Customer research at scale is hard.
When you hear phrases like ‘big data’ or ‘quantifiable data’, it can feel paralyzing to know where to start.
I can almost instantaneously feel my eyebrows furrowing and my brain pleading for coffee when I try to keep up with the latest marketing trend or ‘best practice’.
There’s so much out there, it’s often hard to know where to start. As a business owner you might feel a lot of pressure to continue coming up with creative ways to connect with and reach your audience. Or, there might be some technical skills that are better to hire an in-house marketer or agency to take on.
However, there’s one fundamental marketing skill we’re taught from pretty much day one of our lives ― listening.
When you’re eager to share your message and product value, this can be easier said than done. But, when it comes to good listening it’s not about what you are saying. At Tuff, we start every client relationship with customer segmentation.
We recently went through this activity with a client. The Buy Guys, a Florida-based home buyer and seller that has purchased over 10,000 homes in the last 10 years, came to us to help increase quality leads that convert. By updating their website and digital marketing strategy, leads are up by 138% this year. And, the cost per lead has decreased by 36.92%.
Our first and most critical step? Customer segmentation.
Why Customer Segmentation?
Customer segmentation is really a fancy way of saying: ‘who are your customers? And, what do they want?’.
You have to know who your target audience is, what their problems are, and how they want to interact with you. Having these questions explicitly answered will allow you to build a much stronger marketing strategy based on both qualitative and quantitative data.
In the above section, you may have noticed that instead of saying The Buy Guys came to us to ‘help increase leads’ it was ‘to help quality leads that convert’. That distinction is important because it’s worth your time to get to know your customers so you can tailor your digital marketing strategy to convert the type of leads you know you want.
This requires being intentional before you start into executing on tactics but it will help you achieve much better results on those tactics. The good news is, if you take the time to look for it, your customers are generally already answering these questions for you.
You just have to know where to look.
Your sales and support team members (maybe it’s even you doing all of it) and the tools they use, are the best places to start.
Customer Segmentation in action
If your team is already engaging with customer and clients over the phone, this is an awesome place to start. You can gather both qualitative and quantitative information and the power of hearing your customer’s voice and the tone they use, is unmatched.
To start to get to know the audience interacting with The Buy Guys better, we took both a qualitative and quantitative approach using CallRail, a call tracking software the team had been using to log sales calls.
The qualitative approach was listening to 100 phone calls in CallRail, taking detailed notes and listening for things like what kind of words is the customer using?, what was the very first problem they explained over the phone?, what were they hearing, thinking, feeling, saying?
For this step, you can use a Google Doc or your note taking tool of choice. Here’s the format we like to use, it’s best to keep it simple and focus on listening:
Wait till the phone call is over to add in their goal, it can sometimes take the whole call to assess. Here’s an example from The Buy Guys (with the name changed for privacy):
How does the process work for selling?
“I had a realtor, they weren’t doing anything to make progress so I took over.”
To sell property quickly
By about the 10th phone call you listen to, you’ll start to notice a few trends in the customers’ goals. This is where you can start to segment the customers.
Create sections in your notes with the headline being the different goals (i.e. To sell property quickly’). Try to keep this to under 5 different goals. There will be outliers and the occasional customer going down a different path but you should be able to start segmenting customers into groups. When you get to the ‘Goal’ section of your note for each call, copy and paste the whole entry under the goal section it best aligns with.
In doing this, you now have different customer segments with the powerful supporting data of quotes and first questions.
The quantitative approach using CallRail was to export data from over 1,000 calls to see larger trends such as time of day people are calling, what page the visited before calling, where are they calling from. Any call tracking software should allow you to export a CSV full of super helpful data.
Your call tracking software should also offer an analytics section to learn more about the behavior of the callers. In CallRail, we found two charts especially handy in understanding more about The Buy Guys customers:
These charts provide insights into what time of day callers have the most time. It can help create ideas around what kind of jobs they have, when they are most available, and are they more likely to engage on the weekends or during the week? This is where we can explore some of that customer research at scale.
For The Buy Guys, we were focusing on building a new website to capture more leads. By taking the time to dive into CallRail and gather qualitative and quantitative data about their customers, we were able to build customer personas. Using these customer personas, we were then able to use a shared language to talk with their team and our UX designer about the behaviors, motives, and ideas of the target audience.
Where else to look?
The Buy Guys had a wealth of data in CallRail but not every business uses the phone for sales or there might not be enough data there yet to be meaningful. That doesn’t mean you’re out of luck.
There are a number of other places where your customers are letting you know what they need and want from you:
You can go through a similar process by reading through support emails and tagging them with the ‘goal’.
Ask your sales and support teams:
There’s a good chance your sales and support team members can give you a list of ten things your customers need and want, off the top of their head. And, the types of words they use and questions they ask.
This is especially helpful for SaaS companies where review sites are aplenty. If you have an app in the Apple Store, have you read all reviews there? If you have a physical product, what about Amazon? Have people been talking about your service on Quora?
Hop on over to TweetDeck (make sure you’re logged into your business Twitter) and set up your account to monitor for certain keywords. This allows you to find tweets that don’t tag your account and could easily slip by.
Over to you…
With The Buy Guys, we had a specific project where it made sense to start with customer segmentation. But, it should be an ongoing process. If you’re happy with your website, you can try customer segmentation to better inform copywriting for your paid ads.
How do you learn more about what your customers want and need? What does customer research at scale look like to you?
We’d love to work with you.
Schedule a call with our team and we’ll analyze your marketing, product, metrics, and business. Then, present a Growth Plan with actionable strategies to find and keep more engaged customers.
Ellen is the founder at Tuff and one of the team’s core growth marketers. She is a versatile marketer with expertise in multiple channels – from ppc to seo to email to others – responsible for the experiments and testing. She is happiest when she’s on the ski hill or outside pointing her mountain bike downhill.