B2B Growth: Your Daily B2B Marketing Podcast
B2B Growth: Your Daily B2B Marketing Podcast

Episode 1718 · 4 months ago

Using Customer Insights to Unlock Marketing Success, with Ryan Paul Gibson

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

In this episode, Benji talks to Ryan Paul Gibson, Founder of Content Lift.

With so much talk out there about how we need to "talk to our customers", it's only fitting to bring on an expert who can better define how to do that effectively. Ryan will explain how to pull out buyer insights and effectively transform your company accordingly.

Show notes:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grounded_theory#Serendipity_pattern

https://www.contentlift.io/my-one-case-study

Conversations from the front lines and marketing. This is be to be growth. Today I am thrilled to be joined by Ryan Paul Gibson, who is the founder of content lift and a Ryan, great to get the chance to chat with you today. Yeah, thanks for having me on the show. I appreciate it. I know there's a lot of talk right now, and this is part of what actually initially had me reaching out to you. Is, whether it's on this podcast here on B tob growth or it's on Linkedin, we hear this phrase you need to talk to your customers like I can't tell you, Ryan, how many times I have heard that phrase and I'm going I agree. Let's find an expert, though, who can better defind what it looks like to do that effectively. Let's not just throw out the phrase you need to talk to your customers. So I really respect your work. I love what you're doing on Linkedin as well, helping us think through this, and I thought let's get them on the show and let's talk about it a little bit. Give me some context and our listener some context if they aren't familiar with you. Ryan. What are you up to over at content lift and the work you're doing to pull out buy your insights. Yeah, well, content left is me. So I want to make it sound like this this big thing. Yeah, but I've been a marketing be to be mostly too, for about twenty years and customer research has always been a big pillar for me. But a lot of why I do what I do now is what I've sort of noticed in the lasts, call it seven years or so, maybe ten, working with a lot of like early stage to like series be companies. Is called that, and I'm not sure if it's been mostly a SASS thing, but it happens in Bebtech, even companies that are more tech enabled, because now companies that were once really not very technical or...

...all using Sass to big and degree right to sort of facilitate their operations anyway. But what happened was I would watch them do, quote, what I called Primary Customer Research, and a lot of things are happening and the key thing was just not being done well. So either they weren't talking to customers at all, which is why I think you see sort of what's happening now out in the world of Linkedin and twitter, where people are saying that or they were trying to do it and they weren't doing it very effectively. And I know that's true because I've even talked to but a two dozen CMOS or repeas and marketing about how they how they talk to customers and how they draw insights from that to actually incremately fix or level up their marketing, and they'll tell you we don't do it very well. So that is sort of that. There's a bigger, longer version of that, which I don't want to take up a those short talking but but that's really impetus of why I started with content left and I love it like it's always been my favorite part. Talking to customers and figuring out how and why they buy is always, words, you know, giving me the most energy when I've been doing marketing over the last two decades. Oh, that answers the question. It definitely does. I think it provides just enough of like what we need to start pushing this conversation to answer some of the questions that because when you're saying that they're CMOS listening, there's directors marketing listening, those that are sitting in any sort of marketing function where they're just nodding their head in agreement. Yeah, we have some sort of form of this, we do some sort of outreach to customers, but we don't really know if we're doing it effectively. We don't know if we're hitting the goal or we're just very aware like we should be doing it more often, but it's sort of left vague because we don't know where it sits and who's supposed to own that. So and if I may, if I may, had one last thing. What it seemed more in them now is bandwidth. I've worked with a lot of one kind, for spotic marketing managers now in the last year they haven't had the time to do this because there's so many other things they have to try and get done.

So there's all the colors of the rainbow when it comes to why people don't talk to their customers. So, Yep, okay. So more than just let's let's say we are in some way talking to our customers. If you've seen, because of your work, like it's done in effectively, what are some of those ways you're seeing it done? Maybe poorly? Ryan. Yeah, so a good way to sort of think about that is like how I'd actually go about it and the steps you would take. But the first one is typically people don't have an objective and any good or any good researcher, doesn't matter what you're doing, surveys, interviews, so that have a, you know, large analysis. You need to have a sense of why you're doing what you're doing, like what is the outcome you're looking for, and getting to something that's a statement of fact rather than you're trying to confirm a hunchh it you already have, because that doesn't help you in marketing. You need to understand what is happening. You know what is what has happened now in the market, as opposed to what I hope is true, because that's just an easy path. Let's start wasting your money on marketing. So the an injective is really, I think, the first place where people fall down, because a conversation with a customer can have many facets. So let me let me give an example. Right, so I focus a lot of buying journeys and, you know, the buying process or a path to purchase, is often what the other customer success people call it. But there's also many other ways to have informed conversations with customers. It could be a sales audit could be a UX or user conversation churn if it's sort of product led, when loss, if it's like sales led. You know, Brandon identity is becoming big now. It's a much all their similarities across the board. But you can spend half an hour or four to five minutes on any one of those those objectives and what does he want to know in those things? So...

I think what happens is people just sort of opened up zoom or get on the phone and start talking and the conversation you use up thirty minutes so fast that you haven't actually focused on any conversation, any topic or themes to get insights that can help you. So that's like one of the first things that I would see. I think it because that's just sets the stage for everything. It's interesting there to write because when we're determining our why, for each listener in there, wherever their organization is at, there's a different why. So it's not really as prescriptive where you're going. This is exactly what you should do, other than you need to think through why are you reaching out to customers right now and drill down on what the insight is you want to get, because you could go in broad and you could ask questions on a lot of those things that you just listed, but you're not going to be able to drill down in a thirty minute conversation. It goes too fast and I don't think people realize how quickly that time passes. You would understand that, Benjie, because you know you do is talk to people interview in this capacity. Yep, but it's that time passes very quickly. So you need to understand what does he want to know and how you find those things? What I'll say to people is, you know, what are the gaps in your knowledge, for around how people find you? What is your annual operating plan or cory the review telling you that you need to change something? Or you know you want to understand some aspect of the business where you might be falling down. I did one project I did recently, but a year ago they had an acquisition and monthly were current, revenue was not hitting the forecasts. Oh why, we have product market fit. We think what's going on right. So there's all these there's all these things that can be catalyst for why that is Aud Beu the when you ask like what are some things? That's probably the big first one. The other piece that I find unique about the work you're doing and what you post about is talking about how this research...

...should live in a marketing function, and I think there is some in and again, organizations of different sizes are going to think about this differently. Maybe we talked about that in a minute, but why are you such a big advocate for that research living in the mark as a marketing function? The reason I think it makes sense is because that's you're going to ask questions around your domain of expertise right that a salesperson or a cusser success person might necessarily might not necessarily ask or wouldn't have the instincts to know that if something said in the context of that interview, like they see something really good and very new or out of left field, they wouldn't maybe have the instincts to dive deeper into that. You know, because the sales team understands their world and a customer success team understands their world, that doesn't necessarily mean that they can't help each other out. They do, but you know, there's so much of a marketing journey that the other parts of a business don't touch. Or story of buying journey that the other parts of business don't touch and most most companies only interact with people when they get to either the sales team or they start to sort of self install. That's where things start become high touch. But so much has happened out in the market, you know, and people called different things to sale, dark social now or, you know, dark funnel, what have you. But that type of self education or that type of self guided path to buyd a product where I have a sense set of needs and, I've said, of problems. I do bunch of research as I little things down to maybe a short a shortlists, shortlist of considered vendors, and then I reach out for a bit more of it in depth, look at things right, all that stuff that just happened before I reach out to the vendor or to the sales team or start to install and sort of play around. There's a ton that happened that marketing can influence and unless I go...

...out and learn it what that stuff is as a marketer who has to execute on those things, someone trying to do that research for me, it's they're not going to uncover as much. I Hope I explained it okay, but I mean, it's you have. If you are going to be the one that's driving to go to market strategy, then you should be the one researching about how you should build that go to market strategy. Yep, and then it does reside a lot on can you or it relies a lot on can you ask the right questions? Can you go in without bias? And I think that is where it becomes critical for marketers because, yeah, you have what you want to know sort of in your head, but then can you actually do this interview in a way that gets to to the types of results you you need and to the actual type of insights that you need? It's one thing, I think, in a let's say an organization, more of a startup, when you have a small team. A lot of times, I know in be tob tech, they're not hiring for a marketing function right off the bat. They're trying to prove out their sales first. So you don't really have someone that's thinking this way yet you need to have these conversations early on. I'm assuming that's where you come alongside, but flesh that out for those that might be listening in that just early stage. Where with where do you think that should sit? Is it just outside consultancy? At that point, what do you see? Yeah, I mean like any other team in a business, right, like they typically get bigger and they grow. There's more rigor that's built out in a team as the company gets bigger. So I mean if you have no marketer yet, which happens right, sometimes it's the founder for the first two years or one year, depending on how quickly they're they're getting traction in the market. You can falls with them right, and you see that a lot with entrepreneurs, especially ones that are probably on their second or third business and founders. They are the ones that are the closest to the CUSTOS are typically and they're doing that type of work.

Now they probably are only doing, you know, a very surface level approach, or they're taking a very surface of approach, because I have a thousand of things to do, but that's typically where it lives. Sometimes it a live with the salesperson. I work with some companies that fully outsourced their marketing, but those marketers are really just people is who are specializing in commodities of like content or ads or would have you right. So I come in and help with that part, but then when you get to a company where they have maybe a few more marketers, typically it's you'll see it as your director of marketing or VP of marketing, CMO. They'll typically handle that. And then again it's the next level as you move up. That's for and product marketing starts to become a thing. That's for typically where you'll see it. And then eventually, what if, from what I what I've seen in the market, once you get to about a four hundred, six hundred full time employee head count, that's where you see research become typically its own thing. There are our liars, though, like you know, sometimes I've work with some companies where it's there, you ax lead, that is all the research and it's all relative to what you think is important for you. You know their companies that are product that that makes sense, but at the same time that person who's like a UX researcher my not get to all those things were we're trying understand what people were doing before they solve the problem, which is where thought leadership and category content and strong narratives, treatic narratives and point of views live when it comes to marketing. So there's never sort of one approach to it, but I think that's the path. The pattern I see when the question of like word is it's it. Hey be to be gross listeners. We want to hear from you. In fact, we will pay you for it. Just head over to be tob growth podcom and complete a short...

...survey about the show to enter for a chance to win two hundred and fifty dollars plus. The first fifty participants will receive twenty five dollars as our way of saying thank you so much one more time. That's be tob growth podcom, letter B, number two, letter be growth podcom. One entry per person must be an active listener of the show to enter and look forward to hearing from you. There's never sort of one approach to it, but I think that's the path. The pattern I see when the question of like word is it's it. What I like about that is it doesn't matter if you're a founder listening to this or if you happen to be a UX researcher listening to this, or if you sit in marketing and you're going more of our typical audience here and they're just going all right, I do some of these and I want to get better. That's where I want to take us now, because I think there's some intangible some things beyond just do we have a system in place and do have questions? We'll get there in a second. I wanted to pick your brain on like, after you've done this time and time again, you've seen some things like Oh, this works beyond just the questions I'm asking. That gets to the desired results. What are some of those things that you feel like beyond just a system or like I ask this question and unlocks it, it more of the intangibles that you've picked up on after doing a number these interviews. Yeah, well, I talked about the objectives, which is a big one. At the beginning. I think you have to try and compare apples apples as best as possible. So what I mean by that is there is it won't do you much good to compare, you know if you've you know, a few products or a few revenue teers. Right, happens with a lot of SASS companies. I have like my small little starter thing and I have my big enterprise thing at the top. What you're going to find when he talked to the companies that buy these things...

...is why they bought them or often dramatically different reasons and rationals and how they came to choosing this solution is different. So if you if you do a cohorder of interviews, because I typically do eight to twelve. That's what most researchers do. Sometimes you can do but fifteen, but after that you tend to get like diminishing returns and insights. You just hear the same things over and over again. But if you do that cohort, and I talked to like a small, scrappy startup and some of that's like a six hundred person company, that's apples the oranges. If for the insights of like what that buying journey, that average buying journey or path to purchase, was for the work that I do. So you want to try to bear apples to apples, and that's not always easy for people because they think it's all well know, I have a thing and I sell it and everyone's going to understand why. You know it's all be for the same reasons. But that's not true at reason, it's usually not true. So weight on that. Then let me ask your fallow. So when you say to twelve interviews, would you go eight to twelve then for small and then eight to twelve interviews for some of our enterprise customers. Or how absolutely. Yeah, yeah, for like for whatever that type of customer is. Now, obviously there's overlap, like if it's the twenty person company, the fifty four person company. You can get away with a bit of overlap there, but that's the ideal scenario that you want to try to or average contract values a good one, right. Sometimes that's a good line to draw, you know. or who with the roles are for a person in a company. Often we look at titles, but I don't. I look at like who owns what peace of a company, right, and they're trying to do something. So that that's one thing I think is crucial when you're like sort of from an intangible standpoint. A second one. This is going to sound strange, but I actually tell people not to ask questions, okay, which sounds crazy, not as good break this that I say focus on themes as opposed to questions. So let me give an example. So let's go back to the one I did with the acquisition, right. It was very specific around you know, what happened,...

...why they came and bought at this point in time and why, when we showed them, the market that we had with this under this new company's manner, didn't work right. So we're focusing very much like on that specific part of the journey. I don't care about if they turned I don't care about if they're happy with the product. You know, I don't care about any of that. I don't. It sounds almost counterintuitive, but that's not the point of the conversation. The point was, why didn't they buy this thing at the beginning when we showed it to them, when, for all intents and purposes, we thought we had the right market messaging. So what happened there? What broke down? I showed you this ad or came out in cold pitch you with the messaging and we had you're like no, thank you. Right. So within that, if I know the themes and the the objectives that I want to hit, I'm not just rallying off a list of questions, because what happens is, and you might have this, might have you might have faced this when you first started out podcasting, if you have too many questions, what happens is you stop actively listening and you start focusing on the next question to ask. So then you can't you're not listening for like really key insights to pick up on and ask really good fall questions. So my thing is, okay, if I have a list of you know, how did they get here, you know, how did they evaluate and then why did they choose us over the other solutions a shortlisted, then I might have three or four questions within that and that's it might be six, seven questions rather than like twenty over the course of everything that I want to know about them. Right. That's so those are some small things and small tweaks. I think that's hope Thissen to me by intangibles, but those are some things that, you know, keep it tight, keep it focused. Themes over questions is going to stick with me. I definitely resonate, even though I'm not doing customer interviews. We're talking, you know, podcasting here, but the white board that sits next to me, I make jokes about it on the show, but the notes that I take there I find obviously...

...that that's where you get the follow up questions, the trails that you actually want to go down with somebody. And when you come in, especially like if I come in with wordy questions, which is may be different than your environment, but then I'm thinking about how would I word the next question? And then, yeah, that takes the interview in a different direction than, Oh, I just heard what Ryan said and now I want to talk to him more like in this context I'm going on now, I want to talk to you more about themes, because my brain would live in the world of like one, two, three, here's the questions, here's the system and now we've perfected it. But to have those themes sounds like. I mean that that ends up getting you a lot more of what. Then your end, you get the insights because you had themes and not just a list of questions you rattled off the other it's true. And the other reason why I think you want to do that is humans don't astarily talk in a linear fashion, especially when you're asking people lots of questions about their buying experience. All Times they'll rush to give you the entire thing right away, right so try and tell you everything they did within like thirty seconds. But they're not gonna remember everything they did thirty seconds because what what? They haven't actually started to connect all the dots in their brain yet. There's something we call recall and if you interview people long enough, which just start to see is but halfway through an interview, their recall starts to strengthen and they'll say things like, oh, you know what, I totally forgot this. So I like using themes because what happens is, especially sometimes I'll even use the timeline, asked them when they made when they made a decision. Roughly could be January two thousand and twenty. I said this happened great, and then I'll write that down and I'll say I'll check mark off a theme that I want to get at. And what's happened is now they start rambling. There were of all these different directions and Susan came this and did this and Jim told me this and Bubba, awesome, great. I want to go back to January two thousand and twenty when we were talking about this one piece. What did you do next after that? Because what they've just done the last thirty seconds is ramble the bunch of bunch of stuff that doesn't make doesn't won't help you at...

...all. You're trying to do is just take them through that narratives to spur that recall, right, to get to the things that you want to understands, you can actually get insights then action and to your marketing motions like this is something needs to change, as we did. We were not doing this correctly. There's will, there's a lot more, but I think we'll probably go for like two hours. There's so much. I mean, there's so much there and but it is fascinating and it's interesting, I know, to our audience, because this is something again, like when we talk on a more of a buzzword type topic like this, where you're going. We need to talk to customers. I had heard that so many times, regurgitated and no one really breaking it down into what is useful. That that's why this can be, you know, this longer conversation that we could drill down on just themes. Right. Going back to what you said, like let's have one sort of reason we're here. I want to get into your style a little bit more, or like the thing your process. When we had talked offline before we recorded, you had mentioned that you think of how you do this personally as like a blend of jobs to be done, which some will be familiar with, and then something called grounded theory. Break that down a little bit. Some of US maybe aren't familiar with jobs to be done. So, but can you talk a little bit about how you use both of those? Yeah, so jobs being done. For people who aren't familiar, they can google it. There's a ton, so much of language. It's really just an innovation framework started by a guy named Clayton Christiansen and there's a few people that have carried on this work to this day. But if you really dig into it there's some he might have bought some stuff from from the s doesn't matter. So it is borrowing, yeah, but it's it's really how why we hire products? Like what are the jobs you hire products to do for us? Because people care about end states. They don't necessarily care about the thing. They care about the what the thing can do for them. And doesn't matter if you're buying a car or the when the class examples they give is, you know, I don't buy a drill to make a...

...hole that buy a drill to hang a picture, right, but the thing is there's all these reasons why people buy the products they do that might necessarily fit into what you think they're using them for. I use that framework and a lot of researchers do, because it's also how people make decisions about existing products. Usually job, a lot of times job be jobs to be done, is used by product people to create new things. Because for the system of how they use that methodology, I like to use snippets of it to figure out how people choose existing things that they've already paid for. Right. It's almost the same mindset. Standard theory. I think you called it ground a theory in our previous conversationy. Thank you, yes, greatory. Thank you. You don't even remember my own stuff. So round of the theory is basically the process of taking qualitative insights, which sometimes can be across the board and and there's a lot of subtext to how people talk, because sometimes the things they say aren't over like. They might say something but they mean something else in the context of what you've asked a question. What you're doing is you're taking that data in your code to find it into quantitative data. Okay, and it's a process you go over and over again. So how I work is, I will say, Dude, twelve interviews. Everything's transcribed because that's part of that process, and I'm looking for themes and patterns and, you know, repetitions of things, either are things I say directly or things they meet. They the subtext of things they say because they're going to fall into those themes that I've talked about right. I've already highlighted where those commerce what we're talking about with in the context of those themes. So I take those and I extract them, I read them again and I extract more stuff out of them and I'm just sort of pushing them to the side and codifying them. So eventually what I'll get to is, out of twelve interviews, I might find five common buying triggers that are happening for this cohort of...

...interviewees. Your five things. On average, they've all said this has happened at some point in the business which led me to finding this product. This was a true that is the process of granted theory at but it's that's where a lot of people get tripped up in this work is they'll listen to an interview and they'll figure okay, well, now what there's this we just talked for. Half of all guilty. How's this going to affect my facebook ads next week? Because I got to hit this many leads over the next quarter. Like, draw me the line here. But what you're doing is you're figuring out how people systematically made decisions about choosing your product and then then when you have those things, you can go and look at your marketing and say, have we covered off these things? So I use a blend of those two things grounded theory that use a lot in sociology. So it's a really interesting I can I'll send you a link after and if people want to look at it, there's a whole wikipedia article on and lots of youtube videos. Is Very academic, Yep, but it's a really great system for trying to take all those qualitative insights and turn them into quantity of data that you can action into your marketing. That seems to me where that next breakdown would be, because I could improve the questions that I'm asking right, I could, I could systematize it, but then you're still have that last handoff that goes from the questions that we ask to the insights we implement and that that ends up being the only reason. Yes, you want your customer to feel heard and you want you know that side, but ultimately, on the back end of things you want to improve what you're doing so that they like look better business outcomes. So we have to make sure that the insights are actually applicable and I think that's what this really drils down on. I'd love for you to send over some links and we'll be sure to put that in the in the show notes, so people can go down that sort of wormhole of grounded theory. They're all right. As we kind of come up for air here we're nearing the end of our time together, I wonder say I told you goes by fast. It does go by fast and I could talk to you about this for a long time. So when I look at the clock, I was like Ah, twenty eight, all right. Well, here we...

...go. This is where I want to end, Ryan. I want us to just go if someone's listening to this and they're doing the dishes, they're doing something else right. Maybe they're listening while they're working or they're running. We often talk about mindset shifts or a way that I will do this net different next time. What will you leave our audience with to go hey, like why apples to apples? Themes, not questions. Those are all things were walking away with. Anything you want to add a sort of like a mindset shift, a practical thing to leave people with as we leave this episode. Do you mean like practical for why they should do it or how they should do it? How they should do it. Let's go how yeah, I mean act really have an open mind. It's so easy to go in with your assumptions guiding the process. Are Biases will often get the best of us in these scenarios and I was what I did mention the beginners. I was a reporter for three years right between marketing gigs, and that's where I really learned the abilities to do investigative interviewing where you get to an unbite. You try to get to an unbiased statement of fact and bias statement of facts as best as you can, because if you can do that, they would you have is a real strong snapshot of what's happening as opposed to what you hope is happening, because hope is the worst marketing strategy. It's not going to get you anything. So if you if, and this is just one piece at the marketing puzzle, right, but if you have an open mind and you try to reduce those biases in those assumptions much as you can when you going to do this work, you'll really learn a ton about what is happening and how people make are thinking about your product and why they bought it in the first place. And if you can unlock that, it makes marketing so much much easier. Fascinating. I think that's good space to come up for air. Probably this is one where, like even on themes, if people have follow up questions, I'd say, Hey, reach out to Ryan, because that's not something you just apply overnight where you're all of a sudden...

...great at it. It's easier to lean into questions like that's the reason that we all do that, I know. So that's an area where I'm even thinking man like. That's I like that. I like and and this is really, I think, so helpful for for many of us that are living in this world and trying to get better at at how we talk to customers. So right. For those that want to stay connected to you, because you are talking about this consistently, even on Linkedin. But what are some ways we can can do that and and continue to follow your work? Yeah, Linkedin, it's the best right, linkedin. And then DM me, like I'm pretty open. Yep, I just want to help people. Like I my goals help people get better at this, because what I do is not rocket science by any stretch. Benji like, if I can say that. Don't think if I can do it, anyone can do it. So it's not that. It just takes practice, in a bit of work right and experience. So yeah, DM me, they can jump on content left and see what I'm bout there if they ever want to work with me in a more formal capacity, but linkedin. Yeah, I'm just happy to answer any questions people have. Well, Ryan, thank you so much for for taking time and stop them by be to be growth today. Yeah, thanks for having me. It's great. Want to say to our listeners thanks for checking out this episode. I know there's some really great insights in here to help us fuel our innovation and Growth, specifically around how we talked to customers, which is something all of us are thinking about. So if you haven't followed the show, do so on whatever your favorite podcast platform is. That way you never miss an episode. Will be back real soon with another show for you and I keep doing work that matters. If you enjoyed a day show, hit subscribe for more marketing goodness and if you really enjoyed today show, take a second to rate and review the podcast on the platform you're listening to it on right now. If you really really enjoyed this episode, share...

...the love by texting it to a friend who would find it insightful. Thanks for listening and thanks for sharing.

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