A Step-by-Step Guide to Interviewing Customers to Build an Ideal Customer Profile

According to HubSpot, marketers claim that generating qualified leads is their biggest challenge. As a result, B2B marketers spend more than half of their budget on lead generation.

While we invest significantly in outreach marketing, it’s important to define a target audience for your lead generation team. 

To narrow down the scope of their outreach, you should outline your ideal customer profile and buyer persona. Conducting interviews is a great way to gather the information that can help you build these profiles. 

While the information you already have on your customers is an invaluable asset to your data collection, interviews can give you a more holistic picture of whom your most valuable customers are. 

By asking the more intensive “why" questions, you can improve your understanding of what attracts partners to your business and how you help them address some of their biggest challenges.

If you’re planning to conduct your research through an interview process, you need to:

  1. Determine who you’re going to talk to
  2. Recruit interviewees
  3. Outline questions you’re going to ask
  4. Summarize your findings

By following these steps, you’ll gather valuable insight into the market and create a stronger customer profile.

1. Determine Who You’re Going to Talk To 

The first step to the interview process is finding people to talk to. To gather comprehensive information, you’ll want to speak to a variety of people, including customers, potential buyers, and third-parties.

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Reach Out to Your Customers

Customers are a great resource because you already have a relationship, so it’s easy to reach out to them. You’ll also be able to compare their information to the metrics that determine the success of your business partnership. If Company A buys more of your product than Company B, you’ll want to find out why. 

On top of that, customers like to feel heard. They want to provide feedback so they get better products and services. An interview is a perfect opportunity for them to tell you about their challenges and what they need from your product. Odds are, some of your customers fit your ideal profile already. 

While it’s easy to reach out to your best customers, it’s also important to speak to unsatisfied clients as well. Those who are unhappy with your products or services can help you identify what hinders the success of an engagement. 

You may find that your product is difficult for large teams to use, so you should target smaller companies. Or that your product requires more technical experience, so users should have a background in using software systems. 

This insight can help you target audiences that are more likely to convert, prevent attrition, or help you improve your product for a wider audience. 

By comparing the demographics between your best and worst clients, you’ll be able to recognize patterns that increase the likelihood of a successful engagement.

Seek Out Potential Buyers & Third-Parties

In addition to your current client base, get in touch with potential buyers and third-parties. Unlike people who have already purchased your product, external contacts can help you understand how outside businesses view your company: 

  • Prospects and leads are great resources because you already have their contact information. Their insights will give you a better understanding of their customer journeys and what will make them more likely to convert.

  • You can also rely on referrals or third-party networks if you’re looking to expand into a new market or don’t have any leads. While it’s difficult to conduct a lot of interviews this way, the information can be invaluable.

To get in contact with these groups, reach out to your network of co-workers and customers. You can also look for people you believe could be an ideal customer on LinkedIn, and find common connections. 

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Finding people to interview is easier said than done. Online surveys and interviews take time and use resources on the respondent’s behalf as well, so it can be difficult to find participants who are happy to contribute to your research. 

As a result, you’ll need to persuade people to participate. To increase the likelihood of finding participants, you should use incentives, communicate your intentions clearly, and be flexible. 

Use Incentives 

While most customers are likely to provide feedback to improve their service, make it worth their while for other interviewees. You can provide discounted rates or extra services for your clients. Other easy options are Amazon and Visa gift cards

Communicate Your Intentions Clearly 

Generally speaking, people are going to be resistant if they think you’re conducting a sales call. If you clearly articulate that you’re conducting research and want to find ways to improve your service, people are more likely to give you some of their time. 

If you can, try to send them an email ahead of time to let them know why you’re contacting them. Ask for a time to set up the call. 

Be Flexible 

Essentially, respondents are doing you a favor and taking the time out of their day to give you insight into their businesses. Try to make it easier for them to participate by working around their schedule and making it as convenient as possible. 

Allow them to pick a time that works best for them over a several-day period. Then send a calendar invitation so they won’t forget. 

3. Outline Questions You’re Going to Ask 

Before you finally sit down to conduct the interview, figure out exactly what you’re going to ask.

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When writing your questions, keep the goal of your research in mind: You’re trying to gather more information to gain a better understanding of your customer profile and build ideal profiles. 

Ask questions about your respondent, their company, and the broader challenges they face. From there, you can use this information to build stronger buyer personas and ICPs that will improve your lead generation efforts. Here are some ways to approach your research: 

  • Dig into their demographics. This includes questions that are specific to the respondent—their role, income, hobbies, age, and gender. Their answers can help you identify who to target in your outreach and how to alter your messaging to improve your conversion rate. 

  • Gather more information about their company. How big is their company? How much do they generate in revenue? What industry are they in? These questions will help you recognize patterns that can characterize a strong or weak partnership.

  • Ask specific questions about their goals and challenges. It’s also really important to understand how they make their decisions, how they gather industry knowledge, and how they prefer to be engaged.

Not only will you gain a better understanding of how your business impacts theirs, but the questions above will also help you determine what channels you should use to market products and services. 

10 Best Questions to Ask to Build an ICP

Now that you are ready to get started, ask these ten questions when talking to your prospects:

  1. What is your job title?
  2. What industry does your company work in?
  3. What is the size of your company (revenue and number of employees)?
  4. Are you involved in any associations?
  5. What are your biggest challenges?
  6. How do you prefer to interact with vendors? Phone, in person, or by email?
  7. Describe a recent purchase and your decision-making process.  
  8. How do you gather news? What publications do you read?

If they are a customer:

  1. How does our product help you?
  2. Do you face any challenges when using our product or services?

The answers to these questions will help you outline what makes a lead more likely to convert. You’ll also be able to define the characteristics of a lucrative partnership.

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4. Summarize Your Findings 

Once you’ve conducted all of your interviews, summarize your findings for your lead generation or sales teams. This should include a synopsis of both your existing client base and an ideal profile. 

You can create a spreadsheet to help you analyze data. The results will help you recognize consistent challenges and strengths:

  • If your respondents are existing customers, compare their answers to how much they’ve spent with your business and how long they’ve been a paying partner.

  • Add characteristics you’ve determined are likely to result in a successful partnership. This will make up your ideal customer profile.

  • Consider similarities between who would be a great potential lead and your current customers: Do they generate the same amount of revenue? Are their companies about the same size? Are they in the same industry?

Not only will the interviews provide a better picture of your existing customer profile, but your sales team will have a better understanding of who to target going forward.

Get More Targeted Outreach   

Interviews are an important step to determining who to target in your next big lead generation campaign. The data you collect can help you identify who your most valuable clients are and the challenges they face. You can start by reaching out to clients, leads, and external sources to get a holistic picture of how people view your business. 

To increase participation, articulate why you want to interview them. The more accommodating you are, the more likely they are to spend their time providing information on their business. If needed, you can provide incentives as well.

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