How to Grow Your Company Without Having to Guess


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I can’t take credit for this headline. These words came from Vince Warnock, who interviewed me for his “Chasing The Insights” podcast a few weeks ago. Vince and I were delightfully on the same customer-pleasing track. He has some wonderful stories to tell, and yes, some great insights, and a fantastic sense of humor. It was an informative and lively conversation. His phrase—“how to grow your company without having to guess”—is one of the best summations of what I’ve been helping company owners and leaders do my entire career. 

Growing your business via the guessing method—even if you speak to customers every day—is dangerous. You’re not finding out what they say about you when you’re not in the room. 

Of course, I’ve used the “interview customers who have bought from you” method to grow my own company. One of our team members, a good listener, called our current clients and extracted some concerns that no one had ever mentioned to me personally. People don’t want to hurt your feelings. 

And, of course, guessing when you don’t interact with customers is a sure way to get out of touch, fast . . . and be blindsided by competitors and trends, to the detriment of your company’s success. 

Back to Vince. 

One thing that I was impressed with during our conversation was how Vince related my definition of the customer’s Mindset when they set out to buy with the parts of the brain identified by neuromarketing as the parts that come into play when people are making a buying decision. 

For those of you who regularly read this blog, you know that I define the customer’s Mindset – when they set out to buy – as consisting of their desires, concerns, and questions. 

Desires: They have a need or desire, and they’re looking for a solution.

Concerns: They only want to buy a product or service that won’t disappoint them afterward. (Their best source of helpful information is honest, unpaid-for customer reviews.) 

Questions: Once they are sure enough that they won’t be disappointed, they then start asking very specific questions. Salespeople see these questions as “objections that must be overcome,” which causes the salespeople to dismiss these questions as quickly as possible, which, ironically, causes the customer to dip back into concern mode, because now the salesperson is treating the customer disrespectfully and seeming to hide information. 

In fact, the customer’s questions are the salesperson’s friend! Questions are only coming up because the customer believes your product or solution might, in fact, solve their problem, and that they are pretty hopeful that they won’t be disappointed. 

The more information the salesperson gives the customer at this point, the more comfortable (and not concerned) the customer will become. 

Now let’s look at what Vince said about neuromarketing and how it relates to the customer’s Mindset. 

Neuromarketing and the Customer’s Mindset

“Neuromarketing is the study of how people’s brains respond to advertising and other brand-related messages by scientifically monitoring brainwave activity, eye tracking, and skin response,” according to this article in TechTarget. 

OK, but this seems like expensive overkill, eerily intrusive, and, it should be said, what can you do with the information? Because someone gets sweaty during the research, how can you justify the copy you write in the hopes of tapping into that reaction? 

The other problem is that you don’t have to go to all this trouble and expense when you can determine a customer’s Mindset when they set out to buy by simply interviewing the customers who have already bought. They will literally write your headlines and set your strategy for you. 

In the TechTarget article, they state that neuromarketing “evaluates consumer behavior at a higher level” than traditional market research, “such as surveys and focus groups.” 

I agree with that statement. I’ve been dissing both of those methods for a long time, because surveys are just your own beliefs turned into questions (so you never really learn anything new, beyond your own beliefs), and focus groups are worthless because when you put a group of people into a room, group dynamics take over and make the findings irrelevant, for several reasons:

  • The most outspoken and opinionated person in the room will dominate the session, causing the introverts (who might well be your most important buyers) to recede from the exercise. 
  • The moderator might not catch the subtle signs that could lead to important insights (I’ve seen this too many times while sitting on the other side of the one-way glass) and drill down. 
  • People will not say what they’re really thinking while sitting in a room full of strangers, whereas in a one-on-one phone or audio-only Zoom conversation, they are much more likely to speak freely. (Especially if you tell them, as I instruct in my book, that their comments will be anonymized). 
  • And, lastly, the group will come to conclusions about their preferences or experiences as they hear others speak. The truth about their buyer journey will be influenced by groupthink. 

Back to neuromarketing. This is where Vince’s comment was interesting. 

The science of neuromarketing is focused on the three parts of the brain that come into play in buying decisions. Here are those three parts and how they match the three Mindset characteristics that drive buying decisions. 

Desires – Limbic System, relating to emotions and memories. 

Concerns – Reptilian Complex, the instinctive part of the brain used for survival.

Questions – The Neocortex, which is responsible for rational thought. 

It’s nice that these three Mindset categories cover the three parts of the brain that have been identified as the participants in the buying process. 

As Vince and I agreed on the podcast (he adds some more interesting comments to that line of thought), your current customers will be more than happy to tell you—if you use the simple methods and questions I spell out in my book—what they were thinking when they set out to buy, why they bought from you, the problems they were trying to solve, what they think you could do to improve, where they’d expect to find you if they looked for your product or service again, and more. 

What’s the moral of this story? It is so easy to get excited about tech, but your customers are real human beings with very particular and definite desires, concerns, and questions (not to mention firmly held opinions about your brand, your competition, your type of product, the good and bad experiences they’ve had with your type of product). 

You don’t have to guess or resort to elaborate methodology to know what and how they think about all this. You just have to ask them after they’ve gone through the buying process. 

You don’t even have to talk to more than 5 – 7 customers of a given type when you use this “ask open questions and let them talk” method. I’ve always found that similar, bankable insights are firmly established by the seventh interview. 

What they tell you will literally write your headlines for you, set your marketing strategy, and put you on a solid path of growth because you listened, understood, and used the information they gave you. 

It’s simple. And it works. 

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Kristin Zhivago
Kristin Zhivago is a Revenue Coach, president of the digital marketing management company Zhivago Partners, and author of “Roadmap to Revenue: How to Sell the Way Your Customers Want To Buy.” She is an expert on the customers' buying process and digital marketing. She and her team provide a full range of digital marketing services designed to take companies to the next revenue level.


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