The buying process has changed
Today’s technology buyer is better informed than ever. There’s an abundance of information available on nearly every topic you could imagine, and it’s all just 2 or 3 clicks away. This, combined with the fact that SaaS has made it easier than ever to try before you buy, makes it super easy for buyers to conduct research, select a few products to try, narrow the field, and then (midway through the buying process) finally make contact with the businesses they’ve placed on their shortlist.
But that’s not all.
There are online communities, Facebook groups, forums, review sites, networking groups, members-only clubs, influencers, social media channels, and news feeds available for nearly every topic as well.
This is the so-called dark web. A place where businesses lose sight of their buyer and are unable to track and measure their activities. But technology is always changing and with the right techniques, you can find some bright spots in the dark web.
Word of Mouth is Back – and it’s stronger than ever
Many businesses have gotten really good at instrumenting product usage analytics to better understand how their customers use their products. They measure things like how long it takes new customers to achieve value, how many team members new customers add to an account, how often key features are used, and some even take things a step further and use this data to compile scores that trigger expansion or churn signals.
But this is just scratching the surface. There is a treasure trove of data available for businesses that know how to listen and mine insights from online conversations.
If you consider that 80% or more of the interactions you have with a customer result in unstructured (text-based) data you quickly come to realize that relying exclusively on product usage data to determine how to prioritize and communicate with your customers is less than ideal. At best, it lacks context. At worst, it’s completely misleading.
Let’s look at the many different touch points that exist along the customer journey. You have in-app chat conversations, long-form notes in your CRM from sales and customer success, transcripts from customer calls, online reviews, community interactions, social media content, and helpdesk tickets to name just a few.
This data is mostly unstructured text and historically, has been very difficult to analyze at scale. But with tools like LoudNClear you can now analyze text-based data at scale to derive contextual insights.
Consider this example…
One of your most engaged customers from a product usage standpoint could actually be super frustrated with your product, having multiple support tickets open, several poor in-app chat experiences, and asking questions on Twitter and Reddit looking for alternative solutions. These are two very different pictures.
If your team does not have access to the data needed to bring context to your customer’s usage patterns, then you risk delivering experiences that lack empathy and are off-point.
BTW – it works the other way too.
You could have a customer that looks like they’re not super engaged that actually loves your product. This customer could be talking you up on social, advocating for you in forums, and giving props to your success team, but you think they’re not a great customer (because of their usage patterns) and treat them as if they need help or don’t understand your product.
Context is the key to engaging your customers with empathy. And, incorporating conversational intelligence into your data mix is the only way for you to truly gain an understanding of your customer’s situation and perspective.
So what do you do!?
Conversational Intelligence Opportunities and Techniques
Extracting intelligence from your customer conversations might seem like an obvious place to start, but let’s not take anything for granted. Your customers are your most important audience. Your number 1 priority should be to understand their needs and give them what they need.
Customer Intelligence Opportunities
1. Monitor customer engagement with your product
- Which features do your customers use/not use?
- How often do they use your product?
- How much difficulty do they have using your product?
- Where does friction exist?
2. Monitor how your customers feel about your product and brand
- Monitor sentiment for each individual
- Monitor sentiment rolled up to the company level
- Analyze unstructured text (CRM notes properties, CS and Sales call transcripts, community threads, chat threads) for positive and negative terms. e.g. show me all of the conversations that include the terms (poor, negative, problem, broken, crashed, doesn’t work, error, can’t find, etc).
3. Understand things your customers are interested in, or passionate about for opportunities to show them you know them.
(Shout out to Sam McKenna who teaches SMYKM techniques)
- What do they post on social media?
- Have they recently celebrated something?
- Are they learning something new?
- Did they just start a new job?
- Have they recently shared some important life-changing event?
4. Understand intent signals
- Are your customers engaging with premium features?
- Have they attended a product event recently?
- Have they mentioned a problem in social, or in conversation that an advanced feature can help them solve?
- Have they engaged with training materials?
- Have they asked a chat question related to an advanced feature?
Your product is very closely aligned with your customers. You’ll almost always consume product usage data within the context of how your customer is engaging with your product. This is especially true for product led businesses. However, there is also value in aggregating all of your product usage data to uncover trends and insights that may not be visible at the individual customer level.
These insights can help you prioritize your roadmap, segment your most valuable customers, identify beta feature prospects, identify lame-duck customers, segment power users, etc.
Product Intelligence Opportunities:
1. How does product usage vary by industry?
2. What does your product adoption curve look like and how does it compare to your newest cohort of customers?
3. Are there certain features that very few customers use?
4. What percent of your customer base logs in every day, uses x feature, has more than x users, has open support tickets, has experienced a critical failure, etc
5. What behaviors are most likely to lead to upgrades?
6. What behavior correlates with churn risk?
Your advocates represent a special opportunity. These are customers that not only love your product, but are also willing to share their stories with their networks, refer you to friends, and are always willing to provide feedback on new or existing features.
Advocates are a great asset and you should pay close attention to what they say and do. Segmenting them from your customer base can be tricky. To do this effectively you need to be able to analyze product usage data, alongside CRM, social media, sentiment, and unstructured text data from calls, meetings, chat, social, etc.
Advocate Intelligence Opportunities:
1. Listen to the things your advocates say on social media
2. Pay attention to the way your advocates use your product
3. Listen to how they engage with your frontline teams
4. Regularly solicit feedback from your advocates on product features, customer experience, roadmap, onboarding, value, friction, etc
5. Pay attention to the channels and communities where they are active
6. What industries do they work in?
7. What titles do they hold?
8. What do they care about?
A healthy dose of reality (not everyone is going to love you) is needed from time to time. There is a lot to learn from detractors about who your product is NOT for. The goal here is not to turn them into advocates. The goal is to understand what makes them unique so you can avoid bringing more of them into to customer base.
Detractor Intelligence Opportunities:
1. Listen to the things your detractors say on social media
2. Pay attention to the way your detractors use your product
3. Listen to how they engage with your frontline teams
4. Pay attention to the channels and communities where they are active
5. What industries do they work in?
6. What titles do they hold?
7. What do they care about?
Ahh, your peers. This one is all about social and community. You need to be present. If you’re active on LinkedIn and have been building your personal brand then you’re off to a great start. If not … there’s no time like the present to start building.
Start by identifying and following some of your peers that you know and respect. Listen for a while, and when you feel comfortable begin to engage in the conversation. Eventually, you’ll be comfortable with sharing your opinion. This is networking in 2022.
Peer Intelligence Opportunities:
1. Follow your peers on LinkedIn and any other relevant channels
2. Follow specific topics in the same channels
3. Engage in conversation
4. Have an opinion, and share it.
5. Listen to the conversation. What resonates with your target audience?
6. Are there common threads?
Your competitors have to be on your radar. You’ve definitely done competitive research. More than likely you have all of your top competitors bookmarked, and you probably have some competitive battle cards and other enablement materials. But what you really need is a steady stream of content that you can mine for insights and trigger alerts off when interesting moments occur.
Competitor Intelligence Opportunities:
1. Listen to your competitors’ social media channels; with the right tool (loundnclear) you can easily filter for specific keywords and topics.
2. Listen in communities and more general social channels for competitive mentions
3. Listen to your CRM, chat, and call transcripts for competitive mentions, and lost deals to competitors.
Community is a treasure trove of information and insights, but it needs to be mined. With the right techniques, you can learn an awful lot from your community. Depending on the types of conversations occurring in your community you’ll want to approach listening slightly different, but generally speaking here are some ideas to get you started.
Community Intelligence Opportunities:
1. Listen for specific brand and/or feature mentions
2. Listen for positive/negative sentiment
3. Listen for your most active community members (those asking questions, and those answering questions)
4. Listen for problems your community raises that you can solve with product updates
5. Listen for repeating themes
6. Listen for trending topics for content ideas, tutorials, etc
Analysts become relevant at different stages of growth and are more relevant to certain industries than others. One thing is for sure, they have opinions and influence in defining category leaders. For this reason alone it makes sense to listen to the topics they are interested in and the reasons they have chosen the category leaders.
Analysts also conduct a significant amount of market research and can be a valuable source of information and validation. Just keep in mind that analysts are not motivated by the same things as you, and there will always be some bias in their feedback. This data is still valuable and building relationships with the right analysts will give you an opportunity to influence their narrative and point of view.
Analyst Intelligence Opportunities:
1. Identify the analysts that are relevant to your industry and listen to their social media i.e. follow them on LinkedIn and Twitter
2. Listen to the analysts’ parent channels for specific mentions relative to your brand. Brand mentions, category mentions, competitor mentions, and other relevant keywords.
3. Listen in relevant communities for analyst mentions
4. Listen for opportunities to engage in conversations with analysts
5. Be heard by participating in conversations with analysts
Influencers are leading mini communities these days. LinkedIn has made it possible for an individual to build followers of 50,000+. At this scale, these influencers have access to a tremendous amount of community power. It takes time and a lot of effort to build a following this large, but you can tap into some of these benefits by becoming an active member of the mini-communities that are relevant to your business.
Influencer Intelligence Opportunities:
1. Identify and follow the thought leaders that are relevant to your business. If you’re B2B, focus on LinkedIn first, unless you have some intelligence that suggests another channel would be more productive for you.
2. Follow hashtags relevant to your business
3. Listen for opportunities to engage in the conversation
4. Listen for competitive mentions
5. Listen for the problem you solve
6. Listen for the benefits that you offer
Prospects are interesting. Some of them are qualified and some of them are not. Both of these people represent learning opportunities. Assuming we’re talking about prospects that are in your known universe, all of these people entered your pipeline in one way or another. What can you learn from them?
Prospect Intelligence Opportunities:
1. Listen for how they heard about you
2. Listen for why they converted
3. Listen to understand if they’re considering alternative solutions and how they view your product in comparison to your competitors
4. Listen for where they see value in your product or service
5. Listen for your prospects’ problems, goals, near and long-term priorities, etc
Ok, I’m sold … But how do I get started with conversational intelligence?
Conversational intelligence at this scale requires technology.
You could take all of the learnings from this guide and go hunt for tools, or you can start today by taking a look at LoudNClear. LoudNClear makes it easy to:
1. Normalize, join, and digest all of your customer data (CRM, HelpDesk, Product Usage, In-App Chat, Slack, CSV, etc)
2. Build Customer Segments, Surface Insights, and Trigger Actions
3. Build Reports and Dashboards and conduct Exploratory Analysis
4. Understand the Sentiment of every product user and company
Gaining visibility to the conversations that are taking palace (with or without you) is the foundation for building long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with your customers. It is this context that will equip your team to communicate with empathy and precision to make your customers feel heard, valued, and respected.