Do you know why your customers buy?

If they’re doing their job, SaaS marketers can tell you how many leads they’re attracting, how many convert into paying customers, where the leads are coming from, and even how much they’re paying for them.

That’s all useful information that should be collected in your CRM system.  You can’t run an effective SaaS marketing program without it.

But all that data doesn’t really answer an important fundamental question underneath the numbers:  Why do your customers buy your solution?

To break that question down into smaller bits:

  • What problem are your customers trying to solve?

  • What’s wrong with the solution they had in place before yours?

  • How costly or urgent is the problem?

  • Why did the solution from you and not some other vendor?

Answers to these questions won’t be found in your CRM or marketing automation solution.

You might make some educated guesses based on particular keyword searches or paper downloads.  But that’s exactly what they are:  guesses.  What someone clicked on doesn’t really reveal why they were looking in the first place.

Ask your customers

I’ll suggest a better approach:  talk with your customers.

In particular, talk with customers that have bought recently.  They can still remember what motivated them to evaluate alternatives to their old solution.  They can give you some useful insights into what problem they were trying to solve.

Who shouldn’t ask?

From what I’ve seen there are a couple of good options when you think about who should be asking new customers about why they bought.

But first let me point out some bad options:

Customer satisfaction surveys:  These surveys can be measure existing customers’ satisfaction with your solution, but they don’t reveal why they bought the solution to begin with.  I also find that the survey approach can be confining, with little opportunity for customers to raise new issues or elaborate.

Customer support:  When a customer is talking with a support agent, they usually trying to get a problem resolved.  They’re really not inclined to chat about why they bought the solution in the first place.

Sales:  Nearly every time I’ve asked a salesperson why the customer bought, I hear some version of this: “Great relationship with the salesperson!”  That may be true, but not really helpful.  It could explain why the deal was closed, but not why the opportunity opened.

Who should ask?

Having worked with lots of companies that interview new customers, I’ve found that the most useful insights come when either of two people ask the questions.

The marketing team:  Someone from marketing can gather useful insights from customers if they ask as a market researcher.  In other words, they should explain to the customer that they’re gathering feedback to help improve the product and the marketing programs. 

They should explain to the customer that they’re not trying to sell the customer anything.  Instead, it should be clear that they are genuinely interested in better understanding the customer’s evaluation and purchase process. 

Outside marketing analyst:  A second option is to bring in an outsider to conduct the customer interviews and prepare the analysis.  This outside expert has no direct interest is selling the customer anything, and sometimes customers are more forthcoming in speaking to a third party about their experience.  (Shameless plug:  Contact me if you need help.)

It’s not a one-time effort

One more bit of advice:  Talking with new customers shouldn’t be a one & done activity.  Collecting input monthly or at least quarterly can help confirm or refine your insights, or it might reveal a shift in the way customers buy.