whole room, maybe, but you can shine the light on different things and figure out where to go from there and find the door.
    [00:04:01] Ramli John: I love that analogy.
    [00:04:03] Ramli John: Just like, would you rather walk through the dark and try to feel your way through?
    [00:04:08] Ramli John: Maybe if you are familiar with the space, you could.
    [00:04:11] Ramli John: But if you can have a flashlight, why not?
    [00:04:15] Ramli John: Why not?
    [00:04:17] Katya Ryabova: It's not to say that you will find the door in the dark.
    [00:04:20] Katya Ryabova: You could be in a room that you're familiar with.
    [00:04:22] Katya Ryabova: As a seasoned marketer, we know a lot.
    [00:04:27] Katya Ryabova: We know what works broadly.
    [00:04:29] Katya Ryabova: We all understand various tactical, various channels.
    [00:04:34] Katya Ryabova: They change a lot, obviously, but we have a lot of knowledge that we draw on.
    [00:04:38] Katya Ryabova: And that's where, again, we draw on assumptions because we based them on something.
    [00:04:46] Katya Ryabova: So you can stumble to the correct solution and find the door, but it could take you longer.
    [00:04:52] Katya Ryabova: You could have a few bunts and bruises on your legs if you kind of catch the table corner.
    [00:05:00] Katya Ryabova: If you have a way to eliminate your way, it just would be more straightforward and probably easier.
    [00:05:06] Katya Ryabova: Not a guarantee.
    [00:05:07] Katya Ryabova: Maybe it's a fake door.
    [00:05:09] Katya Ryabova: That happens as well.
    [00:05:11] Katya Ryabova: I don't want to pretend that it's 100% solution to everything, because it's not.
    [00:05:18] Katya Ryabova: As much as I would love to claim that if only you did research, all your problems would be solved.
    [00:05:24] Katya Ryabova: Not the case.
    [00:05:26] Katya Ryabova: But it does make a lot of things easier.
    [00:05:28] Katya Ryabova: Decision making, specifically.
    [00:05:30] Ramli John: Yeah, of course.
    [00:05:31] Ramli John: And you won't bump your get bruised.
    [00:05:33] Ramli John: Hopefully it minimizes you bruising your legs, so to speak.
    [00:05:38] Ramli John: Especially in today's market where things are changing fast.
    [00:05:42] Ramli John: Economy is changing, markets changing, companies are changing, budgets are changing.
    [00:05:47] Ramli John: So I think that's even more important that even if you have it figured out, things can move and the room gets rearranged.
    [00:05:56] Ramli John: If we double click on this analogy.
    [00:05:59] Katya Ryabova: Yeah, actually, that's a great point as well.
    [00:06:02] Katya Ryabova: What furniture was around yesterday may not be in the same position today.
    [00:06:06] Katya Ryabova: I mean, I don't know what kind of rule we're talking about anymore, but I know, right?
    [00:06:10] Ramli John: Living room, change it every quarter.
    [00:06:13] Ramli John: The quarter the tv moves or something else.
    [00:06:18] Ramli John: I think another part to this analogy is it depends on what kind of flashlight you have.
    [00:06:23] Ramli John: You can have.
    [00:06:24] Ramli John: Depending your approach, your flashlight could be really weak.
    [00:06:27] Ramli John: Or you can have.
    [00:06:29] Ramli John: I'm not sure if you've seen this thing on YouTube or TikTok or whatever, where it's the brightest flashlight in the world.
    [00:06:36] Ramli John: Where you shine it to the sky and it looks like it's day at night.
    [00:06:42] Katya Ryabova: I have not seen it.
    [00:06:43] Katya Ryabova: It sounds cool.
    [00:06:44] Ramli John: I will send it to you.
    [00:06:45] Ramli John: Maybe I'll link it in the showroom as well.
    [00:06:48] Ramli John: But I think the point is there are certain questions that can really illuminate, so to speak, double clicking on this analogy that can help people really get more insights.
    [00:07:02] Ramli John: I love what you shared on LinkedIn a couple of weeks ago.
    [00:07:05] Ramli John: There was these three questions.
    [00:07:09] Ramli John: I would love to dig into them because I haven't really seen it before.
    [00:07:13] Ramli John: And I'm like, wow, I haven't asked that to our customers here at Apkis before one of them.
    [00:07:20] Ramli John: So we'll go to all three.
    [00:07:21] Ramli John: The first one is, what does XYZ mean to you?
    [00:07:25] Ramli John: And you were talking about how whatever they were saying, it's easy to use or something like that.
    [00:07:30] Ramli John: Because it could really depend what's easy to me might be different for your.
    [00:07:36] Ramli John: Easy.
    [00:07:37] Ramli John: And something else.
    [00:07:39] Ramli John: Can you talk a little bit more about that first question?
    [00:07:42] Katya Ryabova: Yeah.
    [00:07:43] Katya Ryabova: So that question, I think, was the only one I really wanted to share.
    [00:07:47] Katya Ryabova: And the other two, I was trying to think, okay, what other questions helped me along that you might not think about necessarily?

    [00:07:56] Interview with Katya Ryabova on Customer Interviews and Jobs to be Done Approach

    [00:07:56] Katya Ryabova: When I run customer interviews, I usually follow the jobs to be done approach to trying to understand what's important to the customer.
    [00:08:04] Katya Ryabova: So I'm trying to understand what struggle they have before they came to the product that I'm interviewing them about.
    [00:08:12] Katya Ryabova: What motivated them to solve that struggle?
    [00:08:15] Katya Ryabova: Maybe if there was a trigger that propelled them to take action and to seek better solution than sticking with what they had before.
    [00:08:25] Katya Ryabova: And once they found the product, what motivated them to keep trying it?
    [00:08:29] Katya Ryabova: What gave them that initial value and how their lives changed.
    [00:08:33] Katya Ryabova: Sounds really grand.
    [00:08:34] Katya Ryabova: But we do look at what that desired outcome looks like with the product.
    [00:08:39] Katya Ryabova: Because we do like to interview customers that actually love the product, love paying for it, and unimagine going without it, no matter how small or how functional that product is.
    [00:08:57] Katya Ryabova: So those questions, I mean, I share them a lot and they're fairly straightforward.
    [00:09:02] Katya Ryabova: You can ask them in different ways, but if you are a fan of jobs to be done approach like I am, you would know them.
    [00:09:09] Katya Ryabova: What did you do before?
    [00:09:11] Katya Ryabova: What made you make that choice?
    [00:09:14] Katya Ryabova: What motivated you, et cetera, et cetera.
    [00:09:17] Katya Ryabova: But when you actually come to the actual interview with an actual human being, of course people have different ways to describe things.
    [00:09:26] Katya Ryabova: They have different vocabulary to describe what their journey, the way they talk about it, the way they talk about their experience.
    [00:09:36] Katya Ryabova: And a lot of the times people use words that we don't really dig into, we kind of intuitively understand what they mean.
    [00:09:48] Katya Ryabova: But if we think about them a little bit deeper and a little bit longer, we would see that it can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people.
    [00:09:55] Katya Ryabova: So easy to use is a perfect example, because when we talk to people in SaaS about software, easy to use comes up 99.99% of the time.
    [00:10:09] Katya Ryabova: Easy tingles and time saving.
    [00:10:13] Katya Ryabova: Or if you talk about issues like time consuming.

    [00:10:17] The Importance of Digging Deeper in Customer Research

    [00:10:17] Katya Ryabova: And this is where this question becomes so important to ask, because you want to understand.
    [00:10:24] Katya Ryabova: Well, for the lack of a better phrasing, what does easy to use mean to you?
    [00:10:29] Katya Ryabova: Does it mean that you don't have to go through five steps in the product to get a specific number that you need to look at?
    [00:10:38] Katya Ryabova: Does it mean the interface is pleasing visually and you sort of intuitively understand where you need to click to accomplish a task.
    [00:10:47] Katya Ryabova: And I'm just speedballing because again, really depends on the product and really depends on what the person is describing.
    [00:10:54] Katya Ryabova: A lot of people think in terms of comparing that to a worse solution that they tried before, where they say, oh, it was clunky, it was hard to use, and then you start asking what was hard about it.
    [00:11:11] Katya Ryabova: It took long, or maybe the font was too small, it could be a lot of different things.
    [00:11:18] Katya Ryabova: And if you don't dig into that, you end up during the analysis stage of the research process, you just end up with basically ten interviews that tell you the same thing.
    [00:11:31] Katya Ryabova: On the surface they say, oh, the product is easy to use, which is not meaningful, because for three of those people, easy to use meant the interface was again, attractive, or whatever it is that they meant.
    [00:11:44] Katya Ryabova: And for four, it meant that they didn't go through five steps to get to a specific scene.
    [00:11:50] Katya Ryabova: So those are functionally completely different.
    [00:11:54] Katya Ryabova: But if you didn't ask, you would just kind of stick with, well, that was easy.
    [00:11:59] Katya Ryabova: What's easy?
    [00:11:59] Katya Ryabova: I mean, you're not staples, right?
    [00:12:06] Katya Ryabova: Again, so those two examples, time consuming and easy to use, they're just because they come up so often, just because people, I think people's minds just jump straight to, okay, it saves me time.
    [00:12:16] Katya Ryabova: And the process was frictionless.
    [00:12:20] Katya Ryabova: And I just referred it's easy to use as frictionless, which to me could mean something different than it could mean you, for example.
    [00:12:27] Katya Ryabova: So it's important to ask that.
    [00:12:29] Katya Ryabova: It also helps when the person is struggling to explain what it is they're getting out of the product, because not every person is able to.
    [00:12:39] Katya Ryabova: Of course, it depends on what kind of product you're researching.
    [00:12:42] Katya Ryabova: If it's a highly technical, developer oriented software, then you're likely to get a very detailed, specific answer.
    [00:12:53] Katya Ryabova: What was hard about their previous solution?
    [00:12:56] Katya Ryabova: What they could change, what they're looking for in their ideal one.
    [00:13:00] Katya Ryabova: But if you're talking about something lower key, maybe like a scheduling tool, let's say calendly calendar has grown a lot now.
    [00:13:12] Katya Ryabova: It's a lot more robust than it was when I started using it, for example, was very straightforward when I started using it first.
    [00:13:21] Katya Ryabova: And people could really struggle to explain what was easy, what easy meant to them when it came to cavalry, for example.
    [00:13:34] Katya Ryabova: So it's super important to ask that.
    [00:13:37] Ramli John: I like that.
    [00:13:39] Ramli John: It goes back to what you mentioned earlier.
    [00:13:42] Ramli John: The power of customer research is you're trying to dispel or confirm your assumptions.
    [00:13:50] Ramli John: And somebody saying it's easy to use the researcher or the marketer who's asking that has assumptions as to what it means.
    [00:13:59] Ramli John: And you mentioned frictionless.
    [00:14:00] Ramli John: And that's the assumption that that person has about that.
    [00:14:05] Ramli John: And really digging into that can really help really be more specific about what they're explaining about that.
    [00:14:14] Ramli John: And that could be powerful information to use in emails or marketing copy or other places.
    [00:14:20] Ramli John: Rather than just like our product is easy to use, it could be like our product is.
    [00:14:25] Ramli John: I'm not sure whatever that person says easy to use means rather than just like a generic term.
    [00:14:32] Katya Ryabova: If they said it took me two steps instead of seven, you can say in your copying and say, take five steps out of the equation, get stuff done faster.
    [00:14:43] Katya Ryabova: So that's a bit of a cliche too, but that's the idea.
    [00:14:47] Katya Ryabova: Instead of saying easy to use because everyone says that.
    [00:14:51] Ramli John: Yeah, I like that.

    [00:14:54] Understanding the Value of a Product: A Conversation with Katya Ryabova

    [00:14:54] Ramli John: That specificity kind of leads to the second question you asked about specific examples.
    [00:14:59] Ramli John: I think that seems like they're tied to each other, or what does specifically XYZ or this term means to you.
    [00:15:05] Ramli John: And can you give an example?
    [00:15:07] Ramli John: So now they're really getting into, okay, you said it was frictionless.
    [00:15:12] Ramli John: Tell me about that.
    [00:15:13] Ramli John: What is an example of that?
    [00:15:14] Ramli John: Is that second example really what that means?
    [00:15:18] Ramli John: It's tied to the first question.
    [00:15:20] Katya Ryabova: That second question is also very helpful if they're having trouble with the first question, because sometimes, again, sometimes people don't have the language to describe their experience, no matter how hard you try.
    [00:15:34] Katya Ryabova: And in that regard, it's helpful to suggest that they give you an example so that when you analyze the example, you can sort of figure out what was in that example that made a difference to them.
    [00:15:46] Katya Ryabova: It can complement the first question.
    [00:15:48] Katya Ryabova: It can also act as a substitute if they're struggling even explaining what something was specifically to them.
    [00:15:57] Katya Ryabova: But taken together, they should give you a very good picture of that term you're trying to kind of analyze.
    [00:16:04] Katya Ryabova: And deconstruct is the verb I'm looking for.
    [00:16:08] Ramli John: Deconstruct.
    [00:16:08] Ramli John: I like that.
    [00:16:11] Ramli John: That's super important because they might say it's frictionless.
    [00:16:16] Ramli John: And then they walk you through the example and you're like, oh, actually, that's another value point that they're walking through.
    [00:16:24] Ramli John: You're talking about.
    [00:16:25] Ramli John: It could be complementary or substitute, or you could find other values that jobs to be done or things that they're finding important through that example itself.
    [00:16:37] Ramli John: And that's why it's important to do ask that second question.
    [00:16:40] Katya Ryabova: Yes.
    [00:16:40] Katya Ryabova: And often people, when they start giving examples and when they start also just trying to explain what they mean by easy choose or whatever it is that we're talking about, they actually end up going way deeper than just beyond saving time.
    [00:16:55] Katya Ryabova: And it being not complicated, especially when they give examples, you realize that this is actually not about saving time at all.
    [00:17:04] Katya Ryabova: This is about something completely different that they just didn't mention because did occur to them, maybe.
    [00:17:09] Katya Ryabova: And whether they realize it or not, they're giving you really important insight that you can then add to when you analyze, you can add that to the themes even if you specifically didn't ask them.
    [00:17:18] Katya Ryabova: Okay, you just mentioned a third value to you.
    [00:17:23] Katya Ryabova: You don't necessarily have to point it out.
    [00:17:25] Katya Ryabova: As long as they give it to you.
    [00:17:26] Katya Ryabova: You can just move on because you just got what you needed.
    [00:17:29] Ramli John: Exactly.
    [00:17:30] Ramli John: That's so cool.
    [00:17:31] Ramli John: I like that.
    [00:17:32] Ramli John: That's a really important point of view there as well.
    [00:17:35] Ramli John: I think the other valuable thing here is if they're already in the product, it's almost like a little bit of not user testing, but you're like ux testing, where you're actually seeing them click around and see if them using the product itself can be super helpful as well as to like, maybe they have suggestions for improvements there at that point as well.
    [00:17:57] Katya Ryabova: I have actually never asked people to do that.
    [00:18:00] Ramli John: Oh, do they just say the story or they don't share the screen?
    [00:18:03] Katya Ryabova: No, I want them to tell me what they remember.
    [00:18:08] Katya Ryabova: So of course here it's important to only target people for those sort of in depth interviews that are actually involved in the product at the frequency you want them to be involved.
    [00:18:19] Katya Ryabova: You want them to know the product deeply and care about it so they have a good idea of what's important.
    [00:18:27] Katya Ryabova: They're in it regularly, whether that be daily or monthly, it doesn't matter, whatever makes sense for the product.
    [00:18:34] Katya Ryabova: But I want them to talk about what comes to mind first because that's what's important.
    [00:18:40] Katya Ryabova: Because if they're in the product and if they're clicking around as we're talking, there could be things that pop up that they appreciate, like, oh, by the.
    [00:18:49] Ramli John: Way, this is cool, and they get distracted.
    [00:18:51] Katya Ryabova: But they would not bring it up if we were talking about the product kind of removed from the direct experience in the moment, because it's not something that's ultimately that important to them that they would continue paying for it.
    [00:19:05] Katya Ryabova: It's like nice to have and it would be nice for me to know that they find that this feature is cool, but it's not necessarily actionable in the short term because I'm really looking to understand the big scene.
    [00:19:17] Katya Ryabova: What is so important that he would talk about it all day long about the value and how excited you were when you had that aha.
    [00:19:25] Katya Ryabova: Moment in the product for the first time and you realized, yes, this is something I need and something I'm going to be doing.
    [00:19:32] Katya Ryabova: We're really looking for those bigger, big realizations that I think being directly in the product kind of takes away from that.
    [00:19:41] Ramli John: I like that point.
    [00:19:41] Katya Ryabova: But again, that's kind of venturing into the realm of the UX testing that is a bit different and makes sense.
    [00:19:48] Katya Ryabova: It's an art of its own.
    [00:19:49] Ramli John: Yeah, you make a really good point here about that.
    [00:19:53] Ramli John: You want to be talking to fans of the product, people who are your best customers, essentially.
    [00:20:01] Ramli John: And that's something that for people who are tuning in, these questions are ones that's probably a question I would ask you.
    [00:20:12] Ramli John: Who would you be asking these questions to?
    [00:20:14] Ramli John: And I'm guessing it's your best customers.
    [00:20:16] Ramli John: But applying this, what does best customers.
    [00:20:19] Katya Ryabova: Mean if that best customers?

    [00:20:22] Understanding the Importance of Customer Research

    [00:20:22] Katya Ryabova: Again, this is with the caveat that again, every product is different.
    [00:20:26] Katya Ryabova: And it depends the favorite two words of every marketer.
    [00:20:29] Katya Ryabova: But we would like to talk to people who are paying for the product, because we want to talk to people that actually made that decision to pull out the credit card and go through the pain of payment to use whatever it is that the product offers because it's important enough to them.
    [00:20:48] Katya Ryabova: We also want them to be fairly recent so that they actually remember the first experience of using the product and also remember what it was like before they had the product.
    [00:20:58] Katya Ryabova: And that recency can actually vary a lot.
    [00:21:01] Katya Ryabova: So you often hear, say, three months signed up, four months, five months, depending on the product.
    [00:21:09] Katya Ryabova: It could be as long as a year.
    [00:21:12] Katya Ryabova: It really depends.
    [00:21:13] Katya Ryabova: But you do want to talk to people that have preferably used the most recent iteration of your product.
    [00:21:19] Katya Ryabova: You're not talking to your very first customer that signed up with you five years ago with your MVP version and stuck around because they happen to be matching the ideal customer profile and they still love it.
    [00:21:34] Katya Ryabova: You probably would cherish them as your first customer, but their experience is not the same as the experience of someone signing up for the product for the first time, say, in the last month, because the product changes and you want to have a glimpse of what it's like for the users right now with how your product exists right now, not how it was a year ago or two years ago.
    [00:21:59] Katya Ryabova: Because products change, some change faster than others.
    [00:22:03] Katya Ryabova: So if you iterate really rapidly and if you roll out version after version after version, it would probably make no sense to talk to people who sign up two months ago, but again, really different.
    [00:22:14] Ramli John: I like that they're paying customers.
    [00:22:16] Ramli John: That's recent.
    [00:22:20] Ramli John: And when I say recent, it depends on the product.
    [00:22:23] Ramli John: It could really depend on how often the change of the product happens.
    [00:22:26] Ramli John: But you don't want it to be like they've been customer for ten years, so to speak.
    [00:22:32] Katya Ryabova: Yeah, and again, it really depends on what you're trying to learn through the research.
    [00:22:37] Katya Ryabova: If we're talking about that, the jobs to be done approach, zeroing in on what the ideal customer wants and needs, then recency is important.
    [00:22:47] Katya Ryabova: I'm trying to think of an example where you would want to talk to someone who's been around for ten years.
    [00:22:58] Ramli John: Maybe not for the purpose of this.
    [00:23:00] Katya Ryabova: Yeah, no, it would have to be something different, for sure.
    [00:23:04] Katya Ryabova: And something else to keep in mind is that if your product is complex and serves different types of customers, you could get fancy with what customers you target.
    [00:23:15] Katya Ryabova: Maybe you want to look at customers who are paying at a higher tier only.
    [00:23:20] Katya Ryabova: Maybe you want to learn from a specific user base that maybe is using a specific tier of your product because you're interested in expanding.
    [00:23:31] Katya Ryabova: Maybe you want to exclude people who are at the lowest pricing tier because maybe you're thinking of going into freemium and you want to make sure that you keep the really important features paid.
    [00:23:43] Katya Ryabova: For example, maybe if you want to go into enterprise.
    [00:23:48] Katya Ryabova: Well, that gets tricky if you don't have enterprise customers.
    [00:23:51] Katya Ryabova: You're sort of guessing at this point.
    [00:23:54] Katya Ryabova: So you really need to look at what you're trying to achieve and how complex your product is.
    [00:23:59] Katya Ryabova: That makes sense.
    [00:24:00] Katya Ryabova: But you also need enough customers to learn from.
    [00:24:03] Katya Ryabova: So if you're just starting out and if you have 50 customers total, I would just talk to everyone.
    [00:24:09] Katya Ryabova: Well, I wouldn't run 50 interviews to be clear, but I would survey all 50 customers and then talk to nine out of ten.
    [00:24:18] Ramli John: Makes sense.
    [00:24:18] Ramli John: I like that.
    [00:24:19] Ramli John: I like that approach.

    [00:24:20] Tips for Conducting User Research Interviews

    [00:24:20] Ramli John: I want to get into the third question.
    [00:24:22] Ramli John: It says, what would you like to add?
    [00:24:24] Ramli John: Anything I didn't ask.
    [00:24:26] Ramli John: Would you like to add anything?
    [00:24:27] Ramli John: I didn't ask.
    [00:24:27] Ramli John: I think that's just a great way to learn if there's something else that they want to chat about, is what I'm guessing from this.
    [00:24:38] Ramli John: Any broad strokes?
    [00:24:41] Katya Ryabova: It's a really good way to end the interview and make sure that you cover something that they might find important to think about or to talk to mention.
    [00:24:48] Katya Ryabova: Sorry, not think about to mention to you.
    [00:24:50] Katya Ryabova: That might not necessarily be in the scope of research at all, but we do want to make them feel heard and they might have important feedback.
    [00:25:00] Katya Ryabova: They might have a compliment to your team, which I actually find happens a lot.
    [00:25:04] Katya Ryabova: If they're a fan, very often they compliment the support, for example, or they say nice things, and that always looks nice.
    [00:25:13] Katya Ryabova: In their research report.
    [00:25:15] Katya Ryabova: I like to put little quotes slide at the end to see what nice things were said about you.
    [00:25:24] Katya Ryabova: I think the teams appreciate that as well.
    [00:25:26] Katya Ryabova: And.
    [00:25:26] Katya Ryabova: And sometimes it's complaints about maybe technical difficulties or some sort of issue.
    [00:25:34] Katya Ryabova: And it's important to ask because if it's important enough, I can always pass it on to the actual team to flag.
    [00:25:45] Katya Ryabova: A lot of the times they say that they actually are aware of it because the customer has already got in touch with them about that.
    [00:25:53] Katya Ryabova: Yeah, but it's mostly there to make sure that you make it clear that it's not just for you to learn from them.
    [00:26:02] Katya Ryabova: It's also a chance for them to share something that it's important that they want to share.
    [00:26:07] Katya Ryabova: And a lot of the times I say no, we covered a lot of ground and I don't have anything to add.
    [00:26:12] Katya Ryabova: Thank you very much.
    [00:26:13] Katya Ryabova: So it's not a time waster by any means.
    [00:26:16] Katya Ryabova: It is a nice way to end the interview on a very open note where you're giving them a chance to talk about whatever they want to talk.
    [00:26:23] Ramli John: About, and I think that's important.
    [00:26:25] Ramli John: The last part, one of the things you mentioned about it makes them feel heard, where you can say whatever you want now, feedback, compliment, questions, anything else you want to add in?
    [00:26:39] Ramli John: I feel like that's some of my best memories of one on one with my manager usually ends with like, we've covered all of our agenda items.
    [00:26:49] Ramli John: Is there anything else?
    [00:26:50] Ramli John: Would you like to talk about anything else, Ramley and I feel like, oh, okay, it feels good, if that makes sense.
    [00:26:59] Katya Ryabova: And I feel like it's also important for anyone being on the interviewer side to make sure that they feel comfortable enough to share throughout the interview, because if they can't feel like they can speak openly, they might not share important insight.
    [00:27:16] Katya Ryabova: So in this regard, me being an independent consultant and researcher helps a lot, because when I talk to customers, I say I work with the team, I don't work for them.
    [00:27:26] Katya Ryabova: So you can share whatever you want with me.
    [00:27:29] Katya Ryabova: You're not going to hurt my feelings.
    [00:27:31] Katya Ryabova: It's not my product, it's their product.
    [00:27:35] Katya Ryabova: They will learn about it because that's the whole point of us being here.
    [00:27:39] Katya Ryabova: But you can be very open with me, and a lot of people appreciate it.
    [00:27:44] Katya Ryabova: So having that report is important.
    [00:27:46] Katya Ryabova: And then at the end, again, when you're wrapping up, that just sort of solidifies it because you show them that you are interested not just in the questions that you have, but also what they have to say beyond that.
    [00:27:58] Katya Ryabova: And sometimes they do, sometimes they don't.
    [00:28:00] Ramli John: That makes sense like that.
    [00:28:04] Ramli John: Thank you for sharing those three questions.
    [00:28:06] Ramli John: I feel like they're something that I'm going to start implementing into my own practice.

    [00:28:12] The Importance of Ethics in Marketing and Customer Research

    [00:28:12] Ramli John: One other topic you wanted to talk about marketing is around the ethics of marketing and research.
    [00:28:17] Ramli John: I'm curious, what are those things that people need to consider when their ethical approach to marketing and customer research and even in growth?
    [00:28:29] Katya Ryabova: I think as a researcher, I think about ethics a lot, and in the academic setting for research, it's been really entrenched that every study you conduct has to be done ethically, and there are specific guidelines and rules around it.
    [00:28:48] Katya Ryabova: I think for marketing, being ethical it means being principled and kind of standing by your values.
    [00:28:56] Katya Ryabova: And I actually realized that not all people are driven by values.
    [00:29:06] Katya Ryabova: And what I mean by that is that for some people, it's important to, they have really defined value stance or a moral stance on a range of issues, and some people do not.
    [00:29:17] Katya Ryabova: And I don't think one is worse or better than the other.
    [00:29:21] Katya Ryabova: I just think some people find it harder to not be driven by values or whether in their work or in their professional life.
    [00:29:29] Katya Ryabova: So it's very rapidly become like a really philosophical discussion, I think.
    [00:29:35] Katya Ryabova: And when you talk about ethics, especially in marketing, it is in a way, philosophical.
    [00:29:41] Katya Ryabova: Also, I think it's important to talk about what do we mean by ethical marketing?
    [00:29:48] Katya Ryabova: If you google ethical marketing, you will find a definition, because I actually did that out of curiosity.
    [00:29:54] Katya Ryabova: And it's defined as the marketing approach that is driven by principles, integrity, commitment to transparency, and good stuff like that.
    [00:30:07] Katya Ryabova: But apparently that was also tied to the actual marketing strategy and tactics.
    [00:30:12] Katya Ryabova: So you infuse your messaging with it, you position yourself as an ethical brand, which is not what I think about when I think about ethical marketing.
    [00:30:22] Katya Ryabova: To me, it's more internal and it is making the decision about what you are not going to do when you're growing your product, when you're growing your company.
    [00:30:35] Katya Ryabova: Because I think ethics, to me, are all about what you're not doing, what you're choosing not to do.
    [00:30:41] Katya Ryabova: And I think ethics is another guardrail that you put around your strategy that is necessarily going to be limiting in a way, but also will help you focus a bit more.
    [00:30:53] Katya Ryabova: And I think focus is.
    [00:30:56] Katya Ryabova: Focus is where success comes in, because the more focused you are, especially in marketing, especially for growth purposes, the easier it becomes.
    [00:31:07] Ramli John: That makes sense.
    [00:31:08] Ramli John: I think that's so important.
    [00:31:11] Ramli John: What are things you're not going to do if you're faced with that situation and people don't think about that enough?
    [00:31:17] Ramli John: Especially if, I think you mentioned around values, having clear values should guide those.
    [00:31:25] Ramli John: If it doesn't fit in our values, then it shouldn't be something that we would do or say or approach, no matter how painful it could be.
    [00:31:36] Katya Ryabova: I think it's kind of the opposite of growth at all costs, which I think we're transitioning out of it now, given where we are in this year, 2023.
    [00:31:48] Katya Ryabova: But growth at all costs, I think we will agree that growth at all costs is no longer something that we want to do collectively as marketers.
    [00:31:56] Katya Ryabova: But also, I think it's also as much about making that decision.
    [00:32:02] Katya Ryabova: Okay.
    [00:32:02] Katya Ryabova: Yeah, exactly what we're not doing.
    [00:32:05] Katya Ryabova: And even if it's defined as broadly as okay, we're not going to be growing at all costs.
    [00:32:11] Katya Ryabova: That to me is already ethics.
    [00:32:14] Katya Ryabova: Like you're trying to put some ethical angle to your marketing, to your future strategy.
    [00:32:22] Ramli John: I like that.
    [00:32:23] Ramli John: That makes sense.
    [00:32:25] Ramli John: It really is something that as marketers, we need to be thinking a lot more, especially with things that are changing.

    [00:32:32] Flexibility and Learning from Mistakes: Career Power ups with Katya Ryabova

    [00:32:32] Ramli John: I want to shift gears one last time and talk about career power ups.
    [00:32:36] Ramli John: You're the founder and co consultant at SMM headquarters and you previously were the marketing director at accounting and bookkeeping startup.
    [00:32:47] Ramli John: I'm curious, what's helped?
    [00:32:49] Ramli John: And before that you were a researcher at University of Toronto.
    [00:32:53] Ramli John: I'm curious, what's a career power up?
    [00:32:55] Ramli John: This helps accelerate your career or given you a leg up in terms of your journey so far.
    [00:33:04] Katya Ryabova: I think what helped was my flexibility and the desire to change and shift gears when something wasn't quite working.
    [00:33:15] Katya Ryabova: And looking back at me working for that bookkeeping startup, I made all of the mistakes you would expect a marketer to make.
    [00:33:28] Katya Ryabova: And I think me operating on assumptions was 100%, well, maybe 99% root cause of all the mistakes.
    [00:33:39] Katya Ryabova: And again, looking back, because it was a while ago, I didn't know what I didn't know, and now I know what I didn't know.
    [00:33:47] Katya Ryabova: And I obviously would never go back to that place of not knowing.
    [00:33:52] Katya Ryabova: And I wish I found that customer research in marketing approach sooner than I did.
    [00:34:04] Katya Ryabova: But what brought me from there to here was that kind of search on what would actually be working for me as a professional, where I could make a difference in marketing, what kind of marketing I wanted to do, what kind of marketing I wasn't willing to do as well.
    [00:34:21] Katya Ryabova: Because my consultancy is called SMM headquarters, because I started off as a social media marketer when I decided to start something of my own and I decided to keep the name there because it's just a name and I think so, not to be too verbose about it, but I think the marketing power up was that the flexibility that I had, the opportunity to try different things and keep iterating on what I could offer, that brought me to where I am now.
    [00:34:57] Katya Ryabova: Because again, I as a marketer, went through so many versions of what I could offer, from social media to Google Ads to paid acquisition strategy in general, to customer research, to customer led growth.
    [00:35:13] Katya Ryabova: And now here we are talking about product marketing and ethics and all the good stuff, and not making assumptions that's so good.
    [00:35:23] Ramli John: It ties back to what we were talking about earlier about why you do customer research is to help you with your assumptions.
    [00:35:33] Ramli John: Everything we talked about ties to this around.
    [00:35:36] Ramli John: Knowing what to do and not to do is super important as a marketer and really exploring things and trying it out with that.
    [00:35:46] Ramli John: It's exactly what I heard that has helped you with your career.
    [00:35:49] Katya Ryabova: Yeah, exactly.
    [00:35:50] Katya Ryabova: And always learning through my mistakes.
    [00:35:53] Katya Ryabova: Unfortunately, if you enjoyed this episode, you'd.
    [00:35:55] Ramli John: Love the marketing Powerups newsletter, share the actionable takeaways and break down the frameworks of world class marketers.
    [00:36:02] Ramli John: You can go to marketingpowerups.com, subscribe, and you'll instantly unlock the three best frameworks that top marketers use, hit their KPIs consistently, and wow their colleagues.
    [00:36:12] Ramli John: I want to say thank you to you for listening.
    [00:36:15] Ramli John: And please like and follow marketing power ups on YouTube, Apple Podcasts and if you're feeling extra generous, leave a review on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, and leave a comment on YouTube goes a long way in others finding out about marketing powers.
    [00:36:29] Ramli John: Thanks to Mary Sullivan for creating the artwork and design.
    [00:36:32] Ramli John: And thank you to Fisal Kygo for editing the intro video.
    [00:36:35] Ramli John: And of course, thank you for listening.
    [00:36:37] Ramli John: That's all for now.
    [00:36:39] Ramli John: Have a powered update marketing power ups until the next episode.
    [00:36:48] Katya Ryabova: You.


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