The best messaging comes after talking with customers

November 22, 2022

The best marketing copywriters are the ones who spend a lot of time talking directly with customers.

The average marketing team usually leaves customer insights and customer interviews up to other teams, like Customer Success, Customer Care, and Customer Support.

But great marketers don’t rely on other people or other teams to feed them insights that can inform their copy and their campaigns.

The best marketers go hunting themselves.

Do you remember playing the telephone game as a kid in school? You remember it—a message gets passed from one person to another and each time it gets a little more diluted. By the time it reaches the last person, it’s a completely different message than the one at the beginning.

As marketers, we need to hear from customers ourselves more often.

We need first-hand data that can be used to shape and refine the language we use to speak to the people we want to reach.

If we leave it up to other teams, we have to trust that they asked the right questions, dug deeper in the right areas, and took good notes.

Every new client engagement I take on starts with a discovery phase that involves me interviewing 2-3 customers. Some clients try to skip past this step, offering Excel sheets full of customer interviews and reviews from the Success team.

I tell them all the same thing: it’s non-negotiable. I can’t skip these interviews. If my clients truly want more effective marketing copy, they have to be OK with giving me the time to ask my own questions and hear answers first-hand.

Interviewing people is an art. I’ve spent a lot of time doing it. I spent my college career learning how to speak and listen to people, graduating with a degree in journalism.

Here’s the biggest lesson I've learned from 15 years of interviewing people:

Great interviews only happen when you prepare great questions.

Preparation is key. You cannot expect to gain valuable insights unless you’ve taken the time to craft good questions.

When I’m interviewing customers, I’m trying to understand their perspectives, experiences, and emotions. I want to know if the feelings they have about a brand, product, or service align with the positioning my client is using to reach people like them.

Here are 12 questions I ask in EVERY customer interview:

  1. Can you tell me what [COMPANY] does and why?
  2. What problem were you trying to solve when you found [COMPANY]?
  3. What made choosing [COMPANY] a no-brainer for you?
  4. What is your life like now that you have [PRODUCT]?
  5. What would life be like if you didn’t have [PRODUCT] anymore?
  6. What do people know [COMPANY] for best today?
  7. What should people know [COMPANY] for best?
  8. What are the top 3 value differentiators [COMPANY] should be leading with?
  9. What benefits should [COMPANY] make clearer on their website?
  10. What does [COMPANY] do to keep you as a customer?
  11. What does [COMPANY] need to do more of to keep you happy?
  12. Why should someone else pick [COMPANY] over another option?

If you have never spent time interviewing your customers before as a marketer, start with these 12 questions. If you read through these and think of more you want to ask, add them.

Don’t give someone else on another team the responsibility of talking to customers. Dig in yourself, you’ll be amazed at the value and insights you gain from the experience.