Yesterday I waited in the Starbucks line for 5 minutes before I realized the barista totally forgot my order.
I might have been distracted by the L'Oréal fumes wafting from the lady in front of me in line — seriously, so much perfume and hairspray she was a walking fire hazard — but it took me a minute to notice.
After a few minutes of gasping for air, I realized that people who ordered their drinks after me were already being served.
The barista was mortified when I cleared my throat and asked what happened -- she even offered me a coupon for a free drink -- but the damage was done.
...Both to my nostrils, and to my perception of the business.
And it got me thinking…
When my clients hire me to swoop in and save their email funnels, they’re (nearly) all shocked by the same thing on our first Zoom call.
It isn’t my price tag (although I occasionally get tire-kickers, and swiftly say a polite goodbye).
…and it isn’t how long it takes to get into my calendar.
The thing that makes 9 out of 10 clients sit up straight and raise their eyebrows in surprise is how much time I spend listening to their customers before I ever write a word.
That leads to the moment on the call when I have to ask them an important question.
And I’ll ask you the same question now:
How often are you engaging in strategic Voice of Customer research with your customers?
And the follow-up question:
If you’ve never plotted your VoC on paper, what other method are you using to listen and record the exact thing your customer needs so that you can create it for them?
Often, clients tell me that they started their business with their ear to the ground, but they’ve gotten so swept up in the day-to-day of creating and launching new offers, they’ve been slacking on their deep listening lately.
In fact, customer voice research has almost slipped their mind entirely.
They might be talking to customers about their product and customer experience, but they’re no longer digging into the “why” that brings people to them in the first place.
This sound familiar to you?
You may be forgetting to listen carefully to your customers, too.
Maybe you’re hoping they won’t notice…
But you know those pesky...
Low conversions on your last campaign?
Sinking open rates?
Those are all signs that they did notice.
They felt it.
They realized you’re not meeting them where they’re at anymore.
And you know what that feels like to your customer?
...Like you weren’t listening.
And if your audience notices you’re not listening now, do you think they’ll expect great connection and results once they DO purchase your solution?
You’ve just set the bar pretty low.
So how do you make prospects feel like you lifted the words right out of their mouth?
You actually do.
When I do Voice of Customer research for my clients, I leave no stone unturned, and even the clients who say they “know their customers inside and out” learn some business-shifting insights once I’m finished.
Only 20% of my work is what clients *think* they hired me for -- the writing and editing -- and the other 80% is the research process.
But this process isn’t reserved just for conversion copywriters and funnel strategists.
You can do the same thing when you’re preparing to write any piece of your own marketing material.
You can run your Voice of Customer research following my exact method, because I’m going to teach it to you right now in five simple steps.
1 | Customer Interviews (3-5)
What if you were sitting on an untapped pile of magnetizing copy that you could simply cut and paste, no creative thought required?
Would you tap into it?
You’re actually sitting on top of one right now, and it is....
Your own customers.
Customer interviews are one of the best sources of deep emotional insights and trigger phrases that will sell your products for you.
Groove, an alternative to ZenDesk, used in-depth interviews to get a better handle on their customer’s objections, pain points, and skills gaps. When they pulled quotes from the transcripts and used them in their copy, they saw a 86% increase in conversions on their website, from 2.3% to 4.3%.
Interviews are one of the best ways to optimize your pages and emails for more conversions.
And the good news is, you already have access to this amazing resource.
I have my clients introduce me to their customers via email (I give my clients a script complete with a catchy subject line to increase opens), and then I take it from there to schedule it at a mutually convenient time.
I use Zoom to host the customer interview -- or the old fashioned telephone if the customer isn’t comfortable with Zoom -- and I always record the entire call so I can stay focused, agile and responsive during the conversation rather than furiously scribbling notes.
You already know that seeing your face gives you a 34% better chance of success than simply asking a question via email, right?
So it’s critical that you have camera-on, well planned interviews with your customers if you want to write irresistible copy.
When you’re designing the interview format and questions, you have to do it with your business’ end goal in mind.
What do you need to know from customers in order to achieve that end goal?
You’ll then reverse engineer the interview flow based on that data you need.
Listening is the key here, and continuing to ask “why” follow-up questions throughout will get you where you need to go faster than redirecting interviewees into a rigid set of pre-scripted questions.
I could spend 3 hours talking about how to design interview questions that are concise yet open, but I’ll save that for another blog post.
The guiding force behind every interview question I ask is, “What were you experiencing/doing/feeling/becoming at the moment you searched for [my client’s solution]?”
I learned that focus from my mentor Joanna Wiebe, and joining the conversation that’s happening in the customer’s head always gives me ultra tangible, specific answers that wind up in the copy I write for clients.
After the call, I get a transcription made from the recording, and I pull exact quotations from the customer’s comments to paste into my research spreadsheet. Services like Temi and Rev make it affordable and lightning-fast to get a quality transcription of the call within a day or less.
2 | Customer Survey (Entire list or a segment)
The importance of customer feedback for writing emails and designing customer journeys can’t be overstated.
I have my clients survey a segment of their list -- or the entire list, depending on the goal of the campaign -- via email using one of a variety of survey tools.
Depending on the situation, I’ll occasionally send out the survey to a smaller group myself after a warm client intro, but typically the client sends out this survey.
Just as your prospects learn more about your company from your public-facing reviews, you can also gain valuable insights on what you’re doing well and your growth opportunities with direct feedback.
Depending on the type of answers I need and whether or not we’re using logic jumps, I use either Google Forms, Typeform, Survey.io, or SurveyMonkey to create a survey that gets answers on pain points, skills gaps, needs and desires that start filling up all the nooks and crannies of my customer voice spreadsheet.
I often pull direct quotes from these surveys that become headlines and body copy in the emails and landing pages I write for clients.
3 | Competitor Messaging Assessment (3-5 top competitors)
Your competitor’s content, positioning, and customer testimonials are a goldmine for building out the copy in your campaign.
Once you narrow the competition down to 2-3 top players in your industry, go study what they’re doing.
Join their email lists, make a special label for them in Gmail, archive every bit of their welcome sequence or onboarding sequence, analyze their freebies and blog posts, and find out what their customers are saying about them.
Since 92% of people say they read testimonials when considering a purchase, you need to know what people are reading on your competitor’s website that’s convincing them to buy.
I create a chart with categories including:
[Competitor A] Strongest Content
[Competitor A] Weakest Content
[Competitor A] Biggest Differentiator
[Competitor A] Best Testimonial (results-based)
[Competitor A] Best Testimonial (emotion-driven)
[Competitor A] Gaps To Capitalize On
...And so on.
I break all the data down for my client on a copy presentation call, where they learn how their current copy stacks up against their competitors, which differentiators to highlight, and what positioning shifts will get them the quickest wins.
4 | Forum Mining
If you haven’t yet dug through Amazon reviews for products that solve the same problem your offer does, I’m here to warn you right now:
You’re about to get addicted.
There is really no better way to reap quote upon delectable quote that easily transitions into swipeable copy for clients than Amazon product reviews.
People are so honest, it makes my job way too easy sometimes.
Take this quote for example, which I pulled when customer voice mining for a client in the CrossFit industry:
So raw. So genuine. So perfect to use in my client’s emails.
Don’t mind if I do… *swipe*
Facebook groups, Twitter threads, Pinterest searches, and industry forums are other fantastic places to sleuth the comments your ideal customers are making about their problem when they think nobody’s even listening.
Lucky them, you happen to be listening very carefully, and you’re about to bring their perfect solution to market.
5 | Research Submitted by My Client
I always have clients submit their most recent surveys of their customers and email list, if they have them available.
If a client hasn’t surveyed their list recently, I suggest they do so before engaging my services so they don’t bring me on board to design a campaign around an offer that’s not yet validated.
But remember, you need to be consistently providing your tribe with a whole lotta value in their inbox before you ever ask them to answer your questions in a survey, mkay?
Particularly for my Half Day Power Sessions or other time-based projects, I need to have the research before I can even get started, so my time-based clients know they have to submit their own homework before we hop on our live call.
6 | BONUS: User Testing
Most of my work is in email marketing, but if I’m working on a Landing Page or other front-facing piece of sales or web copy in conjunction with the email funnel, I incorporate user testing tools to get real-life feedback on the functionality and user experience.
Usability Hub is a great tool for getting feedback from page visitors in real time, finding out what their initial page impressions are and where the copy and design may be missing the mark.
When Hotjar is installed on the page, I’m able to tell clients where their visitors spend the most time, and where they’re losing them based on the heatmaps available within the tool.
And on my list of “tools I’m excited to use with my next landing page client,” I can’t wait to play around with User Testing, which allows the client and I to watch real recordings of user visits to their site.
Voyeuristic? A bit.
Starting with the customer and their needs -- rather than the offer you want to sideswipe them with -- shifts the focus back to service.
And writing all of your campaigns from that place of empathy will give you the #feelgoodmarketing butterflies, guaranteed.
Not to mention, empathizing with your prospects magnetizes sales without wasting your teams’ time brainstorming what you “think” they want to hear.
Once you’ve built a spreadsheet chock-full of juicy quotes and vulnerable admissions, architecting funnels that suit your customer’s exact preferences couldn’t be easier.
If I can do it for my clients, you can do it too.
Don’t want to have your team do all this?
Rather have a specialist handle these interviews so you can get the reallllly honest truth from your customers when they don’t feel like they’re gonna “offend the founder”?
Learn more about how my conversion copywriting process can increase your sales — and book your free call to talk over your needs — right ovah here.
PSA: Beware my snort-laughing on our first call. I’m a bit of a jokester…
This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.