Brilliant Voice of Customer Hacks to Test Market Fit

Voice of Customer

This post is part of a series, 12 Steps to Begin Developing and Executing a Basic Digital Marketing Strategy."

Today we’ll go a little deeper into Voice of Customer (VOC). So far you’ve completed the first three steps. You’ve defined the problem, developed a set of hypotheses to test, and completed a competitive analysis. The next step is testing everything through VOC. The best way to learn about your customer is to ask them. It's important to remember a few things here … VOC means ask questions, actively listen, and do not under any circumstances try to sell!


There are many different ways to collect VOC. Some of these include customer interviews, focus groups, surveys, general observations and/or test customers. For this exercise we’re going to focus on interviews and surveys. Both of these methods are easy and free to conduct. 

It is important to ask open-ended questions. A simple way to construct open-ended questions is to start with Who, What, When, Why, and How? If you need to use leading questions, begin a question by painting a small picture… yet, allow your customers to fill in the rest. Try to create questions that allow you to cover several hypotheses with one question. Actively listen and dig deeper by asking them “what else?” Another valuable tactic is summarizing through feeling. “I feel as if…” then provide your summary and ask if you are correct. They will either confirm or reject your summary, but provide more information.

Massage your VOC questions based on your audience and channel

Before I jump into the types of questions you can ask, let’s cover a little bit of background. When you develop your own questions, you’ll need to massage the questions for the type of VOC channel you are using and audience. There are 1000s of different questions, tools, data you can use to conduct in-depth VOC. In fact, there are startups and huge companies that focus on helping companies collect VOC. As an example, 9Lenses is an awesome company I’ve worked with before.

Our goal is to develop a basic marketing strategy. We want to get your offering on the market as quickly and efficiently as possible. As you scale, gain funding, or increase revenues, you can develop more robust VOC systems. This includes collecting VOC data from several places within the buyer journey and a product’s life cycle.  

What types of questions should you ask? 

  • Background – Ask questions to gain general background information. What’s their role? What do they have responsibility for? How long? Get a general sense of whom they are.

  • Demographics – Age, Gender, Location, Income Level, Marital Status, Occupation.

  • Psychographics – What are their behaviors, beliefs, and preferences? How do they prefer to learn about products? Where do they purchase? Who / what influences their purchasing decision? What is a typical day for them?

  • Pain Points/Challenges – What are your customer pain points? What challenges they are experiencing?

  • Goals and Objectives – What are their G&O’s? How will they use or consume your offering?

  • Needs, Wants, Desires – What do they need to solve their pain point? What do they want that’s value added? What’s nice to have, but not required?

  • Outcomes – What metrics do they use to ensure a product or service has met their requirements? How does it make them feel?

  • MVP – If a manufacturer or service provider offered you “X”, (describe your MVP here) would you listen to them? Would you consider purchasing their product / service? Why or why not? What else? Be careful not to sell. Present the basic MVP, actively listen, dig deeper, but do not sell.

  • Common Objections – Why don’t they currently use a product or service to help them? If they do, what do they like about it? What would they improve? If they were the manufacturer or service provider, what would they do different?

Where can I reach potential customers to gain VOC?

There are 3 immediate answers. If you have current customers, start with Step 1. If you don’t, move to steps 2 & 3.  

1). Ask your established customer base. The 1st one is simple, but only applies to anyone that already has customers. You can do this via the phone, surveys, or in person.

Even if you have customers, conduct steps 2 and 3 below as well. A few months ago I executed all 3 steps for a financial services firm. This firm thought they knew everything about their customers and prospects. We uncovered a 1B+ market they weren’t serving. Plus, found a few, let’s call them, “counterintuitive” perspectives from their current customers.

2) Walk outside your door. More than likely you live in or are close to a relatively populated community. Head out your door and speak with people in your community to collect VOC. I list out a few examples below. Read these over, and adapt them to your business, offering, and location. List as many places as possible. Don’t worry about finding the perfect place. Get a long list going and prioritize later:

  • Hosted Events at the Small Business Administration, Chamber of Commerce, Meetups, Incubator/Accelerator Programs, Job Fairs, etc.

  • Academic Institutions, Entrepreneurial Centers & Co-Working Spaces

  • Friends, Colleagues, your High School, Undergraduate & Graduate School Network

3) Online: To reach out and connect with potential customers online, you’ll need to find out where they “hang out.” Some specific online examples include: 

  • Quora, Medium, & Blogs

  • Startup Networks, Websites, & Online Boards

  • Social Media – LinkedIn Groups, Facebook Groups, Google+ & Twitter

Before bombarding social media groups with tons of questions, read and understand the guidelines for each site and group. If it’s a group, join. Then, take some time to read the content already provided. Maybe comment on a few posts. Then ask a single question. When you receive comments, kindly ask people if you can follow up with them.

For Quora, the whole point is to ask a question and have an expert answer. Again, follow the same example above. Ask, listen, and connect.  On Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, you can create survey using SurveyMonkey, Twitter polls, or some site like that. Make your survey professional with some sort of graphic, picture, etc. Don’t just post a comment, "Take my survey" with a link. Also, try to limit your surveys to the most important questions (10-15 max). SurveyMonkey provides tips on conducting surveys on social media.

Once you’ve completed steps 1, 2, and 3, analyze your data. Take a step back, share the info with friends and colleagues. Then provide it back to your potential customers. Ask for their thoughts and perspectives. Did your hypotheses stand up? What should you adjust and refine?

Now we’ve completed your initial VOC. We’ve defined the problem. Developed hypotheses. Tested those hypotheses with VOC. In Step 5 (next week) we'll use this information to develop Customer Outcomes. Now you know exactly who your customers are and where they hang out. Plus, have a good understanding for a Minimum Viable Product.

If this post has helped you, please share it with your friends and network. As always, I welcome feedback and comments. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Stewart Swayze