4 Mistakes To Watch For In Customer Outreach

Brad O'Neill - May 10, 2009

As a result of working with dozens of companies across the IT vendor landscape, we’ve been able to help many companies establish best practices in gathering customer evidence. Along the way, we’ve also identified some of the biggest mistakes. We share them here for your benefit!

The Top 4 Mistakes Companies Make In Customer Outreach:

Mistake 1: Asking The Wrong Questions

Getting the right data from customers requires asking enlightening questions. When you conduct email outreach to customers, it is critical to have a game-plan associated with literally every single question. What are you trying to achieve with this question? Are you trying to confirm a suspicion or asking a true open-ended request for feedback? If this is part of a marketing initiative, what role will responses to this question play in furthering that initiative? Slow down and find the right questions, even if it means a bit more thinking than you anticipated. The time spent doing this pays off in a better end product, guaranteed.

Mistake 2: Asking Too Many Questions

There is an impulse in a lot of marketing teams to “pile on” and load up a customer survey with as many questions as they think they can get away with.  In the vast majority of cases, customer outreach that takes up more than a handful of minutes from your customer is not going to be filled out completely. Worse, it can create resentment if the long laundry list of questions seems overly analytical and driven towards a certain outcome. And finally, “pile on” surveys often lack the coherency to produce usable data for marketing purposes. Short and focused wins the day in customer outreach, especially when the goal is evidence-based marketing.

Mistake 3: Poorly Structured Emails and Surveys

Whether its a shoddy looking email template or unprofessional looking web-based survey form that destroys your brand equity, a poorly structured outreach campaign will yield lower results from your customers. We’ve all received these emails in our inbox before. How many times have you clicked through to a survey only to realize there is no way you’re going to put up with that ugly interface for even 5 minutes… Whatever tool you are using to conduct your customer questioning, make sure it meets the internal standards of excellence you have at your company. In the same way you wouldn’t send a cheap snail mail piece of branded collateral to a customer and expect a positive response, your email surveying should also reflect the hardwon quality of your organization.

Mistake 4: Weak Analysis of Data

When many companies get the raw data back from a customer survey, they often don’t do the right things with that data; they don’t dig into it to find the “nuggets” that unleash differentiation. This typically happens because there was not enough upfront planning around how to turn those raw responses into usable marketing assets before the outreach took place. Even if you’re not using a tool like TechValidate to automate this whole process, you can always make sure that your pre-outreach planning corresponds to the intended potential outputs of your data collection. What -precisely- are you trying to build with this data? Asking these questions in pre-outreach will ensure that you make the right “cuts” or cross-tabs of your data post-outreach to support your marketing initiatives. Waiting until you’re already staring at hundreds or thousands of individual customer data points is too late!

In a nutshell, to avoid these 4 pitfalls, just slow down, think through the entire process backwards from your desired end product back to your beginning question design requirements. This will help you craft optimal customer outreach that makes your evidence-based marketing activities work like a well-oiled machine. That’s what we help folks do all day long, and we know the process yields positive results.

Brad O'Neill

Brad O'Neill is President and Co-Founder of TechValidate. He brings over 15 years of experience in both enterprise and web consumer technologies to the leadership of TechValidate.

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