We’ve covered how to survey and interview customers for insights. Now, we want to give you tools for applying insights in ways your boss will notice.
Because while most of us know qualitative data affects the bottom-line in theory, we’re less certain how to get results in practice. This course addresses the practice piece.
Here are the lessons ahead of you:
Each lesson includes tactical advice and real-life case studies to help you bridge the gap between “what customers are saying” and “how we used feedback to increase profits this quarter.”
Let’s dive in.
Many companies position products as a list of features. They solve a problem, but they don’t understand who they solve it for or the full context they’re solving it in. This leads to poor campaign performance, long sales cycles, and high churn.
According to Drift, the best companies take a different approach. They “use data and analysis from the frontlines” to figure out product positioning. Because they understand “The market isn’t attached to what YOU think your product is. The market wants to know what your product can do for them.”
Positioning expert April Dunford says, “product positioning describes the specific market you intend to win and why you are uniquely qualified to win it.” In her book Obviously Awesome, she elaborates that positioning operates as context: “Context enables people to figure out what’s important.”
When customers encounter a product, they look for context in the messaging, pricing, features, branding, and testimonials to figure out, “what is this thing and what does it do for me?”
But figuring out (not to mention communicating) a “good position” is really hard. There are multiple positioning options for any product. On top of that, markets, customers, and trends all fluctuate rapidly.
The one thing you can rely on to make better positioning decisions? Input from your customers.
In a workshop with Gia Laudi and Claire Suellentrop, Dunford outlines three ingredients for a well-positioned marketing strategy. Those inputs are:
Here’s how you can use a stockpile of customer feedback to understand each of these more clearly.
Products have a range of users. Most of your users feel pretty “meh” about your product. A few hate it. And a precious number absolutely cannot live without it. That last group, the power users, is your gold.
If you’ve been collecting qualitative feedback, you already have a pile of insights from them.
You have insights* about:
This clear picture is the foundation of your positioning. Dunford says, “Once you figure this out, the world is your kingdom.” Here’s an example from her own experience.
*You may not know all of these things, and that’s okay. If you have holes, hop on the phone with some of your ideal customers, and fill in the gaps.
Case Study: From near extinction to $1 billion in revenue
Back in the day, Dunford was working for a company that built a relational database. It wasn’t selling, and her boss wanted to pull the plug. Before he did, Dunford had to call up 100 customers to make sure they wouldn’t be mad about it. Most customers didn’t even remember purchasing the software—except the 21st person she called. That guy was doing something unique and he raved about it. Out of 100 people, 6 or 7 customers were doing that same thing.
Instead of killing the product, Dunford’s team decided to reposition it. She explains, “So, it started with insight into who loved our stuff and why. That got us to thinking about different competitive comparables and, therefore, different key features and, therefore, the different value we could deliver to the customer. We then chose different customers to target and, finally, we shifted our market category away from 'business productivity software' to an 'embeddable database for mobile devices.’”
It started selling like crazy and was acquired by a huge database company in Silicon Valley. It still exists today and, at its peak, was making $1 billion in revenue.
Dunford called 100 customers because that product was installation software; they didn’t have customer usage data. Today, most companies do. And in learnwhy, you can instantly see how and why your power users are using your product.
Once you know who your power users are and how they use your product, you can create a compelling story that attracts more ideal customers.
How? Let’s go back to those power users. You want to look at two things in particular:
The first bullet tells you what these power users hired your product to do. It also tells you which features they value the most. In April Dunford’s example above, her 6-7 power users were putting the software on a mobile device. They loved the software because it was compatible with their headquarter’s database (feature) and it was small enough to fit on a mobile disk (feature).
The second bullet tells you who your true competitors are. Sticking with the same example, Dunford’s team originally thought Excel was their competitor. And that makes sense if users saw the product as a database. But for power users, Excel didn’t even cross their minds. The true competitor for that segment was a DIY solution.
Knowing who your competitors are, in the mind of your customer, is how you identify what you’re uniquely good at. As Dunford points out, “You can't know what your distinctive value is without knowing who you're compared against.”
The final ingredient is the buying process. Your sales process is how you like to sell people. Your customer’s buying process is how they arrive at buying and liking your product.
On RocketWatcher, Dunford illustrates the buying process like this:
The bottom half of the image shows there are things that accelerate or decelerate your customer’s buying process. Things that decelerate the process are friction points.
If you understand how your customers are getting to you and where they’re getting stuck, you can figure out how to get them unstuck. Meaning, you can keep them moving toward purchase.
To uncover your customers’ buying process in learnwhy, dig into feedback from these customer segments:
Use these segments to identify patterns around how people get to you, what makes them hesitate, and what pushes them forward. Pay special attention to these elements for your power users.
Most marketing cycles look like this:
But this is a dangerous game because tactics come and go. Instagram used to be effective, now engagement rates are tanking. Organic search and Facebook are changing too. Marketers can’t rely on tactics alone.
Better positioning, based on customer insights, gets you into a totally different cycle. Instead of saying, “Okay, podcasting is hot, so I’m going to try that” you’re saying, “I know I need those people. They need to know these things about my thing, and this is the best way to reach them.”
You have a clear strategy. You have an effective way to drive leads to sales. You have a way to test assumptions and know what’s working.
You have a better, stronger marketing cycle.
Once you know how to position your product, you’ll need to communicate that position to the market.
Messaging is anywhere you take your positioning to the market. As conversion copywriter Joel Klettke summarizes, “Positioning is the big idea; copy is the way it’s communicated; conversion is the optimization of the way it’s communicated.”
For a marketing team strapped on time and resources, the fastest way to create effective copy is voice of customer (VOC) data.
If you’ve worked with a top-notch copywriter, you know they have a secret: They don’t start from scratch. The best copywriters start with customer research and VOC data. It’s literally infused into everything they write. Because it works.
Voice of customer data is qualitative data straight from the customer’s mouth. You can gather it in surveys, interviews, customer reviews, or anywhere customers talk about your product online (e.g. forums and social media).
And then you use it anywhere you talk about your product. For example:
Your learnwhy account is essentially a treasure trove of voice of customer data. And you don’t have to be a 6-figure copywriter to use it effectively.
Gathering raw VOC is half the battle (congrats!). Knowing how to use it is the other half. One popular framework that helps marketers use VOC data is stages of awareness. It usually looks something like this:
This framework has a few different uses. For one, it helps determine how long a piece of content should be. A less aware customer needs more education and convincing than the most aware customer who’s already whipped out their credit card.
It’s also helpful for determining how technical information should be.
Say a customer needs a CRM, but is only at the pain aware stage. They may not even know what a CRM even is—they simply know they’re having a tough time tracking leads. A headline on a landing page targeting this customer will use very different language than a headline targeting a customer who’s solution aware. That customer has done their research, knows what a CRM is, and simply needs to understand your CRM is the best option for them.
Stages of awareness is a great place to start with using your VOC data, and it’s pretty powerful. But there’s an even better framework.
The customer journey map shares some similarities with stages of awareness, but it provides more context. As the name implies, you’re tracking the entire customer journey. It starts around the time your customer knows they have pain. And it ends where they stop being your customer.
But the best part is, it shows what’s going on in the customer’s head at each point. Kerry Bodine explains, “In addition to showing just what they do, it also shows customers' thoughts, their feeling, and their emotions. The goal of the customer journey map is really to get a holistic view of what the customer is going through from their point of view and really what it's like for them on a personal level, that human level.”
There are all kinds of ways this can look, because there are all kinds of ways customers get to products. But each map outlines the stages a customer goes through and their experience at each stage.
Here’s one way this could look:
Here’s a more filled out example Nielsen Group created to illustrate a DTC car-buying process:
To understand why it’s more powerful than awareness stages, compare the very beginning of both frameworks.
In awareness, you’re starting with “pain aware.” The customer has some kind of pain. This is helpful but fuzzy. What exactly is their pain? What triggered it? What was going in their lives to create that trigger? You know they have pain, but how do you actually connect with that in your copy? After all, as Bodine points out, “...no customer is out there saying, ‘Oh, I'm in the awareness phase right now of buying shoes.’”
The journey map answers those questions—for every single stage. Which gives you a much more effective starting point for every piece of copy that you write.
“Sure,” you might be thinking, “but if both frameworks help, why go through the journey effort?”
Hint: If you created a map of the buying process during the positioning lesson, you’ve already created a simple customer journey map! Improve it by adding VOC from your ideal customers to each stage.
Keep in mind, the most effective maps focus on the holistic customer journey versus touch points with the company. In other words, you’re looking at the world from your customer’s perspective, not your brand’s perspective. This is both more empathetic and more profitable. McKinsey & Company explains, “Our research has found that journey performance is significantly more strongly linked to economic outcomes than are touchpoints alone.
Gia Laudi proves investing in a customer journey map has huge ROI potential for your product. Laudi first spied this kind of map at Airbnb’s HQ in San Francisco. She recognized it’s potential and within weeks created her own version for a growing SaaS startup where she led marketing. Laudi explains the map “...became the basis for nearly every marketing, growth, and customer success decision we made from that point on.” The following year, the startup grew revenue by nearly 900%.
Joel Klettke is a conversion copywriter and SaaS consultant. On one occasion he provided strategy work for a divorce company. Data says women are more likely to initiate divorce, but this particular brand was converting men by a landslide. Klettke wanted to know why.
His team went through all the company's reviews and sorted them into two buckets: customer identified as male vs. customer identified as female. They looked for patterns, and a fuzzy picture started to emerge. Women mentioned "convenience" a lot more, but Klettke knew they couldn't just "pepper in convenience as a term and see an improvement." They needed more context.
So, they went to the onsite chat logs and repeated their process: they separated responses into buckets and analyzed them. And they discovered the questions women asked were different in nature than the questions men asked.
For example, men focused on topics like price and turnaround. Women, on the other hand, were more likely to be working multiple jobs—which added a whole lot of depth to the convenience topic. They also asked more questions around dependence and other issues the sales copy didn't address. Klettke recommended a number of changes, including pitching convenience through the lens of regular work hours and not having to go to court. The result? $165k in added revenue.
Klettke and his team gathered this information by hand from various tools. With a Discovery Sprint we'll do all the heavy lifting to make that information available to you.
While most every company claims they’re customer-centric, very few customers believe this. In fact, only 12% of customers believe “we put the customer first” messaging.
This leaves companies with two options: keep making promises or start serving up proof.
Customers prefer the proof option. Docsend analyzed 34 million interactions between customers and content on their platform. They found one type of content—case studies—had an 83% completion rate. They noted, “Buyers, especially B2B buyers, want to know what others are doing with your product, not what they might do to improve productivity or other outcomes.”
And showing what others are doing is very effective.
One study indicated testimonials can boost conversions as much as 34%. Other research shows similar results. ProfitWell ran a pricing experiment with nearly 30,000 subscription consumers across B2B and B2C. In B2B, they found including testimonials or a customer ribbon nudged willingness-to-pay up 5%. B2C saw similar results.
And that’s the lowest-effort way to highlight customer success. When exposed to a mini or full case study, the gains jumped above 10% and, in some cases, lifted as high as 30%.
Plus, any time you deliver information as a story, research shows it’s up to 22x more memorable than facts alone. Meaning, stories of customer success don’t just make customers more likely to purchase from you—they make customers more likely to remember you as well. An important factor when customers need multiple brand exposures to purchase.
The goal of customer success stories isn’t to persuade just anyone who comes to your website. It’s to move your ideal buyer.
To do that, you want to showcase stories of a very specific type of user: your power user. As Camille Ricketts, content mastermind behind First Round Review and now head of marketing at Notion, explains, “...you want people who your audience is going to respect and admire, you want people who use your product a lot and you want people who have a lot of authentic love for your product. Those are the three things.”
While most teams have this type of user in their database, not every team has the time or resources to create long-form case studies. Luckily, there’s a variety of ways to highlight your customers’ successes.
1. Well-placed testimonials on a landing page
Work in snippets of customer success throughout your homepage or sales pages.
Example: Notion cleverly combines customer testimonials with powerful brand icons to persuade high-value customers.
2. Wall of love
Aggregate positive customer feedback in one centralized place.
Example 1: Basecamp creates a separate landing page to highlight product praise.
Example 2: Notion pulls feedback straight from Twitter onto their homepage.
3. Short case study
With a simple PDF template, you can create short write up featuring one successful customer. This packs a dual punch, because it’s easy to re-purpose on a blog.
Example: Contently highlight’s a big brand name that saw big results in a two page PDF.
4. Customer-produced video
If you don’t have the budget for big video productions, you can incentivize customers to produce their own testimonials for you.
Example: Consulting aggregates home videos that are low-quality film but high-quality authentic.
While generalized testimonials and case studies have some impact, they’re not nearly as powerful as the nitty-gritty ones. You get some grit in the low to moderate range, but the high effort range is where those specifics really shine.
The options below take time and money to produce, but research indicates they bring in more return as well. In B2C, specific case studies increase willingness-to-pay at 5x the rate of generalized cases studies.
High-effort, high-payoff options include:
5. Custom-designed case study PDF or landing page
Create a case study template or a unique design for each customer you feature.
Example: Strava compiles several individual stories, with high-quality photography and product shots, about commuting on a custom “Commutes Count” page.
Tip: With enough time and case studies, you can start to silo stories into industry-specific verticals or specific use cases. For example, Drift segments their case studies by email and chat.
6. Professional interview-style video
Leverage an in-house or freelance videographer to tell your customer’s story through high-quality video.
Example: TransferWise highlights several different use cases through video testimonials on their homepage.
7. Professional video + custom landing page
Pull out all the stops in your customers showcases.
Example: Mailchimp uses storytelling, video, and custom graphics to really highlight their customers’ successes.
To determine which customer success option you’d benefit from, figure out:
These constraints will narrow down your options.
Product onboarding is one of the biggest opportunities you get to communicate your product’s value. The problem is, most companies aren’t doing it very well—at all.
OpenView surveyed 500+ SaaS leaders and found that, for companies who offer a free version of their product, only 13% believe the product can explain itself to new users. Among companies without a free version, the results were even worse—only 5% felt the product can thoroughly explain itself to new users.
Kyle Poyar, VP of Marketing at OpenView, says:
“The data shows that we’re still in the early days of smooth in-product onboarding. Almost nobody, even those with a free offering, believes that their product can thoroughly explain itself to new users.”
However, for companies who do figure out how to do this well, there’s a lot of revenue opportunity. Research shows improving retention by 1% improves your bottom line by around 7%.
And if you were thinking customer insights could help with retention, you’d be 100% right.
Most onboarding flows highlight features because talking about features and mechanisms is easy. But “getting good at using this software” isn’t why your customer signed up.
Basecamp’s Ryan Singer explains, “Proficiency with software is never the goal...It’s always something else. It’s always ‘I want more time’ or ‘I want to feel less anxiety because I don’t have things under control’...It’s always something external”
Onboarding is about the customer, not the product. This reframing is one of the most powerful steps a company can take.
There are few segments in particular that are useful for creating or optimizing your onboarding flow:
When you know what provides the most value to new signups (i.e. what convinces them to buy your product and hang around), you can optimize their path to that value in onboarding.
This is best illustrated through examples, so let’s look at a few.
Case study #1: Removing roadblocks improves completion rates by 32%
Appcues was sitting at a 13% completion rate for moving new users from sign up to the “Aha!” moment—the moment when everything clicks and customers realize the value in a product. Thirteen percent was an okay rate, but Appcues knew they could improve.
When they closely monitored onboarding sessions, they made a crucial discovery: most customers weren’t making it to a critical value page. With the help of a simple redirect, Appcues improved the value journey in onboarding, and completion rates jumped to 32%. Director of Marketing, Ty Magnin, explains, “That means 150% more new users signing up for Appcues are finding their Aha Moment. Which means the world for our activation rate.”
Case study #2: Boosting day one retention above 55%
Postfunnel tells the story of newsreader app Inoreader. One day Victor Stankov, head of growth and operations for the company that produced Inoreader, realized active user growth had alarmingly dropped off. He said “We were effectively losing 70% of registered users on day one, and about half of the remaining ones over the next month.”
Stankov had thought reading content with Inoreader was the big “Aha!” moment he needed to drive customers towards. But this wasn’t the case. For power users, the app’s real value was in the advanced features.
Stankov’s team made updates and pushed out changes around advanced features. And at the time PostFunnel published the story, Inoreader’s day one retention rate was above 55%.
Case study #3: Increasing conversion 170% in four months for $1 million additional revenue
This last case study marries tactics from multiple lessons in this chapter to show just how much ROI is packed into customer feedback.
Moz was already successful when they hired Conversion Rate Experts (CRE). Moz had Fortune 500 clients and had done plenty of work around optimization on their own. Even so, CRE made huge improvements using customer feedback. To gather this feedback, CRE asked
This feedback, plus a few other techniques, helped the CRE team do a number of things:
Combined, these actions “helped Moz achieve a conversion increase around 170% over four months and generate more than $1 million in additional revenue.”
To improve your own onboarding, use the qualitative feedback you have stored to determine what’s causing friction for users and what they value the most. From there, work with your team to eliminate roadblocks and get customers to value even faster.
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