How to talk to the right customers

Create solutions that sell and marketing that gets customers

Read time: 4 minutes

Hey there - it’s Brian 👋

“Talk to customers.” Sounds familiar, right?

But how do you know which customer responses will get you to build solutions that sell (and marketing strategies that get customers)?

So today we’ll cover the two most common ways to group your customers to make sure you’re talking to the right people and get responses from them in an actionable way.

We’ll also talk about which approach makes sense for your business and steps you can take today.

Read to the end and you get to choose which topic 11,673 people read next week.

Let’s get you customers!

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Should you focus on who customers are or what their goals are?

In 2019, I advised a bank in Mexico City on how they get more customers.

One part of the project - decide which customers they target products to (credit cards, loans, bank accounts etc).

To explain the customer types to target, we created 4 groups based on income, personality type, why they buy etc.

We found patterns in customer data and made these patterns come to life. For each pattern we visualized who a typical customer could be by giving the typical customer a photo and a fun name “like College Chris.” Then made a pitch as to which groups the bank should market to.

This process was called “User Personas” (example below).

Example User Persona from UX Planet

Fast forward to my life post-consulting, building solutions with startups.

I found the startup world was less obsessed with who the users are and more obsessed what outcome the user is looking for (i.e., Clayton Christensen’s Jobs to Be Done method).

Everyone seems to be focused on one vs the other, but the reality: you need to know both who your customer is and why they buy.

So let’s take your first steps into grouping your customers to understand who they are, what their goals are, and get them to buy:

Group customers by outcome: Jobs to Be Done

Economist and Harvard professor, Theodore Levitt, famously said:

People don’t want quarter-inch drills. They want quarter-inch holes.

Theodore Levitt

Jobs to be Done groups people by their goal. In the Levitt example: customers want a hole in the wall.

Grouping by outcome forces you to focus on the goal (rather than the person) and helps you create more innovative ideas.

Benefits / Drawbacks: Grouping customers by outcome

• Keeps solution focused on the user needs
• Framework not constrained by current solutions - creates more innovation

• Not best for finding pain points
• Not best for smaller features
• Not best for marketing

Best used:
To guide the direction of new products and features
• Create the best customer experience
• Choose new markets to enter

First steps you can take take

Expect a more tactical guide in a future post, but a few immediate steps you can take:

1) List the outcomes
Talk to your most loyal customers. Ask why are they using your solution. Here’s a list questions to ask to better understand their pain.

Create a list of outcomes your customers are using your solution to achieve.

2) Convert outcomes to Jobs to be Done
Consolidate similar outcomes and group them into a few jobs.

Phrase jobs as “I want to [do a task] so I can [achieve expected outcome]

Here’s some examples (in the table below):

Example from Pony.Studio

3) Prioritize
Now, choose which jobs you’ll build solutions for first.

Prioritize on highest impact for least investment (time/money).

For help prioritizing, here’s a previous issue on how to choose which initiatives to focus on.

Now let’s compare this approach with the one I used with the Mexican Bank: User Personas 👇

User Personas

Now, you’ve grouped customers by their needs. In this example: customers want a hole in the wall.

But there’s a difference between a hole in the wall made by a professional carpenter vs an new home buyer who needs to hang a painting.

Enter user personas: Charlie the Carpenter vs Harry the Home Buyer.

You sell them both a similar product (both drills), but each persona is persuaded with different features, gets sold in different channels, and resonates with different messaging.

Charlie prioritizes:
• Durability
• Speed
• Power

Harry prioritizes:
• Ease of use
• Safety
• Price

So if Jobs to be Done helps guide you towards the right solution to build, User Personas then help you market and sell the solution.

Benefits / Drawbacks: User Personas

• Keeps you focused on who the customer is
• Great for finding customer pain points

• Keeps you focused on current solutions (not great for innovation)
• Not best for guiding product direction

Best used:
• To guide the smaller features (that a specific persona cares about)
 To guide marketing decisions (e.g., which channels? how to phrase your copy?)

First steps you can take

We’ll also do a deep dive on User Personas in a future article. In the meantime, here’s your high-level first steps:

1) Collect data on who your customers are

Collect quantitative data by sending customers a survey (e.g., age, income, occupation, industry). Example questions here.

Popular survey tools: Google forms or Typeform

For qualitative data conduct customer interviews (e.g., fears, frustrations, desires). Steal interview questions here.

2) Analyze

Look through your results and find patterns in your customer-base.

Are there groups of customers by job function? Similar frustrations?

A survey tool (like Google forms) will aggregate results to help you find patterns. Check out the example below of the output Google forms gave me on who’s reading my newsletter!

Who’s reading my newsletter

3) Create personas

Now you take the patterns you found and add visuals. Give the patterns a name, a face, and a personality.

This part is more art than science. We’ll dive into more detail in a future issue.

Overall - use the quantitative data to find the patterns. Confirm / piece together the patterns in the qualitative data (interviews).

Here’s a database of 30 user persona templates to inspire you.

Example user persona from Justin Mind

The right answer: use both!

Start by understanding the Job to be Done. Group people by their needs. Then, use these findings to make decisions on the solution you build to solve customer pain.

Then, find the User Personas within the group. Use these personas to make marketing / sales decisions (Which channels? How to frame the marketing? Messaging?)

Ultimately combining these two frameworks gets you to a point where you know:
• Who your customers are
• What their goals are
• What their pains are

Phew. You made it! I’m excited you get to help choose next week’s tip (vote below):

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