This article is based on Carolyn’s insightful interview with Holly Watson on the GTM-FM podcast. Check it out here!
What if the key to unlocking your business's potential lies in understanding the whispers and shouts of your buyers?
Spoiler alert: It does.
In this article, we'll explore a range of strategies for capturing and leveraging buyer feedback. We'll delve into the nuances of amplifying the voice of the buyer across your organization, choosing the right format for sharing insights, and the optimal timing for integrating buyer perspectives into your Go-to-Market strategy.
I'll also share practical advice on incorporating the voice of the buyer into your messaging and provide final tips for maintaining a holistic view of the external environment.
In short, I want to equip you with the knowledge you need to effectively harness buyer insights, transforming them into actionable strategies that resonate with both potential and existing customers.
But first, let me introduce myself. I'm Carolyn Klinger, and I’m the Director of Market Intelligence at Affinity. My role focuses on market, competitive, and customer intelligence. Through establishing a win/loss program and enhancing our intelligence resources, I've worked to bring the voices of buyers and customers into every facet of our business, and I’m here to help you do the same.
Let’s dive in.
How to gather buyer feedback
Buyer insights are critical for understanding market dynamics, including customer needs, competitor moves, and technological trends.
These insights enable you to pinpoint your buyers' pain points and areas where your offerings can make a significant impact, which is the key to crafting messaging that resonates. Buyer insights also help you plug any feature gaps for a watertight long-term product roadmap.
When gathering buyer feedback, I look at as many information sources as possible, including primary and secondary research.
Diving into primary research involves examining quantitative feedback and qualitative insights to gauge your performance against expectations and industry benchmarks, as well as your standing compared to competitors. Quantitative feedback, through rankings and ratings, is vital, as is qualitative feedback.
Qualitative feedback comes from focus groups, phone interviews, customer user conferences, or customer advisory boards (CABs). This is where emotions and recurrent themes emerge. Throughout my career, I've noticed that buyers and customers often revolve their feedback around a central theme, whether it's an area of delight or a pain point. Understanding those themes is invaluable.
Using qualitative feedback to reinforce quantitative data is particularly effective. It highlights the emotional aspects of customer experiences and can be very powerful in persuading internal stakeholders to prioritize or reprioritize items on your roadmap. Sometimes, what internal teams like product or engineering may not perceive as significant could be more important than they thought.
The long and the short of it is that it's essential to maintain a balance between quantitative and qualitative feedback. That’s how you get a truly holistic view of your customers’ experiences and needs.
How to amplify the voice of the buyer across your organization
In the intelligence function, it can be a struggle to ensure that valuable buyer information is used effectively, and it’s disheartening when such rich data is ignored.
I like to use a multi-pronged strategy to get buyer insights into the right hands and make sure they’re used once they get there. A key part of this is translating insights into action. This involves holding meetings and readouts where we examine specific feedback and broader market trends and look at ways to act on that.
For instance, off the back of Affinity's win/loss program, I compiled aggregate reports for various teams – product, sales, design, support, engineering, and so on – tailoring insights to their specific functions.
For the product team, our discussions focus on solution capabilities and functionality, highlighting what buyers say is essential and our performance against these key drivers. Similarly, with sales, we delve into the sales drivers that buyers care about – aspects like responsiveness, understanding their business needs, and presentation skills. It's crucial to ensure the insights you share are relevant to each team.
It’s also vital to keep these insights top of mind across the board. For example, at Affinity, I share updates in our weekly all-hands meetings to keep the company abreast of the latest developments. I also drop into sales training sessions every month or so to keep the sales team up to date with the latest buyer feedback and win/loss profiles.
The goal is to consistently remind our internal stakeholders of what our buyers are saying, their priorities, and how this information directly impacts their daily work. By integrating buyer insights into regular company rhythms, we ensure they remain at the heart of all our activities.
Choosing the right format
When you’re gathering buyer insights and win/loss information, it can be tempting to present everything you know in a big ol’ data dump. While that might work for people who are very data-focused, for the majority of your stakeholders, it’s going to be pretty overwhelming.
Instead, focus on the story that data tells. What are the top three things you want your audience to walk away with? For me, it’s usually buyer pain points, how we can improve our messaging, and the changes we need to implement to win more deals.
It’s important to keep your delivery crisp, clear, and focused, and try to integrate these insights into a narrative that connects with people’s everyday experiences as consumers. This helps make the buyer's journey more relatable.
At Affinity, we rely heavily on an online portal called Crayon. This platform has been instrumental in managing our battlecards, making them easy to create, update, and maintain.
I've also ensured that all our valuable win/loss feedback is linked out from these battlecards. This keeps the information current, relevant, and easily accessible for our sales and customer service teams, helping them in their messaging and positioning efforts.
When to bring the voice of the buyer into your Go-to-Market strategy
It's crucial to incorporate the voice of the buyer into your GTM strategy as early as possible. Understanding your buyers, customers, the external market, and competitors right from the beginning is essential.
This early integration of external environment insights is vital in product and solution design, especially when you’re developing specific features and functionalities. Your aim should always be to meet your buyers' needs as closely as possible.
I strongly recommend partnering with competitive intelligence, customer intelligence, and market intelligence teams. They can provide valuable insights and guidance on available information, whether it involves commissioning a primary research study or setting up various research methods like phone interviews, focus groups, or surveys.
It's crucial to pull this information in early and continuously monitor market changes since markets, buyer needs, and preferences are always evolving.
I’ve been doing this for many years now, and the teams I've worked with have always been receptive to research and eager to understand data and the external environment better.
How to incorporate the voice of the buyer into your messaging
When I’m advising internal teams on content development, messaging, and positioning, I always encourage them to pay close attention to our buyers' word choices, the pain points they highlight, and the trigger events that lead them to look for solutions. Understanding what they hope to achieve from the solutions they select is also key.
If you can mirror these keywords and sentiments, you’ll not only gain a deeper understanding of your buyers' situations and journeys, but you’ll also build trust with the buyer. When they see that you understand their needs and pain points, they’re more likely to trust you to provide solutions.
As we wrap up, I want to emphasize a point I've touched on a few times throughout this article: The paramount importance of taking a holistic view of the external environment. This is critical for understanding the market and formulating effective strategies.
It’s crucial to pay attention to customer intelligence and the voice of the buyer, whether you gather it through surveys or direct interactions at customer conferences and in user groups.
Equally important is market intelligence, which involves staying abreast of external dynamics and forces, such as technological advancements, regulatory changes, and macroeconomic shifts we've all witnessed in recent months.
It’s also vital to understand the competitive landscape – what your competitors are doing and how it affects your customers and buyers.
By integrating insights from customer intelligence, market intelligence, and competitive intelligence, you’ll gain a comprehensive, 360-degree view of the external environment. This deep and clear macro-level understanding enables you to bring valuable insights back into your organization and address the strategic needs of all your internal stakeholders.