The golden question (or the art of open-ended customer interviews)

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I'm sure you've all heard me say at one point that I'm not the type of copywriter that sits down, cracks her knuckles, and spins gold.

I've got a 7 step process that has about a million little micro-steps in between.

Most of the checklist is for research.

I want the words I present to clients to be backed up with data points.

Customer interviews are a key part of my research process.
They allow much more flexibility than surveys, and that's what I'm looking for.

I'm looking for experiences around a product, not a rating from 1-10 on the likelihood they would recommend the product to someone else.

Yes, I could talk with the client and their team until our faces are blue, but at the end of the day, they aren't their own target market.

It's a grueling time commitment on my end as I have to organize, schedule 12-20 people for their interview, and then actually get them on the phone.

But I try really hard to keep each interview 5-10 minutes long.

Last week I was conducting customer interviews for a new client. As I finished up a call, the interviewee exclaimed, "Wow, that was so quick!"


I have my questions down to a science.

I always start with "What is your job title?"
Easy as pie to ease them into the conversation.

Now we've got a practice question out of the way I hit them with the golden one:

"What was happening in your world that led you to sign up for [product/service]?"

The question is worded purposely to allow them to visualize and remember back when they started looking for a solution.

I have follow-up questions at the ready in case they need more prompting, but in general, the conversation is allowed to move freely.

I want to capture their fears, their motivations, and their pain points that pushed them to sign up for whatever product/service I'm writing for.

And that's it.

My goal for customer interviews isn't to ask every single question on my list.

My goal is to understand how customers feel about the product/service I'm writing for.

I want true honest answers, and those are sometimes best found when a person is caught up in a memory.

Customer interviews give me straight-from-the-customer copy to work with. It makes the final copy I write shine.

So tell me, what was happening in your world that led you here?

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