In today’s episode, I’m speaking with Melissa Harstine, an expert when it comes to customer research interviews, all about voice of customer.

Melissa helps her clients understand what their audiences are thinking and feeling so that they can take those insights and apply them to their business. Melissa has built her business using a unique approach, prioritizing her health while also running a successful business – so you’ll hear all about how she’s designed her business while dealing with chronic health symptoms.

This episode also covers:

  • How to make your business work for YOU
  • How to use “borrowed” audiences (AKA guest podcasting) to grow your business
  • How you can do customer research in your own business and what types of questions you should be asking

So if you’re thinking of shifting away from social media and doing more collaborative marketing strategies, then this episode is for you!

Read the full transcript

Meg Casebolt 0:01
You’re listening to social slowdown a podcast for entrepreneurs and micro businesses looking for sustainable marketing strategies without being dependent on social media. Social media is a double edged sword. It’s a wonderful way to stay connected. But it also can feel like an addictive obligation. And it’s even more complex for businesses, your audience might be right there, but you’ve got to fight with algorithms to maybe be seen by them. So whether you want to abandon social media altogether, or you just want to take a month off, it’s possible to have a thriving business without being dependent on social media. This podcast is all about finding creative, sustainable ways to engage with your audience without needing to lipsync send to cold DMS, run ads or be available 24/7. Let’s get started. Hello, and welcome to the social slowdown podcast. So excited to have you here, Melissa.

Melissa Harstine 0:53
Yeah. Thanks, Meg.

Meg Casebolt 0:54
I’m excited to be here. Would you mind as we get started, could you tell us what your business is and who you’re working with?

Melissa Harstine 1:02
Yeah, so I am a voice of customer researcher. I often tell people that I’m a mind reader, but not the Clairvoyant kind. So I help my clients understand what their audience is thinking, what they’re feeling, what their beliefs are, so that they can take those insights and apply them strategically to their business, whether you’re wanting to write better copy using words straight from their customers mouse, or using those insights to create a new offer and know exactly what people are wanting, instead of just like trying to guess what someone might want. If you’re, you know, adding a new lower price offer to your service suite. These insights can also just be used to clarify, you know, your ideal client profile, if you have multiple customer segments, what does each type of person want or need. And so I typically work with like two different types of people. One is I partner with copywriters who are already doing this research for their own business, if they’re writing website, copy, if they’re writing launch copy, I’ll come in and do this research for them as part of that project. And then I also just work with people, you know, like, like you make like consultants, creatives, experts, service providers, who are using these insights just to refine their own business and services.

Meg Casebolt 2:11
Yeah, and I think voice of customer can be so important, because it gives us really strong insights into how people are feeling in a way that they aren’t, maybe they aren’t aware of, and you need to have those deep conversations in order to on Earth, some of those phrases, but also, you know, being able to see patterns as they happen across those surveys, or individual conversations, or whatever that is that may not show up, if you’re just kind of broadcasting out, it really requires that input. And that personalized connection. And I like to sometimes say like, Voice of Customer is at a small scale level and keyword research is take your voice of customer and throw it up to 30,000 feet, you know, we are finding people having these conversations at the one to one or small group focus group level, and then we can man I love when my clients come to me with voice of customer because I’m like, I’m just gonna type those into my keyword research tool. And I’m gonna see how many other people are saying that exact same thing. And then if there’s enough, then we’re going to create content around it. So obviously, I’m a big fan of voice of customer research.

Melissa Harstine 3:13
I love it. Yeah, you know, I had a conversation with someone recently, who told me, she knew with a fair amount of specificity who her ideal client was, she’s like, I work with women on businesses that have been around for two to three years, and they’re starting to really grow. They want to increase their online presence and their marketing and stuff, but they don’t know how to do that. And I said, Hey, that’s great, that’s a great place to start. You know, that’s more than a lot of people know about their ideal client. And it’s very, very memorable. When I you know, when she said that at a networking event, I It’s stuck in my brain. But then there’s these other layers of specificity. You know, it’s like, so why are those people actually struggling to get their online presence up and going, what is it that they’re wanting for themselves for their business for their lives, I’m just taking that deeper and deeper and deeper, you know, you imagine it like a pyramid, like a, you know, like a funnel, it’s, the more specific we can get, the more effective marketing is going to be. And then it helps people like you make it like you said, take it out, back out to the 30,000 foot level, and just create these really effective strategies.

Meg Casebolt 4:19
Yeah, I feel like you know, when you work with a coach, and they’re like, I’m just gonna ask you why seven times and you’re like, dammit, stop it. I gave you an answer. And I don’t want to go deeper. I just want that answer to be the answer. But when you get more specific when you ask more detailed questions, that’s where the really like juicy oh my god about this juicy nuggets. That’s a really gross phrase. That’s where they’re really interesting data comes from, that’s where the things that help your sales page convert or if you included an email open, you know, an email subject line that’s gonna make people so much more likely to open that email because they see themselves in those problems and concerns that you’re bringing up with people.

Melissa Harstine 4:57
Yeah, absolutely.

Meg Casebolt 4:59
So How do you work with people because I know you have a bit of a unique approach to how you built your business to make it work for you.

Melissa Harstine 5:09
Yeah. So to start with, I just want to be really frank and say that so much of what has gone into me designing and building my business has been a desire to prioritize my health while also running a really successful business. Because I have some chronic health issues, I have migraines, I have allergies, and mast cell activation syndrome. And honestly, there’s some days I just wake up and I do not feel well, you know, my whole body aches, I have brain fog. And when I used to be a copywriter in the past, like I did that for four or five years, it was really hard to show up and be creative and write beautiful things, you know, that are going to convert on a day that I just couldn’t think clearly. And I felt like I was constantly having to turn out content, you know, on social media in my email list just to market my own business. And so I started thinking, you know, how can I work within the especially the energetic limitations that I have? How can I make my business work for me? And so, last summer, I started really asking myself those intentional questions and pivoting, you know, from copywriting, to customer research, which, you know, because I started my career in journalism, I’ve always loved connecting with people. I’ve loved doing interviews, I’ve loved asking those layers and layers of why questions. You know, this is part of what I loved about copywriting anyway. And so now it’s like, I have this super specific micro niche that very few people are doing especially in like the service provider world. So it allows me to stand out to market my services really simply and effectively, because it’s like, Hey, I know a person, you know, because there’s not a lot of people doing this. But it also just allows me to do something that I love with the energetic capacity that I have at any given point.

Meg Casebolt 6:53
Yeah, and also that decision to like, I’m not just going to be a copywriter. It’s like, and I think you told me like, it wasn’t just going from copywriter to customer researcher, it was like I went from copywriter to website copywriter to case study copyright, you know, and like, every time get a little bit more specific and get really well known for that particular specialty that you’re creating. So that you know, when you are when you’re working with clients, and they’re getting these results, they’re then referring you to whomever your their friends are or their copywriter recognizes working with you. And they’re like, oh, I want you to come into this project to like, every time that you specialize down, you are also building your network of potential people to both work for in a client setting and also to collaborate with as a partner. Right?

Melissa Harstine 7:43
Exactly. You know, and I think that’s one of the things that was missing a year ago, when I was focusing on case studies in particular, is people buy case studies one time, you know, or maybe a couple times a year at very most. But by shifting my focus to customer research, you know, there’s a couple of copywriters that I partner with or collaborate with, you know, six to eight times a year. So adding that recurring revenue stream has also made things a lot more effective and efficient in my business, because I’m not having to spend as much time and energy going out and trying to find new clients and not having to, you know, blast everything on social media to try to get attention to make noise, I’m able to really focus on serving a few people really, really well. And just turning those into long term partnerships and collaborations where we get to like, we understand how each other works. We understand kind of the nuances of our different personalities or whatever and then it just over time, that just makes our work even better. Right. And by having a partnership with those copywriters, not only are you working with them on either recurring client projects or separate client projects, but you’re taking something that makes their work so much more valuable, and you’re taking the time commitment out of it. Exactly. And I think the other piece of it is I’m not only saving them time by doing the interviews for them, I’m also helping them outsource part of their brain. And I think that’s the really hard part as our business grows. Because it’s like I can delegate tasks to a VA, I can delegate tasks to a, you know, a marketing content person who’s going to repurpose you know, content, I’m, you know, if I’m speaking on a podcast, take that and turn it into a blog post or an email, newsletter or whatever. But it’s a lot harder as a business owner, to delegate your thinking. And so what I do is, like I said, not only do the interviews, but I take I take it to the next level and start doing the analysis. Yeah, patterns and trends and you know, what is it that this audience is wanting and needing? What are some specific phrases that we can pull into the coffee? And I also often talk about, you know, the offer feedback, you know, what is it about this product or their service that clients are raving about? What’s missing? How can we refine this and make it even better? So I’m showing up as like a strategist as well. And I think that that’s just I was really cool. I love that part of my work.

Meg Casebolt 10:02
Yeah, when I, when I hired a copywriter to redo the sales page for my group program, one of the things that she heard during her voice of customer research is people love the feedback loop. They don’t just like the course is fine, the coaching calls are great, but like people love that they can get your feedback or the team’s feedback on what it is that they’re creating. And that hadn’t even been mentioned on the sales page. But it kept showing up in that voice of customer research. So we had a whole section devoted to that in the new version of the sales page. And knowing that has also I’ve seen people who say like, I’ve done SEO courses before, but they I wanted to be able to get that feedback mechanism.

Melissa Harstine 10:40
I love that. Yeah. Because it reveals like what is it about you make that’s really unique, and then allows you to, like stand out in the marketplace and attract those people in a way that your competitors may not? Because you know, you’ve done that research, you know what it is that people really appreciate about your course?

Meg Casebolt 10:55
Exactly, it makes a huge difference. And so those collaborations that you have with the I want to talk specifically about the collaborations with the copywriters because I feel like that partnership probably has the potential to like, almost fill your client roster without you needing to do a ton of marketing all the time. So talk to me a little bit about

Melissa Harstine 11:18
that. Yeah, that’s so true. Um, you know, at the moment, I’m booked out, I have four projects booked out for the next six to eight weeks. And two of those projects are with the same copywriter. One is a third copywriter, and one is more of a one to one service. But it’s like, I had to do very little work to get those projects booked. And that’s been amazing for me, just by decreasing the amount of time and effort that it takes to market my services, I’m able to put that energy into other things, whether it’s, you know, delivering even better, you know, customer research reports and refining how I’m actually doing my services to being able just to like, take an afternoon off and do some watercolor painting and pay attention to my mental health and my physical health as well.

Meg Casebolt 12:07
Right. That’s what I was thinking when you were like, Oh, I can take on more clients, I’m like, No, make the same amount of money last time. You know, you don’t have to do as much marketing, if you feel like you have these collaborative opportunities that are just bringing you leads, then, you know, especially when you have chronic illness, it’s like it creates more white space in your day where yes, you have certain times where you have to hop on calls with people and ask them the questions. But it’s like, if you wake up and feel like crap one day, okay, you have a bit more time, you know, like, it doesn’t all have to be as condensed and as deadline driven, if you aren’t also trying to cram in tons of time for marketing and lead gen and and, you know, client sales calls and all that.

Melissa Harstine 12:50
Yeah, and you know, and as I alluded to earlier, by partnering by having such a specific micro niche by partnering with some of the same people again, and again, it allows me to really refine my service delivery systems as well. So it’s like I realized, you know, I can set up this shared Google Drive or Google Drive folder where all of our all of our project documents are housed. And I have one document that it’s like, these are the video links to, you know, the customer interviews. So it’s not like I have to download the file from zoom and then upload it to Google Drive, I just have one full one document I use every time and link directly to it. You know, I have a template for my customer research report that I use every single time. And it’s like, the more that I can systematize and simplify what I’m doing, you know, again, the more margin and whitespace and free times that I create for myself, so that I can prioritize my health or just these other things that I enjoy in life, whether it’s painting or reading or sitting outside and watching the birds.

Meg Casebolt 13:52
Well, now that you’ve talked about reading, I’ve like tried to hold myself back from like, what’s the best last book you read? Let’s talk about it. So in terms of the collaborations that you’re building, how much of that is you know, these copywriting partnerships where they’re building you in as a subcontractor to theirs? And how much of that is you trying to get in front of more copywriters or get in front of your copywriters audiences to educate them about why they need your services? Yeah, so I’m

Melissa Harstine 14:23
kind of at this tipping point right now, where I have two writers who send me work on a regular basis. I have a couple people I work with occasionally. Um, but ideally, I would have, you know, to kind of, I think to fill my schedule, I would have two to three more people that I’m working with. And so I just, this is such a great question, because it’s really been top of mind for me this month of like, how do I go out and meet those people? What’s the, you know, the simplest way to do that? And so, where I started was just reaching out to past clients and saying, hey, I want to support two to three more people and collaborate with them on a regular basis. Who do you know, do you know? To another copywriter who can introduce me to, like no high pressure sales tactics at all, like, they know me, that’s not me. But just I want to get to know them, I want to start building a relationship with them learning how they do, what they do, what their approach is, you know, who do you know, and I right away got a response from a couple of people. And that turned into some connection calls. And I’m going to have next month. So that was just like a really simple way to kind of get in front of some new copywriters using the connections I already had. Another thing I’ve done is borrowing audiences. And speaking on podcasts like this, I usually try to speak on two to three podcasts per month. And even that is often you know, I’m not out there pitching myself three to four times a week. I’m just asking people I know for introductions or accepting the introductions that people send my way. Because everything I do is so intentional, it’s like, I don’t need a large large volume of borrowed audiences, or coffee chats, or podcasts or whatever marketing strategy I’m using at the moment. I just need to be really intentional about the quality. And like, especially with podcasting, like knowing who is in that audience, what are we going to talk about, you know, what’s the call to action going to be at the end? How can I really leverage this, like, leverage my time and my energy, but also just show up with a desire to serve the other person, right? Because I don’t want to just come on and like, talk about myself the whole time. It’s like, How can I really share what I do in a way that’s going to add value for the people who are listening for who this audience is?

Meg Casebolt 16:29
Yeah, and I love what you said about like, I except the referrals. I think sometimes we feel like and I mean, I don’t want to hear but it’s like, we feel like we have to cry and grind and grind and do the outreach and make every possible connection instead of like, oh, somebody did me a favor and brought someone to me, I will just honor that intention of theirs, that the two of us should get to know each other, it can be a receiving that isn’t always difficult or isn’t always initiated by us. You know, and I also love what you said about like, I don’t need to have a huge, you know, outreach of reaching this giant audience and sending emails you didn’t you didn’t say when I said, Where are you going to get your next client, you didn’t say I’m gonna go post on social media about our, I’m gonna send an email to, you know, 5000 people on an email list and see if somebody knows somebody, it was like, I’m going to reach out to past clients, I’m going to reach out to existing partners. So do you use social media or kind of broader email marketing within your business? And how does that fit into some of these strategies that we’re talking about?

Melissa Harstine 17:34
So I do not really use social media at the moment. I’ll maybe occasionally go in and post you know, a podcast episode that just came out. But I really found myself last summer like, I’ve always been in a love hate relationship with social media. But when Instagram came out last summer and said, We’re officially a video, first platform, I was like, no, no, thank you. So then I started thinking, like, really strategically, like, how am I using Instagram right now? Like, what functions do I need to replace somewhere else in my business, and I really was using it more as a connection platform to meet new people. You know, I may be following them commenting on their posts, trying to get their attention, but also just like having really great conversations in the DMS, like, tell me more about yourself, what do you do? Like, why do you why do you love this? How did you get this really great client result that you just shared on the stories last week? So I was like, How can I like transfer that really intentional, like one to one type of conversation that’s happening in the Instagram DMS, to some other part of my business. So I started having really intentional I call them coffee chats, but just you know, a 30 minute connection call on Zoom, where we’re just getting to know each other. And then often at the end of that conversation, you know, I’ll say, How can I support you? What can I do to help you? And then in return, it’s like, well, a way that you can help me is, do you know any copywriters? You know, who made like this type of support? Do you know anyone who has a podcast, right, like pulling together those different parts of my business through those connection calls? And then the other thing that I do is, I found that I was using social media to distribute content that educates people about what I do, because customer research is a little bit obscure, not everybody knows what it is. So I started thinking, how can I replace that function of social media as well. So what I ended up doing is not only inviting all of my social media followers to join my email list, I started this monthly event called the customer research roundtable. So it happens the last Wednesday of every month, and I send out an invitation to everyone on my list, and I also invite everybody that I’m connecting with throughout the month, whether it’s on a podcast or on a coffee chat, or whatever it is, and I’m able to like hanging out in a room of people for an hour, which is just so fun and so exciting for me, and tell them more about what I do, but it’s a really laid back conversation where people come they they bring questions like you You know, talk to me like, I’m five, how do I use customer research because I, I’m excited about it. But I don’t know how it works in my business. That was something a web designer asked me last month. And we’re able to have this really great conversation. And I think part of what’s so exciting is it’s like I see people go from problem aware to solution aware in that our conversation, because it’s like, I kind of think I know how this customer research thing works to like, wow, light bulb moment, I get it. And so it’s just been really, really fun for me to see those different relationship building strategies kind of work together as a whole to help me get in front of like the right audiences, build deeper relationships with people where people trust me where they think of me, we’re on top of mind, and also being able to really educate people about what I do all at the same time. What I

Meg Casebolt 20:48
love about what you just shared is like, it wasn’t just well, my people are on Instagram. So I have to be there too. What you did instead was break it down is like, what is the job that this tool is doing for me very, like jobs to be done framework in the way that I’m describing it now. But like, what are the jobs that I need this marketing outreach strategy to do I need to nurture and I need to educate and I need to connect with new people. Okay, how can I do those three things, nurturing, educating connection without using this platform? Because like, I don’t know if you’re familiar with Joss Whedon, but it’s like, it’s not platform specific. It’s not tool specific. It’s what is the outcome that we want to get to? What is the thing that somebody needs from this, right? So thinking of it that way? Like, how do you connect with people, oh, I’m going to create a forum where I can educate them. And I can nurture people who have recently entered my world by inviting them along to it. And it’s a specific time on my calendar, and I can still email my list, and I can share it on social if I want to. But the conversation, the connection, the education that is not happening in the DMS, where you feel obligated to be on it all the time, and that like that FOMO. And like, what if I miss a conversation, and then someone’s gonna think that I’m ignoring them, right? Like, you’ve created a separate space, without it needing to be a social network, without it needing to be a daily or hourly checkpoint? Where you’re, you are setting the timeline for it and the rules of engagement around it. I think that’s so smart.

Melissa Harstine 22:29
Yeah, you know, I talked to a lot of people make her like, I wish I could get off social media, I just don’t know how. And that was me, honestly, for over a year. I mean, even before the whole, like, Instagram is officially all about reels like that pushed me over the edge. Like, I’ve got to figure this out and stop thinking about it. Like, I just I didn’t know how I didn’t know how to get away from it. And I think that’s something that’s going through probably a lot of people’s minds right now, even as they’re listening to this conversation. And so, you know, I would encourage people just to take a tool, like a job to be done tools based approach like I did, and sit down with a notebook and just start breaking it down, like how am I currently using this tool? How am I currently using social media? You know, if it is education, if it’s nurturing, like, what would it look like in your own business, to start to replace those functions somewhere else? In your sales and marketing system?

Meg Casebolt 23:20
Yeah. And one of the things I like about that approach, too, is like, if you’re feeling like you’re struggling with how to get off of social media, definitely do some introspection around, you know, what is the job that social media is doing for me? But let’s talk about this with you specifically, Melissa, how can you use voice of customer research to understand what your client wants from you out of social media? Like maybe that’s also part of this conversation is if you’re trying to step back from it, if you’re trying to escape from it, whatever that looks like? How can what are some questions that you could potentially ask your clients? And in what format would you recommend for trying to figure out that solution of what your clients need from you and how you can deliver it differently?

Melissa Harstine 24:05
Yeah, you know, I think it probably starts with some hypotheses around. What do you think your customer, you’re the people that you’re connecting with on social media? Why do you think they’re there? What do you think they need and want, and then go out and start to test those hypotheses? You know, maybe it just starts with sending an invitation via email or a DM and saying, Hey, I’m doing some research. I would love to learn a little bit more about who you are and why you first connected with me. Would you be willing to hop on a 30 minute conversation with me or a 15 minute conversation with me on Zoom? Like no pressure, not gonna sell sell you anything, no sales pitch. I’m just honestly here to like, learn and put you first. And just putting the invitation out there.

Meg Casebolt 24:49
I think one of the things that’s worked for me when I’m doing these outreach calls and being asked to be on these outreach calls is to say let’s hop on for 20 minutes. 30 minutes for the first 10 In minutes, I want to talk to you about what’s happening in your life and in your business. And then I want you to feel comfortable to ask me anything you want no holds barred carte blanche, like, I will give you free advice about your business. So people feel like they’re going to get something from you that they would normally have to pay, you know, my, my one hour session is like 300 bucks, I’ll give you 15 minutes for free. If you just want to come ask me questions about your business and talk about how that could work for you with zero sales pitch zero obligation, I just want to talk to you. So being able to set the scene that not only am I helping you by talking to you, but you are then going to help me by giving me that free advice. And regularly when I’m on either and those calls, I end up working with that person.

Melissa Harstine 25:48
Exactly. Yeah. And it’s amazing. You know, again, going back to that one to one connection, when you can have that really intentional conversation with someone, it just, I think, increases your awareness of what it is they do, but also increases that desire to work for you. You know, I’m circling back a little bit here in the conversation. But part of the reason I wanted to do a roundtable for my own business and use that strategy is because I was going to wrong tables that other people were hosting. And I noticed in myself this growing desire to work with that person at some point in the future after every single time I was around them. Because I’m like, wow, this is so cool. This thing that you do, you know whether it’s you know, I’ve been to a sales roundtable with a sales coach, I’ve gone to like the the SpeakUp session, I think Hillary Ray was a guest on your podcast a few months ago make. But it’s like, it’s such a great way to, as the business owner, educate your audience to create that desire to nurture those relationships. But then just as the person who’s a guest to really get a lot of value, that you can then go back and apply in your business and you’re not having to pay $300 an hour to get that value.

Meg Casebolt 26:56
But you can still ask that personalized question almost like a like the Ask Me Anything forum. q&a is that you see on a platform, like read it a lot, but in real time, where you can also get FaceTime with that person. And you can come on the screen, if it’s a zoom and say, Hey, I’m a web designer. And I have this question about how customer research works for this type of business. And then that person who you’re trying to get in front of also sees your name recognizes your industry sees the value of your question. And whether you’re doing these conversations, one to one, or one to many, as the person who’s leading the conversation as the person who’s hosting the space, every question that you get, can then turn into maybe a video on your YouTube channel or a question in your FAQ on your website. You know, every time that somebody asks you a question in that sort of environment, it can easily be turned into, okay, if this person is coming to me, and they’re asking me this question live, there’s going to be 100 other people in my audience who have the same question who are thinking it, but they didn’t raise their hand for this call, or they couldn’t make it to this particular session. And often, the people who are showing up are the most engaged, they’re the most likely to buy, but the questions that they’re asking could help other people move closer to a sale at the same time.

Melissa Harstine 28:15
And then once you’re having those conversations with people, you can ask questions like, you know, when you think about website design, or SEO, or whatever it is that you’re offering, what is going on in your life, when you first realize that you need support with this, like, this is a struggle for you what is like the bigger context that’s happening? Because I think a lot of times, you know, we jump straight to the solution. But we don’t know why that solution is needed. We don’t know why there’s a motivation for them to actually change. Because until people have a reason to make a change, you know, that example I shared earlier, I have been thinking for a long time about getting off social media. But the motivation for me to change was, I don’t know what to do, really. And so I was like, I need to figure this out now. But your customers, they’re going through that same like thought process every single day, like they may be interested in, you know, SEO, website design, coaching, whatever the service is, and they may be having a great conversation with you or, you know, gathering information. But there’s something that happens, that motivates them to like, make this a priority now. And so if you can figure that out, and then start to talk about that in your social media content and your email content in the conversations that you’re having, that’s going to make your work more effective. Something that was really hard for me, when I was marketing my business primarily on social media and email is I didn’t know what to write. Like, I’m a writer, I do research for others, but I’m so close to it. I just had a really hard time. You know, there’ll be times I spent eight to 12 hours literally writing one email and start over, you know, and it’s it’s, that was frustrating and going back to the art or conversation about managing time and energy. I didn’t have eight to 12 hours to spare. But what I’m seeing now, by having these intentional one to one conversations with my ideal audience more than once a month, you know, sometimes three to five times and having these one to many conversations at roundtables. I know what questions are in people’s mind. I know what they’re struggling with, I know what their desires are, I know what they’re wanting and needing I know how they’re expressing those things in their own words. And I can now write my newsletter in as little as two hours. Because I have that data from those conversations. So it’s just making my life and my business more efficient.

Meg Casebolt 30:38
Yeah. And to loop back to something you said earlier, which I thought was so freakin powerful. What is the moment that people are coming to you in? What is the change that is happening in their life? That turns them from curious to ready to purchase? You know, you gave a couple examples, too. But I’m always reminding people that, like, if you’re doing keyword research, if you’re thinking about when people are going to get interested in your business and go seek you out, what is the moment that they’re that things get just hard enough? Or that they’re struggling with something that just, it’s been on their mind for a while, but they finally go look for a solution, and it may not be searched? It may be, you know, what, we bought our house six years ago, and all of a sudden, last month, I was like, it is time for us to get on the train to start remodeling this kitchen. Why did it happen that day, it has been six years in the making. But there was something in my brain that just clicked and went, Okay, I’m gonna, I didn’t even go to Google, I went to my Facebook page. And I went, Okay, local, local friends, who have you used to redesign your kitchens, and I got a bunch of different leads. And then I went to Google and I got a bunch of different leads. And I started doing the outreach. And we now have two designers that are designing kitchen ideas for us, all within two weeks. So we sort of have to figure out and this is where customer research can be so powerful. What is that moment of change? What is the moment of action, where your potential customer goes from? Curious and oh, maybe we should do that sometime too? Like, who do you know, and how much do they cost? And how do I get on their schedule? Right? Like, what are some questions that you ask in the customer research process to get to that moment of decision?

Melissa Harstine 32:24
Yeah, the first question, I always say I always start an interview with just a little bit of chit chat just to kind of put people at ease to kind of figure out their tone and their energy, you know, so I can mirror that back to them. But kind of Once that is out of the way, the first question I always ask is, take me back to the day when you first realize that you need to support with XYZ, whether it’s social media, whether it’s SEO, whether it’s you know, buying a house, what was

Meg Casebolt 32:51
kitchen design, when you’re like, This is driving me crazy, and these will only afford gotta go.

Melissa Harstine 32:59
It’s yours that you’ve owned your house. But what was changed today, you know, so by asking that specific question, take me back to the day when you first realized, right? It’s kind of helping them set the scene in their mind. And like, imagine, like it takes them back. And they can they can picture that moment. They can feel it, whether or not it’s conscious or not, right? It’s not just like, when did you decide you wanted help with your website? Take me back to that specific day, what was happening? And that what was happening? Question is open ended enough that a lot of times, they don’t just go straight to that it was this thing, it was them verbal processing, and just talking through it for, you know, three or four minutes, even sometimes, before they get to that moment. But what that allows me to do as a researcher, or if you’re doing your own research, you’re starting to understand that entire thought process, this whole series of thoughts and events and feelings and situations in life and business that led up to that moment, when they’re like, this is bad enough, this is urgent enough, this is whatever enough that I need to actually get support. Because when you know all of those thoughts and feelings that lead up to that moment of change, that’s where you can really go in and start to create some really effective and powerful content that’s going to meet people and drop those breadcrumbs along the way. So that when they reach out to you know, when they have that problem, you’re the first person that comes to mind, you’re the remodeler that they’re going to recommend you’re the you know, strategist or coach that they’re going to recommend. Because you’ve been seeding that idea all along.

Meg Casebolt 34:29
Yeah, like what I was telling you last summer, I saw a huge influx of people coming to me for SEO, because the Facebook, iOS updates were rolling out and suddenly leads were getting more and more expensive. They were lower quality, like all of the paid social algorithm shifts were happening. And people were like, well, if I’m going to spend money on you know, on traffic generation, I may as well have it be organic. And I noticed that and started kind of seeding that idea through my messaging, not in like a, you know, drop your Facebook ads, but just like if they Facebook ads are getting you down. Here’s an alternative, right? And it’s starting to recognize those changes. My friend Kayla used to be a web designer. And she noticed that a lot of her clients were often going through major life changes when they would hire her where it’s like, oh, you know, I need a new website, because my business partner and I are splitting ways. And now I need to create a new website to set myself apart, or I just went through a divorce, and I need to change my name back. And as long as I’m making that shift, I want to rebrand and then the rebrand to take on a whole new like, who am I now as, you know, a person who is now single after being in a relationship for so long, and there’s always more behind the scenes of the decisions people are making than what we think about as just marketers.

Melissa Harstine 35:46
Yeah, you know, I think it’s easy to oversimplify who we think our ideal client is, and just kind of be guessing. You know, sometimes it’s as simple as well, my ideal clients in her 30s, she, you know, does yoga and shops at Target and has a messy bun, right? Like that very generic picture of me.

Meg Casebolt 36:02
That’s a Yep. Yoga target messy bun. But I’m not in recording mode. You nailed it. Many of it, yeah, I fit the demographic, I’m such a basic pitch.

Melissa Harstine 36:14
Speaking to that, in my marketing, that’s not going to like be enough for you to actually come and say, hey, well, listen, I need to hire us to do customer research, right? Those are demographics. Those are external, observable characteristics. What customer research really gets at is those things that are in the heart and in the mind, you know, it’s why people do what they do, which is known as psychographics. And I think, you know, when you can really dig into those, those why questions, the psychographics. You know, that’s where I can come in, and I can create content, or I can shape conversations around those things that I know people are thinking, but there may not even be saying yet. They may not even be conscious of it themselves that they’re thinking. It’s just like the subconscious thing happening in their mind. I can create marketing conversations and content that speak to those things. Because I’ve done that research, and I know it, and it’s so much deeper than just, I love Pete working with people that you know, have a minivan go to Target and we’re investing

Meg Casebolt 37:13
and love pumpkin spice lattes. Unless you’re selling companies with iced lattes, at which point maybe we should talk about it. Well, thank you so much. Any final thoughts that you want to share with us?

Melissa Harstine 37:26
Yeah, you know, if you’re listening, and you’re wondering, a, you know, how, how can I add more? How can I do more of this customer research in my own business? You know, what types of questions should I even be asking? I do have a resource for that, a guide on how to do an effective customer research interview, and just a list of like, 15 questions that you can ask to get to those heart level, you know, psychographics, you know, those deeper things. That’s at Melissa research. And I also would honestly just put an invitation out there, where if you’re thinking about shifting away from social media, and doing more of these, you know, collaborative, collaborative marketing strategies, and you just want to brainstorm together, how to replace those the things that social media is currently doing for you and your business. We can just talk, um, feel free to send me an email at Melissa at Melissa I’m sure we’ll have this in the show notes as well. Absolutely, we will. And we can just set up a time to chat because I know that sometimes the hardest thing when trying to get away from social media is just knowing where to start. So if I can be a value and just brainstorm together, let me know. I’m happy to do that.

Meg Casebolt 38:38
That is such a generous offer. Thank you so much for your time and your generosity, Melissa. Really appreciate it. Thank you for being here. Thanks, Meg.

Melissa Harstine 38:45
It’s been a blast.

Meg Casebolt 38:49
Thank you so much for listening to the social slowdown podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe or come on over to social and sign up for our email list so you never miss an episode. We’d also love if you could write a review to help other small business owners find the show you can head over to social Or grab that link in our show notes for easy access. We’ll be back soon with more tips to help you market your business without being beholden to social media. Talk to you then.

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