• April 26, 2016

Want To Grow Faster? Spend More Time Talking To Your Customers

Want To Grow Faster? Spend More Time Talking To Your Customers

This post was contributed to VentureApp by Dave Gerhardt, the growth marketing lead at Drift, a Boston-based startup that is making it easier for businesses to talk to their customers.

Data is amazing.  Data helps us find the truth.

And that’s why we love data — it’s concrete. How can you argue against the data?


But when it comes to startups, we’re often working with (cough) less than ideal data.

The data either isn’t great or it’s not statistically significant. And how many founders out there can afford to wait around until the data is significant?

In the absence of amazing data, there is one thing you can do: talk to your customers.

And even if you do have amazing data, you might be relying on it too much. Dashboards and spreadsheets are great. Hearing something directly from the mouth of a customer is even better.

The Power Of Talking To Customers

The problem with data is that it’s usually only, well, data. In order to really understand what your customers want, you need to actually hear their pain, see their frustrations, their challenges, and their desires first hand.

That’s why talking to customers is so powerful.

Think about how much more effective you could be in selling and marketing to your core audience if you not only knew what their pain points were, but you knew the other things that compete for their attention, the other products they use, how they work, which blogs they read and which newsletter they subscribed to.

"Visiting customers is like working out or eating healthy: everybody knows they should do it, very few people actually do.” - Steli Efti

At the end of the day, great sales and marketing really just comes down to understanding your customers.

But the only way you’ll ever be able to truly find that stuff out is by talking to them.

And if your competition is able to understand your customers better than you, guess who’s going to end up winning that customer’s business one day? Whoever knows that customer the best.

Why We Avoid Talking To Customers

Nothing in this post so far has been groundbreaking — we all know talking to customers can be an amazing help in growing a business.

And yet we still don’t do it enough, because we’re human and we don’t like doing things that seem difficult.

We think it takes too much time. How will I ever have to time to go out and talk to hundreds of customers to figure out what they want?

But the truth is that you don’t need to spend weeks on weeks talking to thousands of people. In their 2008 book Pain Killer Marketing: How to Turn Customer Pain into Market Gain, Henry Devries and Chris Stiehl taught us that just 12-15 one-on-one customer interviews will reveal about 80 percent of all possible pain points for your customer base.

And once you spend time talking to customers, you’ll start noticing that too. After a few interviews, you’ll start thinking: “OK do I really need to go talk to more people? Everyone is same the same thing!”

The other main reason we avoid talking to customers as much as we should is that we often think that “talking to customers” means you have to physically leave the office to go visit a customer. And while talking to customers in-person can be amazing — you don’t need to do it in order to get the customer feedback that you need to help you grow.

Talking To Customers: It’s Not As Hard As You Think

Here are three of the best ways to start getting more customer feedback without ever having to leave the building.

Just ask.

After a big spike in churn starting eating away at his customer base, Groove CEO Alex Turnbull decided to put the dashboards and spreadsheets away and cut right to the chase. So he sent an email to every single customer and asked for 10 minutes of their time. Here’s what happened:


Image courtesy of GrooveHQ

As a result,  Alex spent more than 100 hours talking to 500 Groove customers and ended up with feedback that helped him right the ship.

Don’t treat your welcome email as a throw away.

Everyone has some type of welcome email for whenever someone new signups up for their product or service, but most people miss a huge opportunity with this email.

Their welcome email gets treated as a throw away. It gets written at the last minute or as a finishing touch to onboarding. But here’s the thing people don’t understand about their welcome emails: this email should be the single most effective email you ever send.

Why? Because someone just signed up! This might be the best they will ever pay attention. Our welcome email at Drift gets 3x the amount of engagement compared the every other email we send — with an open rate of 78% and 25% click rate.

So instead of treating your welcome email as a throw away, use it to talk to your customers. Write this email with a purpose: to get people to respond to you.

Ann Handley and Brian Dean have two of the best welcome emails I’ve seen recently, and they do exactly that:



Put live chat on your website and inside of your product.

Think about things from a consumer’s perspective here. Think about how you like to buy things. Would you rather have to call sales or support? Or would you rather have the option to figure stuff out on your own and then call or write in if you’re stuck or have some questions.

In most cases, the answer is no. And your customers and prospects don’t want to pick up the phone either.

Enter live chat. Live chat is one of the best ways to have real conversations with customers while they’re live on your website or using your product. It’s like an instant line directly to your customers.

Since we put live chat on our website at Drift, we’ve doubled the number of inbound leads we typically get when compared to a traditional contact us form. This puts conversations first, and it’s already had a huge impact on our go-to-market strategy. We’re able to talk to people when they are live on our site and when their intent is the highest.

With a traditional form on our site, we were converting roughly 3% of our website traffic into inbound leads (meaning someone came to our website and reached out to us with a question about Drift).

Once we made the switch and put our new free live chat on our site, inbound leads started to climb — and today, 6% of visitors start conversations while they’re on our website.

Now, whether someone has a question about pricing, wants to know how we’re different than a competitor, or needs help setting up something in their account, all they have to do is send us a chat message.

Just by making the switch from an email to chat, we’ve been able to double our conversion rate and get more inbound leads without doing any more work. And with inbound leads historically costing 60% less than outbound leads, we’ll take more of them any day of the week.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you’re talking to customers so long as you’re doing it on a regular basis. If you’re looking to grow faster, customer feedback is one of the best tools to help get you there.

A version of this blog originally appeared on the Drift blog.