Youre working on brand messaging, content strategy, or audience
personas, and will be interviewing customers for insights. How do
make best use of that precious time to uncover something
The best interviews are the ones that go off script. Take cues
from the person youre interviewing if they bring up a topic, it
means they want to share something with you. Happily follow any
unexpected discussion threads wherever they may go.
1. Prepare your questions. Then prepare to throw them away.!
Most people like telling their stories. If you put them at ease,
and show genuine curiosity in what they have to say, youll learn a
lot more than if you mechanically work your way down a
2. Treat it like a conversation.!
Its human nature were tempted to contribute to conversations
with our own anecdotes. When interviewing customers and prospects,
resist the temptation to jump in. Allow pauses to happen. Sometimes
it just takes a simple wow for the other person to keep
3. Check your ego.!
It seems obvious, but the way your questions are worded will
affect the responses. Unlike surveys, interviews are exploratory
you go into them hoping to learn something new. Cast a broad net
with open-ended questions. Keep the questions bias-free. Instead of
asking, was XX a positive experience? try asking, what was that
experience like for you?
4. Remember its not just what you ask its how you ask it.!
After you get an initial response, keep asking questions to
understand the other persons underlying emotions, assumptions and
motivations. For example, "why was XX important to you," or "what
were the implications of XX," or "what was at the back of your mind
at that time?"
5. Dont accept answers at face value.!
Were your interviewees brisk and confident? What made them
hesitate or become animated? After each interview, take a few
minutes to write down any impressions that might not be captured in
the interview transcripts. Youll treasure these notes when it comes
time to capture buyers emotional and social motivations in your
6. Listen to what people say. Also notice how they say it. !
As a brand planner with 15 years of marketing agency experience,
Anne has interviewed and surveyed thousands of people in search of
customer insights: from border control agents to spine surgeons,
commercial real estate tenants to parents of dyslexic kids. Her
strength is uncovering the practical, emotional and social factors
that drive brand preference.