Listen to the Interview
According to my guest, “Marketing at its heart is starting a conversation with someone who could be an ideal customer.” Of course, then my first question is how do we find the ideal customer for a product or service.
Thankfully, my guest, Tom Schwab, had some ideas. Tom is the founder of Interview Valet and his previous background is in medical device products.
In this interview you will learn:
- Why marketing should start with the customer,
- How to identify the ideal customer, and
- What we can learn from the ideal customer for a product.
Practices and Ideas for Product Managers and Innovators
Summary of questions discussed:
- How do you think about marketing? Marketing at its heart is starting a conversation with somebody that could be an ideal customer. Not everybody, but just that one person. I’ve always looked at problems to be solved, from an engineering perspective, systems to be tuned-up and to get the most performance out of them. So with marketing, we start with version 1.0 of a product. How can we get it better, how can we refine it? While we have opinions, it’s only the customer that’s the expert. They’re the ones that convey what they love and what they loathe. In the Navy we used to talk about needing to be smart enough to know the right answer when told. The same goes here too. If you’re in product development and marketing, you’ve got to be smart enough to know that the customer will tell you the right answer.
- How do we identify the right customer? The worst thing product managers can do is assume a product applies to everybody. Instead, identifying the right customer comes down to saying, “Who can be thrilled by the product or service?” Sometimes you have the luxury of already knowing this person or group, other times it’s just putting yourself in that position. A sales force or customer service group can help you find this person, put a name on him, a face on him, put a story behind him. Sometimes we start with demographics, such as as their education level, income level, and home city. While that’s important, you need to go beyond that and consider psychographics — asking how does this person think, what are their aspirations, what are their fears, what do they already think about my industry or my product, who influences them, what do they admire, etc. As an example, one of the companies that I founded had different buyers. One of them was called Mary the Motivated Mom. We had a poster in the hallway of Mary the Motivated Mom. We found a picture on the internet and said that’s what she looks like. There was the story of what she was trying to do and how we could help her. We also had another picture of somebody that was a negative buyer persona. Those are the people that you don’t want to work with – the ones you can’t serve.
- How do we find the right customer? Go to where the discussion already is. The best way to get into a discussion with somebody is to join a discussion that’s already on-going. If you go to a party, and you stand in the corner, there’s a chance somebody could come up to you and start the discussion, but if you join an existing discussion and introduce yourself, you can quickly determine what value you can add to the discussion. For product managers, that could be forums online, Facebook groups, Twitter, Quora, Amazon, podcasts, etc. People are talking about what they need.
- What do we want to learn from them and how do we do that? You want to understand the details of the problem. You want to make sure that you’re solving their problem, not the problem that you want to solve. Sometimes it’s just asking them, “How would you describe this? What do you like most about this?” Sometimes open-ended questions are painful, because they’re not easy to put in little boxes and charts, but I would encourage anybody to ask lots of open-ended questions. What we’ve noticed is that it’s like the 80/20 rule: 80% of the people will say the same 20% of the things. The words that they’re using are the right words you should be using from a copywriter or a marketing communications perspective. The problems that they’re talking about are the ones to focus on. There are a lot of simple tools for really listening to customers, but a favorite is to keep asking “why.”
“What is ordinary to you is amazing to others.” –Derek Sivers, CD Baby founder
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.