Tag Archives: marketing strategy

#F90D Week 5: Customer Interviews

My first 90 days as a VP of Marketing (#F90D), is a series of posts following my work as the new VP of Marketing at Mindspace.me, a Workspace as a Service provider. If you’re just joining, you can start with Week 1 here.

To learn more about Mindspace and the Flexible Space market, I started interviewing customers (you can read more about how you can find the truth about your company here). Before starting the interviews, I wanted learn what to ask and how to conduct an effective customer interview. After my LinkedIn cry for help yielded only a few likes and no real ideas, I turned to Google for some help.

Customer interviews are not a new thing. Companies all around do them for various reasons: market research, product feedback, customer service, new product scoping, usability testing and more. I wanted to focus on value and brand perception so I can compare what we think our customers like about us to what they really do.

After a short search on Google, I found these two great posts on customer interviews. The first one, by Emily Palermo of Drive Research, offered 5 questions to ask in a Voice of the Customer interview. The second, a great post by Dustin Walker on CrazyEgg, offered tips, questions, and ideas on customer interviews. Between these two posts, I felt I had everything I needed (I did read/skim about 20 other posts though, just to be safe).

My Initial Interview Questions

To my first customer interview, I prepared the following questions:

  1. What is the first word or phrase that comes to mind when you hear the name Mindspace?
  2. On a scale of 1–10 how likely are you to recommend Mindspace to a friend or colleague?
  3. Which of the following factors matter most when selecting a company for co-working/flexible space (please only choose 1)? (I listed 6 factors I collected)
  4. How satisfied are you with each of the following factors with Mindspace? (I listed the same 6 factors)
  5. How did you hear about us?
  6. What made you sign with us?
  7. What would make you stay?
  8. What would make you leave?

I went to the first interview armed with these questions and the tips I collected and after the first few minutes of introductions and pleasantries, when I tried to jump right into the questions, the customer simply started talking about Mindspace: what they liked, what they didn’t like, why we’re different, why they chose us, what we’re doing great, what we’re doing badly, and a bunch of other stories and information I was trying to capture as fast as I could. It was a goldmine of insights and information, and I didn’t even had to ask a single question. At the end of the 30 minutes I scheduled for us, I looked down at the questions I wrote, and realized I had most of the questions answered, but trying to ask the questions I didn’t get answers for seems too forced, so we ended the interview and said goodbye.

Back at my desk, I organized my notes and prepared for the next interview. I rearranged the questions and changed a few of them to make them “flow” better. The next interview was nothing like the first one. This time, I had to lead the interview and follow my list of questions until I finished all of them with about 10 minutes to spare. I then improvised a few follow up and deep-dive questions and ended the interview a few minutes early.

The other interviews I conducted were also very different. Some were organized and structured, some were free form and flowing, and some were simply a mess. At some point, I started recognizing the connecting themes that I was looking for. It wasn’t explicit, but once I recognized a theme, I started asking more questions about it to uncover more insight on that topic. For example, the sales experience was brought up in the first two interviews as a positive highlight of their overall experience. So in the next few interviews, I purposefully asked about it to see if there’s a common experience that we can build on. I tried to identify more of those themes so I can use them in future interviews.

My Final/Current Interview Questions

After several interviews, I started having a better structure to the interview and the list of questions I needed to ask. Since I will continue to conduct these interviews in the next few weeks, I suspect that these structure and questions will also evolve.

  1. Tell me about your company and about what you do
  2. Tell me about your first experience with Mindspace
  3. What is the first word or phrase that comes to mind when you hear the name Mindspace?
  4. What made you sign with us? Did you look at competitors or alternatives? Why did you choose us over them?
  5. What were the most important factors for you when you chose Mindspace?
  6. On a scale of 1–10 how likely are you to recommend Mindspace to a friend or colleague?
  7. How did you hear about us?
  8. What would make you stay?
  9. What would make you leave?

I plan on interviewing a dozen more customers in the next few weeks, cultivating insight and feedback that I can use to clarify our value proposition and the areas we need to work on. For now, it feels that with every interview I get closer to the truth , I just wonder when it will start feeling repetitive or confusing.

Additional Resources

Week 2

This is the second entry in my journal documenting my first 90 days as a VP of Marketing at Mindspace. You can find the first entry here.

Week 2 — Frameworks and Research

September in Israel has only 13 business days, and my week-2 included only two business days due to Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year). However, I spent most of it reading and thinking. My goal for the week was to finalize the framework for how to approach the marketing audit and how to organize my on-boarding process. Following the playbook outlined in the First 90 Days, my goal for the first few weeks is to evaluate and ensure the alignment (or lack thereof) among five components on the marketing team.

Strategy -> Structure -> Systems -> Skills -> Culture.

For the team to operate efficiently, these elements need to be in concert. In case they are not (and that’s usually the case), I will need to define and align them, simultaneously. For the evaluation part, I needed a framework that can help me organize my findings and then communicate them to the team and the rest of the leadership team.

I considered two options: a functional rundown framework, and a strategic overview framework. The functional rundown framework is a fancy name I gave a simple process — I meet, learn and audit each existing marketing function and I summarize my observations, findings and recommendations based on those functions. It’s easier to follow and explain, and it’s much easier to coordinate since you don’t need to bother people multiple times. The downside of this framework is that it’s reliant on what exists and not what should be in place. But it’s faster than the other framework I evaluated.

The strategic overview framework is another fancy name I came up with to describe a framework that takes a more holistic/strategic approach to the audit. It evaluates the marketing functions through the lens of what components should be in place. The challenges with this framework are that it takes longer to complete and it assumes that there are some universal principle to marketing. It’s also more theoretical and pseudo-academic which can cause some people an allergic reaction.

Obviously, I went with the pseudo-academic and much harder one.

Why Framework?

First of all, because I love frameworks. They help, well, frame your work, and when you’re dealing with a lot of information, frameworks help you organize the information and place it where it makes the most sense. Additionally, the right framework helps with “sense making” both for you and for your audience, and creates a common language that increases efficiency and speed. Finally, it helps define not only what is in, but even more importantly, what is not relevant. Since we’re wired to think and look for patterns, we use frameworks all the time. For example, in demand generation we use the funnel as the most acceptable framework to describe movement of customers through stages in their buying process. You can’t have two demand gen marketers meet without the funnel being mentioned at least once.

However, a common mistake is to try to force reality into your framework. Frameworks are designed to help you make sense of the world around you, not to make it fit your framework. So flexibility in choosing the right framework and in how you use it is important.

The Strategic Overview Framework

This framework comes all the way from my marketing professor who taught us this framework in my first marketing class. And when I say taught, I mean brainwashed. This framework simplifies all of marketing theory into these concepts, which makes it both powerful and memorable (the brainwashing also helped). I since have used it in various formats and versions in almost every marketing role I had.

(I apologize in advance for the poor design on this slide. My professor was a great teacher and marketer, but an awful designer.)

On the left side we have the Situation Analysis, also known as the 5 C’s. You start with analyzing the 5 component that will help define your objectives and later the strategy and go to market — Context (that’s the market and market forces), Customers (market size, addressable market, serviceable market, market share and other customer characteristics), Company (your current situation, employees, assets, etc.), Collaborators and Competitors. The output of this analysis can be summarized in the form of SOWT, yet another famous framework, that covers your Strengths, Opportunities, Weakness and Threats.

The middle part of this framework is the audience analysis in which you research and evaluate the Segments in the market, choose (or evaluate) your Target audience, and define your positioning and the value proposition. This work should lead to your Go To Market (GTM) strategy as represented on the right side of the framework by the 4 P’s (feel free to read more about 4 P’s and the new additional P’s here and everywhere else you can Google).

The GTM review should focus on all the P’s, but in my case, it will focus primarily on Promotion and Places — where do we sell our product and how we promote it. This should include the channels, tactics, process, measurement and optimization, and other factors of the tactical work the team is doing in launches and day-to-day.

Finally, and possibly the most important for me in the next few weeks, the framework asserts that the entire marketing strategy and GTM should adhere and be inline with the brand, as the umbrella that covers the entire framework. Auditing the brand and the work on the brand will include answering questions such as what is the current brand recognition and awareness in our market? What are the key brand attributes? What should they be? What are the current brand assets? What should they be? What is the approach to building the brand?

Another terribly designed slide, but it serves its purpose.

From Framework to Activities

Having the framework in place also allows me to outline my on-boarding process better and plan the next few weeks of learning. While it seems very clean and organized, learning is not as linear and my process feels more like osmosis than following a recipe . I like to immerse myself in the information and let it “flow” through me. Having the framework in place will allow me to categorize the information and place it where it makes the most sense and will be easier to recall and find when it’s needed.

I spent the last week reading, I have a lot more reading to do in the coming weeks. Since Yom Kippur is next week, I will have enough time to catch up on a lot of it.

Here’s another picture of one of our beautiful offices.