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Is it me or is it you? - customer insight quiz

Six Simple Rules for Learning From Customers

Greetings to Technology Marketing Center Leaders' Blog readers, this is Chris Halliwell, TMC Director, sharing some thoughts about the voice of the customer.

My friend Ed McQuarrie, Customer Visits and Market Research Toolbox author, relates an all too true description of how most industrial and technical marketing teams do customer research.  "It's like you are at a cocktail party regaling someone with me-me-me stories for half an hour, take a breath to say that you've been doing all the talking, and then ask the person, so what do you think about me?"  Here are 6 simple tips for actually learning about value adding opportunities when you engage customers.

FIRST, believe.

Believe that customers actually have something meaningful to teach you.  Discourage any variation on "the customer is stupid" philosophy.  Put some effort into locating smart customers and other buying influencers...they are out there.

SECOND, use your words.

When contemplating a decision that would benefit from insight about customers, rather than saying to the team "we need to talk to customers", try consistently saying that "we need to listen to customers."  Notice if the idea of listening is uncomfortable, why might that be?

THIRD, enter their world.

Learning from customers requires being physically present in their world, on their manufacturing floor, or in their data center, or similar, with mouth shut, eyes and ears wide open.

FOURTH, "why?" is your friend.

Check your ego, your technical brilliance, and the things you already know at the door, and get as curious as possible.  For instance: "Why do you buy from me?"

FIFTH, present nothing.

Learning is about locating value you can add based on customers' environment/system/process, not a response to your plans.  Assume nothing, and don't bring your laptop, otherwise you inject bias.

AND SIXTH, check what you learned.

Summarize back at the end of the encounter, "this is what we learned today, did we get it right?"  This simple step will help guard against wishful thinking, and will put everyone on the same page.

Let me know if you find these tips helpful and let me know what you do that amplifies learning from customers!

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