How to Interview Customers to Decode Key Buying Insights

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The first step to transforming your website into a revenue-revving machine is understanding how your customers research products and make purchasing decisions.

Every marketer wants to understand what their targeted buyers are thinking: Do they like our product? Is the price reasonable? Was our messaging impactful? Focus groups, surveys, and one-on-one prospect interviews are great ways to glean these insights to refine the Four Ps of Marketing: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. 

But beyond product positioning and promotion, sales-driven marketers must uncover how buyers make purchasing decisions. Our signature buyer research process enables us to make data-driven websites, content architecture, and lead generation strategies that have converted thousands of leads for our B2B and B2C clients over the past few years. 

In this post, we’ll walk you through one of the research strategies we use to decode purchasing habits:

Identifying the Buyer Sample

By conducting buyer research, you can uncover your target customer’s nuanced buying behaviors and preferences. The first step to decoding these insights is to develop a list of potential research participants who are current, past, or prospective buyers. 

Composing Sample Subgroups

For businesses with a matrixed revenue stream or products and services that target different audiences, this list should be broken out into customer subgroups that represent different facets of the business. Launching a brand new product or service, and don’t have any clients to interview? That’s OK. Businesses testing a new vertical can greatly benefit from focus groups and conducting one-on-one buyer interviews with customers that have purchased a competitor’s product. 

Balancing Decision-Making Roles

In B2B sales, several people typically weigh in on purchasing decisions. Based on their role, they’re looking for different criteria–pricing structure, features, technical specs, training and support, ease of use, etc. It’s important to interview buyers who represent key decision-makers in various roles as well as the end-users who are most familiar with your product. When marketers can appreciate the full scope of perspectives dominating a purchasing decision first-hand, they’re much better equipped to support sales teams. 

Once the list of research volunteers has been carefully selected, it’s time to prepare for one-on-one interviews.

Customer Interview Best Practices

Schedule a 30 to 60-minute phone or Zoom interview with your research volunteers, and explain what they will expect. It can be helpful to hire an objective, third-party researcher to conduct the interviews so that clients feel comfortable being open and honest with their feedback.

Once you’ve set your interviews, take time to prepare and research your customer as much as you can. Determine their professional and educational background. Research their reporting structure and team hierarchy. Make notes and write down any questions based on your research that you want to clarify. 

Start the interview by asking them if you can record it for note-taking purposes. Reassure them how the data will be used and disposed of, and note if they prefer to be de-identified.

The goal of each interview is to glean five specific buyer impulses, which we’ll cover in the next section. You will want to center your questions around those core criteria. Keep your questions open-ended and avoid yes or no questions. If there’s a natural pause in the conversation, don’t be afraid to sit in silence for a moment. Chances are your volunteer may offer up another thought that came to them.

Ask them about their experience as a customer, and if they would recommend your product/service to a colleague. These questions often yield great insights that can be used to craft unique selling point messaging or testimonials later.

Lastly, the conversation should flow organically and isn’t necessarily linear. If you have time at the end of the call and want them to clarify or elaborate on something, don’t be afraid to revisit a topic that you already explored together.

Examining Buyer Impulses

We look for five key impulses and behaviors when we conduct buyer research. These components are also referred to as the Five Rings of Buying Insight:

  • Decision Criteria: Which features do the buyers deem most important when evaluating alternative solutions? 
  • Success Factors: How does purchasing this solution help the buyer achieve their operational or personal goals? Does it make their job easier or more efficient? Does it save their organization’s resources? 
  • Perceived Barriers: Did the buyer have any concerns about selecting your solution? These could be associated with pricing, the time associated with transitioning to a new vendor, or other factors that made the buyer unsure about their decision.
  • Priority Initiatives: What are their top professional objectives in their role? Based on those goals, what specifically prompted them to consider investing in a solution like yours? 
  • Buyer’s Journey: What process did they go through when researching and evaluating solutions? Who else was involved in decision-making? Who had the final say? The buyer’s journey depicts how they navigated the purchasing decision from start to finish.

How to leverage your newly-gleaned insights

Once your interviews are complete, it’s time to analyze the data. Coding key phrases and recurring themes will help you organize your data and begin to understand the buyer personas that begin to emerge. 

You can use your research to inform a wide spectrum of marketing and sales strategies, including branding, market positioning, channel placement, website design, content strategy, sales asset creation, and lead cultivation tactics.

Over 70% of buyers are influenced to purchase based on the online experience you provide them. 

We’re here to conduct our in-depth research process and uncover the optimal user experience for your website to produce self-qualified leads and propel conversions. 434 Marketing collaborates with your sales team and evaluates your buyer’s journey to create a content marketing strategy and a new website that is designed to drive sales.

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