CEO & Founder @ refocusEdTech enthusiast, investor, mentor and marketing expert.
Qualitative research is a must-have for a startup to become successful. In fact, lack of market need is the second most common cause of business failure, according to CB Insights (registration required). This is when a comprehensive customer development study would have been helpful.
During customer development, you usually aim to answer two questions: which customer problems should our product address and which values should it align with? These questions can be quite tricky to answer, but coaching your clients can help.
This is why my company has improved the traditional customer development experience by integrating coaching techniques. Our head of research who has implemented these coaching techniques follows the methodology of Erickson Coaching International in her coaching approach. Here are two techniques, based on Erickson’s framework, that helped our respondents answer questions more honestly and comfortably, as well as my tips on how to do the same:
1. Visualizing Point B
This coaching technique sets the client’s goals through four simple steps:
• Ask the person to sit comfortably; they can close their eyes or walk as they please.
• Suggest they imagine a comfortable future in detail. What year is it, where are they and who are they with? For example, maybe they imagine working in a new house, surrounded by their family.
• Ask them to describe the milestones that have led them to where they are. For example, “I bought this house two years ago; I started saving for it four years ago.”
• Question every step. How did they get the money, when exactly did they decide to do something, etc.?
As a result, people articulate what point B is to them, and you can ask them what difficulties they expect to encounter in reaching it. This strategy can be valuable because when companies know their customers’ goals, they can come up with creative materials and offers that suit them.
For example, after we implemented the Point B technique at the launch of my company in the Philippines, we learned about the problems customers believed they would encounter in achieving their goals, and we were able to apply that information to our creative materials and product development. One respondent once said that he was afraid of not finishing the course because he was too shy and didn’t have the courage to ask questions. To address this, we emphasized that students are welcome to ask questions directly to their mentors or community managers instead of messaging them in the group chat. As a result, we’ve made the learning process a little more comfortable for customers like him.
2. The Wheel of Life
In this technique, the respondent is asked to draw a circle, divide it into sections and dedicate each section to an important aspect of life. For example, it could be family, health or money, but don’t think for the respondent; wait for them to come up with what really matters. Then the respondent has to rate each item from 0 to 10. The higher the respondent’s total score, the better their life situation is in relation to that category. This process also involves asking the respondent to describe each section in detail. Why did they give it that score, what’s stopping them from giving it a 10, etc.?
This coaching technique helps the respondent to think about every part of their life. You can use this approach to understand on a deeper level why customers buy a product and what they think they need it for. Therefore, you can understand the triggers that your company can strive for to draw on its creative materials and how you can improve the product.
For example, when my company entered the Philippines, my company also used this tool and heard from a respondent who scored the family part of his life wheel a 10/10, but other parts scored lower. For the researcher, it is much more interesting to dive into subjects where not everything is perfect. Therefore, the respondent talked a lot about what actually motivated him and the parts that got a score of five or less, including self-realization, economic goals and career development. As a result, we started using messages in our ad ads that talked about how our product could address these three areas, increasing our conversation rate.
In my experience, companies can use insights like these:
• When developing marketing strategies to increase ad conversation rates.
• During product development to better tailor products to customer pain and thereby increase their satisfaction. For example, my team contacted clients during the “honeymoon” phase, when they first start studying the course and feel most motivated. During this phase, we discovered that many potential students are afraid of not being able to complete the course. That’s why we improved the onboarding process.
Can you use coaching without a psychological background?
At my company, we started using these strategies with the help of a coaching practitioner and our lead researcher. But the methods were easy to apply by the entire research team. If you want to do the same, I recommend that you follow these rules:
• Learn the basics of psychology and coaching methodology. Doing this will help you formulate the questions correctly. There is an abundance of information about these strategies online.
• Listen carefully and show the respondent that their experience is important to you. Do your best to focus on the speaker while paying attention to the association that comes to mind. If you’re not sure you can remember everything, listen to a recording.
• Create a safe space where the respondent can express themselves. Pay attention to non-verbal cues; these will help you understand how to make the respondent more comfortable.
• Do not answer the questions or suggest answers based on how you think the respondent will answer.
In summary, the deeper you dive into your customer development, the more insights you gain. Coaching techniques can help you get a lot of information quickly and cost-effectively. I found that the practices discussed above can help you get to know your audiences better in just an hour.