Kristin Zhivago on How To Sell the Way Your Customers Want to Buy


Today, I’m talking with Kristin Zhivago, the author of Roadmap to Revenue: How to Sell the Way Your Customers Want to Buy and President of Zhivago Partners a digital marketing management company that helps clients with customer and digital presence research.

We hear it time and time again, “You need to get out of the office and talk to your customers.” But we rarely hear about what that actually looks like in practice and how that helps us grow our business.

In our interview today, Kristin changes that by laying out how to interview your customers to get the information you need and then what to do with that information once you have it.

If you aren’t regularly having calls with your customers, and I mean multiple times a month, then you need to listen to this episode. Even if you are having those conversations, tune in so you can be sure you’re getting the most out of them.

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Topics covered:

  • (00:25) – Kristin’s background and what led to the development of her latest book
    • (01:35) – Insights gained from the thousands of customers Kristin interviewed for her clients.
    • (01:35) – The Gross Assumption Problem or GAP.
    • (03:00) – Common mistakes Kristin has observed companies making in the client customer communication process.
      • (03:06) – Misconception of what it means to be ‘talking’ with their clients.
      • (04:08) – Speaking with a customer that you’re selling to versus one who has already bought from you.
      • (04:54) – Not asking the right questions and relying on surveys.
  • (05:18) – Interviewing your customers the right way
    • (05:21) – In person interviews versus interviews conducted over the phone.
      • Too big an obligation.
      • Introduces physical elements of clothing, distractions and potential embarrassments.
      • (05:44) – The positive effects of interviewing them in their comfort zone.
    • (06:12) – Why asking open-ended questions is important.
      • (06:34) – Example questions.
    • (07:19) – The main reasons why interviewing clients is an important step in the sales process.
      • (07:44) – Reverse-engineering a successful sales process.
      • (07:44) – Understanding who your customer really is.
        • Their specific needs come out in properly conducted interview.
    • (10:42) – How to approach shaping and guiding the interview.
      • (10:57) – The effect open-ended questions have in shaping an interview.
        • The questions guide the interview.
    • (11:37) – The importance of transcribing your interviews.
      • Splitting the conversations into categories to maintain anonymity.
      • (12:09) – Present the organized categories with an executive summary to management.
      • (15:43) – Studying the transcripts can provide specific insights.
      • (17:43) – The variables used to create the organizational categories.
        • (18:04) – How the customer came to you.
        • (18:04) – Why they bought from you.
        • (18:10) – Dissecting the buying process for the four types of products and services that are sold in the world.
          • (18:23) – Light scrutiny, medium scrutiny, heavy scrutiny, intense scrutiny.
  • (19:57) – How to act on your customer interviews
    • (20:13) – Recent innovations that have changed marketing and accelerated its pace.
      • Google and mobile.
    • (20:48) – Mapping out the buying process and deciding which resources are going to apply.
      • (21:00) – Email campaigns, trade show booths.
      • (21:18) – The importance of effective SEO.
        • (22:02) – Determining key search phrases.
      • (22:27) – The ongoing nature of the process.
      • (23:04) – Using lead forensics.
    • (23:20) – Measuring results.
      • (23:45) – Having a realistic understanding of the timeline of the process.
      • (24:37) – Testing and adapting.
      • (25:43) – Google Analytics.
      • (26:22) – Revenue and conversions.
    • (27:57) – When companies should begin to consider using these methods for their own growth.
      • As soon as possible
        • Helps shape the product development.
      • (28:24) – How to leverage other people’s talent to help you grow.
  • (30:26) – Future trends in the buying process that Kristin is looking towards.
    • (30:39) – Increases in customer speed and savviness.
    • (30:39) – Advances in software tools.
    • (31:32) – Decreased attention windows.
    • (31:32) – The ever increasing competitive nature of the marketplace.
    • (32:57) – How using the interviewing process can keep you on the cutting edge of trends and developments and keep your business relevant.

Rapid-fire Questions:

  • (34:39) – What do you spend too much time doing?
  • (35:14) – What do you not spend enough time doing?
  • (36:14) – What are you hoping to accomplish in the next quarter?

Resources mentioned:

  • SpyFu:  A recommended software tool for researching competitor keywords.  (24:22)

Where to learn more:

If you want to hear more about what Kristin is up to or to get in touch directly, you can find her on LinkedIn and at her own personal site,

And to get a copy of Roadmap to Revenue:  How to Sell the Way Your Customer’s Want to Buy, head on over to Amazon.


Andy:  Kristin, thank you so much for coming on my show today.

Kristin:  0:00:03.5  Well thank you for inviting me, I appreciate it.

Andy:  0:00:06.1  Of course, and I’m actually really excited to talk about this because at the company I joined up recently Groove, we have been undergoing a lot of customer research to better understand the customer’s buying process.  Because that is something that is so easy to take for granted in any company.

But here, we’re going to talk a little bit more about how companies can fix that.  0:00:25.7  You’re the author of “Roadmap to Revenue”.  Can you just tell us a little bit about how that book came about?

Kristin:  0:00:31.7  Yeah.  Actually the full title is, “Roadmap to Revenue:  How to Sell the Way Your Customer’s Want to Buy.”  And it seems like a stupidly simple concept when you’re a buyer.  As a buyer we see it all the time.  We don’t get questions answered, we can’t find something, it’s not easy to contact the person.

I mean, just simple things.  Like everybody in their from on their emails should have their phone number up there so they don’t have to go inside – and not only go inside your email and find out you have no contact information, which is the second sin, but the fact that if they want to find you, they can just find you.  There’s your phone number, they call you, and I don’t know how many people – most people don’t do that.  98% of them.

0:01:15.9  So little things like that where you understand what the customer is trying to do and you support it.  The minute you put on your company owner hat or your seller hat, you lose all that perspective, and you get further and further away from what the customer’s thinking and what they care about.

0:01:35.8  So I should say that the book came about, because by the time that I wrote the book I had interviewed thousands of customers for my clients.  Mostly tech companies, but a lot of others as well.

And I kept finding the same basic problem, which is something I call the Gross Assumption Problem.  Or the GAP.  And the GAP is that the company thinks these ten things are really important to customers and then you go out and interview customers and their list is completely different.

Andy:  0:02:04.4  Yup.

Kristin:  0:02:06.6  So I knew there was a real problem and it still exists today.  It hasn’t changed.  It’s actually getting worse when people make up personas and they think Google is the answer.  And yes, you still now have to sell to Google, that’s your other customer now, but people are still missing the mark with relevant content because they haven’t talked to the human beings who are buying from them.  0:02:30.5  And there’s a way to do it, I learned it, and I put it in the book.

Andy:  0:02:32.6  Awesome.  So I want to make sure about that way to do it, because I think knowing what you – what to do when you’re talking to customers is hugely important, but before we get there, I just want to ask, what are the issues, the common issues that you see when people aren’t talking to customers.

Because I know what it’s like working in an early stage startup.  I know how most other founders are, and when they kind of think about this, they say, “Yeah that makes sense, but we’re different, we know our customers, we don’t make those mistakes.”

0:03:00.6  So what are some of the mistakes that most companies are making if they’re not actually talking to their customers?

Kristin:  0:03:06.0  Well, first of all, they think they are talking to customers because their sales people are out there talking to customers.  The problem is, one, they’re talking to customers and customers are not necessarily telling them what they really think.

0:03:23.1  And the way I get passed this problem, is the CEO would say something like, “Oh we don’t need research, we talk to our customers all the time.”  And I say, “Well who does?”  And they say, “Our sales people.”  And I say, “Ok, when was the last time you told a sales person what you were really thinking?”  And every single one of them goes, “Oh.”  Right?  Oops.  I’ve never told any sales person the truth.

It’s a poker game when somebody is selling to you, and you’re not revealing your hand.  They may have just completely blown the sale and you don’t even twitch an eyebrow.  You just let them go and be stupid because you don’t want to hear your challenges back to you, you don’t want them to argue with you.  You just want to get them out of there so you can go back to your computer and try to find somebody else.

0:04:08.3  So, you can’t get it from the customer when you’re selling to the customer.  But after the customer has bought from you, they have a vested interest in your success, they’re no longer playing poker.  They want to help.  And so you can actually get them on the phone for an hour.

I mean, even the most busy people – I’ve interviewed surgeons for Johnson & Johnson, and CEOs of companies and such, and I always manage to get them on the phone using the methods that I have worked out.

0:04:38.4  And you know, you don’t get everybody.  If you send out 15 emails, you’ll end up interviewing five people.  But you will get those five people and the fifth to seventh conversation, by that time, you actually get the trends that teach you what you need to know.

0:04:54.3  So after they’ve bought from you, they’ll tell you all kinds of stuff.  And then you have to ask the right questions, of course.

Andy:  0:05:00.7  So let’s talk about that.  Let’s talk about the way that you’re interviewing these customers.  Because it’s something where, at least in the startup world in the past couple of years, everyone has been preaching the importance of getting out of the audience and talking to customers, but very few people are saying how you actually do that.

0:05:18.7  So, what does this interview process actually look like?

Kristin:  0:05:21.8  Well first of all, I don’t think you should interview them in person.  It’s too big of an obligation on their part, number one.  Number two, it introduces all of those physical problems.  You know, like how are you dressed and anything that might be distracting about you, or they might be embarrassed about.  So they actually talk less freely in person than they do on the phone.

0:05:44.6  If you get them on the phone in their normal environment or even when they are taking a cab or driving somewhere, they’re in their comfort zone, they can talk freely.  0:05:55.7  That’s the best place for them.

So that’s where you conduct the interview.  And they just tell you more when they’re on the phone than they do in person.  They’re more likely to be embarrassed or leave things out when they’re in person.

0:06:07.3  And believe me, I’ve done it both ways and done all the other things too.  The surveys, the focus groups, all that stuff.  0:06:12.8  And I kept coming back to this method because it was so good.  The second thing is you have to ask open-ended questions so that it’s not like a survey.

Because if you survey them, they’re going to get bored and irritated and start doing their email and start wanting to do something else and cut the call short.

0:06:34.4  And the questions in my book, chapter three of the book just spells it exactly how to get them on the phone and interview them.  And I’ve worked out a number of questions that work for just about any industry.

Open-ended questions like, “How did you feel about our product and service?”  “If you were the CEO of our company tomorrow, what’s the first thing you would fix?”  “What trends do you see in your market?”  So you can identify opportunities.  “What’s the thing that drives you crazy every day?”  So you can find out where the challenges are.  “If you were looking for this product or service again, how would you search for it?”

I mean, these are all questions that were worked out over literally thousands of interviews and they work.  0:07:16.0  And of course you can have your own very specific questions at the end.

Andy:  0:07:19.6  And I’m curious to take a bit of a step back, because I’ve been deep in this, so to me a lot of this is – I take it for granted why it’s so important.  I take it for granted what I’m trying to get out of it.

And so while people may understand, while listeners may understand, “Ok, I do need to talk to customers more” I guess, do you have a big picture goal that they should be going after?  What are they hoping to learn from these interviews.

Kristin:  0:07:44.5  So in truth, what you’re really doing, is you’re reverse-engineering a successful sale so you can create new sales in quantity.  And you’re understanding who that person is.  The problem with personas and all of those things that people have been doing lately, is it’s just guessing in a room with no windows and making up customers that you think are there.

0:08:13.1  It’s so different when you actually get them on the phone.  I had a copywriter when I was – I was a rented VP at one of the Dow Jones divisions at one point and I had some copywriters working for me.

And one guy, Robb, was really struggling.  He’s a great copywriter but he’s really struggling, so I got him on the phone with customers and after the first call I happened to walk past his cubicle.  He was just sitting there with this big grin on his face and his eyes were wide open and I said, “Are you alright Robb?”  And he goes, “I can’t believe it, I now understand who my customer is and what they care about.”

You know, the thing we forget, is these are human beings and they have very specific needs and they are not what you would assume.  They really aren’t.  0:08:58.2  I mean, you could say, “It saves time.”  But what does that really mean?  Everybody says it, these are empty promises.  They mean nothing anymore.

0:09:07.2  So it really gets down to you can enter this data in two seconds instead of ten because of the way it’s designed.  I mean, that kind of specificity is what appeals to the customer, but you have to know what it is in their world.

And when you think of yourself as a buyer, you know this is true.  If you walk into a car dealership and you really want a car that’s super safe for your children and the guy starts talking about the 0 to 60 in two seconds and you’re like, “Wait, wait.  No.  That’s not what I’m here for.”

Andy:  That’s not at all what I’m looking for, yeah.

Kristen:  0:09:39.3  Yeah.  And that’s where we miss the mark.  So even with all of the search engine stuff that I’ve been doing the last few years, and getting so Google helps you be found and all of that, you still are going to end up selling to a human being who has these very specific needs.  And if you guess, you lose.

Andy:  0:09:59.5  For sure.  And it’s something where I was that copywriter, who after a few calls was sitting there with my mouth wide open just being, “Wow, like I had no idea of those things.”  And once you do have a few of these calls and put yourself in their shoes, it seems so obvious that you’re almost mad at yourself for why you didn’t see it before.

And it’s like when we were looking for other software tools, I did my own process for doing the research, doing this, I’d get on the calls with them and all of that.  And it just clicked to me.  I’m like, “Wow.  Ok now I get that this is how people are trying to use our software.  This is why it’s so important to really put myself in their shoes.”

0:10:42.5  So once you do get on the phone with these customers or on Skype or whatever, but not in person, once you have them on the phone and you’re talking with them and you’re asking these open-ended questions, how do you shape the conversation?  Or are you even trying to shape the conversation?

Kristen:  0:10:57.0  Well that’s the beauty of the open-ended questions.  They’re going to shape the conversation and that’s the problem with surveys which are made up with our myths and our perceptions which we then put into a questionnaire.

0:11:07.9  And I mean, I remember getting a call once from a surveying gal and she said, “Ok what are the choices, A B or C?”  And I said, “Well, actually none of the above, it’s really D.”  She said, “Oh well, I’ll just say C.”  And I thought, “Oh God, somebody’s making a decision based on the data of somebody guessing.”

0:11:28.6  So you really blow it – you can do a survey afterwards.  After you’ve gotten all of this data.  And by the way, we should talk a little bit about getting the data and presenting the data.

0:11:37.4  So, it’s getting really easy to get things transcribed.  I used to have old ladies do that for me, but now there’s services like  They’re super easy and fast and accurate.  So you get it transcribed and then you split those conversations into categories so you retain the anonymity of the replier, which is very important, because a lot of top managers will say, “Oh that’s Bob, he always says that.”  And in fact, Bob is saying something really important that needs to be heard by everybody.

0:12:09.8  So, you split it up into these categories.  Like these are all the answers to this question.  And then you present that to management along with an executive summary that says these are the top issues, this is what your brand really is.  You’re really good at this, but you’re not so good at that.  That’s your brand.  0:12:26.8  And here are the things we need to fix and so on, and they will read.

Even the busiest CEO will read that whole conversational report and they just – they’re completely blown away.  I mean, they’re just so – they realize everything they’ve been doing has been pointed over here and the customers are over there.

0:12:49.9  And so when you ask what’s the end goal, the end goal is that you’re going to become more relevant to your customers and therefore they will, in fact, respond to that.  0:13:00.8  We all respond to that.  You know, if somebody’s giving us what we want, we want to give them more business.

Andy:  0:13:09.9  Yeah, exactly.  When – it’s funny, because when I’m looking for – it doesn’t even need to be a new piece of business software, when I’m looking for anything, I’ll go to Google, I’ll search, I’ll bring up a few tabs, I’ll look at different options and usually there’s one – or a lot of times there’s actually none, but there’s always that one where they’re just speaking my language.

It’s like they’re inside my head.  They understand why I’m looking for this, not just what I’m looking for.  And they’re speaking to me.  I won’t do a ton of research after that for my more impulse purchases.  I’ll just go right with the people that really get me.

0:13:43.4  And without having these types of customer conversations, this really is impossible to truly get the customers.  Because even if you’re a startup founder who’s started a company to solve your own need and you say, “Well I am the customer, I know what we need.”

At a certain – maybe in the very beginning that was the case, but at a certain point, you’re going to be so deep in the weeds of your own business that it’s really easy to lose sight of things. And when you have competing interests internally, trying to push different features, trying to push different things, you’re not going to be able to keep that customer in mind without really talking to them.

0:14:17.2  And so, I want to back up a little bit and just ask you – you’d said about the transcriptions.  And this was something that I’ve seen people push back on before.  They’ll say, “Well I take notes during the call so I really don’t need to spend the money to get all of these transcribed.”

So first, should they be taking notes during the call, and second, why are the actual transcriptions so important?

Kristin:  0:14:39.5  Well yes, you can take notes.  And I type really fast, and I actually tell people I’m going to be taking notes while you’re talking.  Please don’t think I’m – if you hear clicking, it’s not my email or anything else, I’m just trying to do a back up for the recording.

And I do tell them I’m recording, by the way.  But I also tell them – because it’s different for different states, but just assume you want to say it to everybody so you don’t get in trouble.  But I tell them that your conversation will be broken up into categories so that it’s anonymous.

0:15:11.3  And then they relax when they talk.  And they will especially relax if they realize you know something about the subject.  So the trick is to find somebody who can do these interviews who knows enough to be intelligent – ask intelligent questions, understand when somebody says something they really mean this other thing and you can dig down a little bit.

Because even the most technical guys will test you.  They’ll throw out an acronym and see if one off two things.  One if you understand it, and two if you don’t, you say, “I don’t know” and then they respect you for saying you don’t know.

0:15:43.5  So anyway, the conversational transcriptions are really important because they actually give you some insights that you won’t get if someone says, “Well they like this but they don’t like that.”  If the guys says, “It was ok.”  Or he says, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Ok, now you’re getting it.  Right?  And, “Oh I can’t believe they did that because it was so good before and why did they…”  you know.  Those emotions are what drives purchases.  0:16:14.2  And if you miss them, if you get them too sanitized and to summarized, you won’t get – you’ll do all this work for nothing.  Frankly.  So yes, they’re very important.

Andy:  0:16:25.7  Yeah, and it’s something where when I’ve been digging into the transcripts a bit recently, it’s easy for me when I’m jotting down notes, especially when I’m doing it by hand, to kind of summarize what they’re saying.  And you almost have to do that.  And if I do that too many times, I can lose some of the language that really resonates with customers.

0:16:45.7  And after looking over a couple dozen interviews, I’ll say, “Oh these exact phrases they keep repeating.  So I shouldn’t try to put that in my own words, I should just use their words.”

Kristin:  0:16:55.2  Yeah, that’s a really good point.  And one of the things that was amazing to me after 100s of phone calls, but certainly after 1000s of phone calls, was that people who had never talked to each other before, had never been on the same forums or anything else, had no contact with each other, used the exact same phrases to describe their experience or their perception of something.

0:17:20.3  So again, by the fifth or seventh conversation of people of a given type – so if you have three different types of customers, you really do have to talk to five to seven people of those three types.  But within those groups, you will find those trends.

0:17:36.6  And you’re right, they will use the same phrases.  It’s actually shocking, but happened every time so I came to accept it.

Andy:  0:17:43.3  Right.  And so, when we have the transcripts, we’ve done these calls, we’re making progress there and we’re trying to put together that executive summary, we’re trying to break things down into categories, can we talk a little bit more about what exactly we’re looking for?  Like what kind of variables are creating these categories based on?

Kristin:  0:18:04.7  Well again, you’re trying to reverse-engineer a successful sale.  So why did they come to you?  How did they buy?  Another big part of my book is dissecting the buying process for the four types of products and services that are sold in the world.  Based on the amount of scrutiny that people apply to the purchase.

0:18:23.8  So there are light scrutiny products, medium scrutiny products, heavy scrutiny products, and intense scrutiny products, which are basically heavy but you get married.  0:18:32.9  So each one of those has a certain type of buying process.

Like if the light scrutiny is, “You see it you buy it.”  Maybe you have two objections in your mind.  “Can I afford this?”  “Will it make me fat?”  Do I care, you know.

Medium scrutiny is like clothing or an easy to instal software program.  You have a couple questions, there might be somebody else involved, then you download it.

Heavy involves a sales person, a contract.  Some kind of long term commitment, it’s very expensive.  More people involved in the purchase.

And so each one of those has a series of questions.  0:19:10.9  Google calls them micro-moments.  I think of them as crossroads where they say, “Ok, I’ve gotten this far, now I want to go over here or here, which way do I go?”

And of course Google makes that ridiculously easy now, you can go wherever you want in seconds.  0:19:29.3  So you really have to understand what those pieces are.  Those elements of their buying process.  The things that you must answer and overcome before they will go to the next step.

It’s not linear, by the way.  0:19:41.2  They may answer a million of their own questions before they even come to you and have only two questions left.  You better be able to answer those two questions.  0:19:49.2  So that’s what this is really all about.  Is supporting their buying process.  Understanding it and supporting it.

Andy:  0:19:57.7  And so once we better understand it, which is clearly the first step to supporting their buying process.  Is really understanding how they’re doing this, why they’re doing it, what they’re trying to do.  All of that.  Once you have these insights together, how do you act on that?

Kristin:  0:20:13.7  Well, it actually becomes pretty obvious.  Now, I will say that marketing has changed more in the last two years than it did in the previous 20.  And I know that because I was there.  It really is moving quickly now.

0:20:30.0  The two big elements are Google and mobile.  Changed everything.  And Google and mobile working together so there’s more emphasis on local, for example.  And things like that.  0:20:40.3  So, you – I’ve forgotten your question now, tell me your question again?  0:20:45.2 [Edit out – asking for clarification].

Andy:  0:20:45.3  Well just so once we get …

Kristin:  0:20:46.6  Oh, what you do next…

Andy:  0:20:47.0  Yeah exactly.

Kristin:  0:20:48.6  [Edit out]  Ok, so you really – first of all, because you have interviewed them and you understand their buying process, the next step is to map it out and to decide which resources are going to answer those questions.

0:21:00.8  Obviously your website has to answer pretty much all of them, but other elements like your email campaigns or your – whatever you’re mailing out to people, or trade show booths, or whatever it is, you have to start with that big picture.

0:21:18.2  You also have to satisfy Google now.  Google is your other customer.  And if you don’t satisfy Google, then you won’t ever be found.  0:21:26.1  So Google is like a structure freak.  Google needs structure.  Google needs meta-descriptions and titles done properly and articles formatted properly.

They need you to have what I call a SEO persona, where you actually build your identity together.  0:21:45.4  You and whoever you’re working with, and say, “Ok, this is our company name.  Obviously.  But then this is –these are the things that make us special, the things we want to be know for.  The associations we’re a part of”, and that sort of thing.  So this is the body of our identity.

0:22:02.2  And then, only after do you do that, do you say, “Ok, what are the key phrases that people use to try to find us.”  So you do the outside, or the inside out thing, “This is who we are”, and then the outside in, “This is what they’re using to come find us.”  And you have to build that and then keep working those key words.  Because – and synonyms.  Google’s smart enough to use synonyms now.

0:22:27.4  And understand – you know, that’s like an ongoing, massive process.  You have to be in directories, you have to have backlinks.  There’s a whole lot of stuff you’ve got to do to make Google happy.  0:22:39.5  So that’s another thing.  And then you have to say, “Ok, if there is a buying process, which there always is, and we’ve mapped it out, how do we –” especially for B2B software, this is getting more and more complicated.

Frankly, it’s what I tend to specialize in because it is so complicated that I find it very challenging.  And you know, it’s getting to the point now where you have to go beyond what everybody’s been doing and start using things like lead forensics, 0:23:04.3 which helps you identify the people or the companies that came to your site and then provides you additional information and then you can go after them.

0:23:11.8  You really have to get proactive now and you can’t just do a little bit and set it and forget it. Those days are done.

Andy:  0:23:20.2  And so, to bring it down into what this actually looks like.  I think you gave us a good picture of how to act on that, but for some of the founders who may be trying to balance a lot of different priorities in their head, they’re saying, “How big of a difference does this actually make?  I understand why this is valuable, but I’m not sure how valuable it is.”

So how – what are some of the results that you’ve seen clients get when they’ve really embodied this and made some of these changes?

Kristin:  0:23:45.3  Well, it doesn’t happen overnight.  I will say that.  It takes a lot of work.  Especially on the search engine side.  People are really unaware of how much work goes into that.  So it takes months.  It takes good – any good, honest SEO person will tell you it takes 3 to 6 months before you start really getting traction.

Andy:  For sure.

Kristin:  0:24:06.3  And you know, especially now you really only have those ten spots on the first page and nobody goes beyond the first page.  So, it’s just getting to be a very zero sum kind of game.

The good news is, you do have tools that are showing you what your competitors are doing.  0:24:22.4  Tools like SpyFu [Resource], for example, that lets you go in and see exactly what your competitors are advertising, how much they’re spending, which ads are working for them and which ones aren’t so you don’t have to start from scratch.

0:24:37.5  So I would say that this is not a one time, one type of thing.  You try a lot of different things, you keep testing, working them, going back and saying, “Ok that worked, that didn’t, I’m going to make an improvement on that.”  And keep trying to get closer.  There isn’t any overnight success.

Sometimes you can change a platform, like you can go from WordPress, WooCommerce to Shopify and see a 40% increase in traffic or something.  You know, there’s some weird technical things that happen out there.

So, I mean, the technology’s weird.  I mean, I’ve been a student of technology since technology was not cool.  0:25:17.8  For decades now.  And it’s just – you can’t stop learning.  There are great tools out there now.

0:25:23.4  So the answer is, you have to focus on the few things that will work for you, and then keep hitting them over and over again, and keep checking with customers and being as relevant as you can.  0:25:34.5  And that’s honestly the best you can do.

Andy:  0:25:36. Yeah.  And so when you’re working with clients, when they bring you on board, how are they measuring the success of the engagement?

Kristin:  0:25:43.9  Well there’s a lot of different ways.  There’s Google Analytics.  So there’s sites – how well your site’s doing, and conversions.  If you’re tied into e-commerce, or downloading a white paper or the other things that need to be done.

But frankly, I am getting more and more towards this model where you’re trying to contact the people that have already come to your site, because that means they had some kind of interest.  0:26:09.2  And then following up properly.

And then you have to nurture the ones that maybe had sort of an interest.  Again, this is all pretty much the B2B side of things.  0:26:17.6  Obviously, e-commerce is much easier to measure.  They buy or they don’t.

0:26:22.7  So, there’s revenue, which is the big deal, and then backing off from that, there are conversions that may be a number of different things, like a sale or a download, or whatever you count as a conversion.  And then backing up from that, there are people visiting.

Andy:  0:26:39.2  Ok.  And so you’re looking at – you’re 0:26:42.5 [Inaudible] typically looking at metrics from all over the board.  This is something where it is more than qualitative, they really are tracking quantitative results to see that this is really showing them a lift in the metrics that they’re tracking.

Kristin:  0:26:56.2  Yeah.  Yeah.  And also things, again SpyFu is a good tool for showing you the keywords for which you are being found.  And, you know, in a few months time you can go from being found for no keywords to being found for 25 or 30 or something, depending on your market.

0:27:14.4  It is – I will say this, years ago I used to be able to say to clients, if you just get the whole customer thing right, you’re going to be ok, because you’re going to be way ahead of your competition.  It goes back to what you were just saying about finding that one place that does it so well.

But, it’s gotten so competitive now because everybody can see what you’re doing, that you really – I mean, this is a big man’s game.  This is a grownup’s game.  Whatever you want to call it, this is really tough and much more difficult than it used to be, and you just have to keep really focused on it.  0:27:55.1  Again, the set it and forget it days are just completely done.

Andy:  0:27:57.4  Right.  And so with that in mind, at what point in a company’s life cycle should they really start investing in these.  Because for a lot of early stage founders, there are so many things competing for their very limited resources in terms of time and money.  They don’t have a big team, they don’t have a bunch of extra cash.

And so at what point, and you don’t need to give a specific number, but when should companies start thinking about this?  How mature of a company should they be?

Kristin:  0:28:24.7  Well, I think it should start early, because – and not because I’m in the business of doing it, but I just re-founded my own company about six seeks ago, and I’m speaking about twice a month.

I have virtual assistants who help me pull these things together.  We have people focused on social.  And by the way, this whole – the ability to go to sites and find decent people to do contracted work is just amazing now.

And I used to be in HR years and years ago for a short time.  I used to recruit engineers in Silicon Valley.  So I understand that industry and I have to tell you that there’s no reason why an entrepreneur has to overspend for resources.

0:29:12.4  You can find the smartest person who will sit there and do something for you two hours a day, and it’s everything you need and you can use project manager systems that are finally getting usable.

0:29:25.6  And just put together a team without spending a lot of money, but very targeted work.  And so, I think that’s the best way to start.

Andy:  0:29:35.0  Yeah, and I think that’s a really good way to sum it up.  There is no too early to be talking to customers and better understanding them.  The earlier you have these insights, almost the better, because it will help you shape the product as it evolves.  So the earlier you can get them the better, but like you were saying, it is an ongoing effort.

However, it doesn’t need to be cost prohibitive with the different resources that are out there.  Like even just something as simple as Upwork for – if you have good processes in place for screening clients and for how they can – screening freelancers and setting up processes for how they should work, it really can be a great way to expand or build a part-time, dedicated team to work on this so you can get those insights without breaking the bank.

Kristin:  0:30:23.5  Yup, I totally agree.  Everything you said.  Yup.

Andy:  0:30:26.1  And one thing I want to talk about now to start wrapping things up, is you’ve said how much things have changed just in the past couple of years.

What are you kind of looking out towards in the future for how the buying process might continue to evolve?

Kristin:  0:30:39.6  Well I think the buyers are going to get faster and smarter.  A lot faster than we are.  Ok?  So, I mean they have a super computer in the palm of their hands now.

We also have amazing tools at our disposal and again, I really think – it’s taken 80 years – my husband and I were just figuring that out; when software actually started.  It’s literally taken four generations of human beings before software has reached the point it has with something like Upwork, which is just outrageously useful.

0:31:12.3  And all put together and everything you need in one place.  But it’s really moving fast now.  0:31:19.9  Because it’s so interconnected, people have all this capability.

So, I think if we don’t do it – in other words, you could be slightly irrelevant before and still make it.

Andy:  0:31:32.9  Right.

Kristin:  0:31:32.9  I think those days are disappearing.  I think you have to be right on the money, you have two seconds or less.  They come into your site, it has to load quickly, they come in, they go, “Yep, yep, yep, yep, that’s me, I’m staying with you.”  Or, “Oops, I’m out of here.”  That’s it.  You don’t have a long luxury – There’s no luxury in this anymore.

It is very, very tight and competitive.  And so you just have to be at the top of your game and really understand what they want to start with.  Like you said, for product development.  And if you don’t have any customers, by the way, interview people who could be customers.  That’s the best that you can do in that situation.

Andy:  0:32:13.2  Yeah, and it does seem like at a certain point, there’s going to be a time where this isn’t necessarily competitive advantage, it’s almost table stakes.  Is that if you’re not doing this, you’re not going to be able to compete.

If you don’t understand your customers, they’re going to find someone who will.  And right now, you might be in a niche market that doesn’t have much competition, but with how easy it has been to build software products, and how much easier it’s going to be continuing to get, it seems like you can’t just count on not having competition.

And you can’t just count on the competition not being sophisticated.  0:32:47.7  So I think those are really great insights for how people can – not future proof their businesses, but how they can think about preparing for some of these future changes.

Kristin:  0:32:57.5  Yeah and I know we’re wrapping up, but I’ll just say one thing.  You know, I’ve been in tech for decades, and I was always, I’ve always been on the bleeding edge and the reason I could stay there, is because I was interviewing customers.  And over time, I found that they were six months ahead of the even the trade press.

Andy:  Interesting.

Kristin:  0:33:18.2  They were thinking things and doing things and buying things based on perceptions  that the press didn’t even pick up on until six months later.  And I was laughing to myself thinking, “Golly, you know there’s a trend and guess what, we already saw it.”  So yeah, you can stay ahead if you’re right there with customers.  They’re the ones where the money comes from.  That’s the thing everybody forgets.

Andy:  0:33:41.4  Yeah, and there are so many points I want to emphasize, but one I really just want to harp on, for now at least, is just the importance of making this a continuous process.  It’s not a one-off project where you send out a survey, you send out some emails, book some interviews, make some changes and then forget about it.

This really needs to be a continuous process where maybe you’re going to have bigger pushes every quarter, or something like that, but continuously you need to be making these efforts to talk to the customer.

0:34:08.2  Because like you said, you’re always going to be learning something new.  Maybe a few things that you’re going to know what they’re going to say after a bit, but you have to stay with your ear to the ground to try to hear what they want to tell you.

Because like you said, these are people who are living these problems, they’re trying to find solutions and they’re going to be the most creative about doing that, and you kind of want to hear what they have to say.  So I think this has been amazing advice Kristin.

But before we say goodbye, I like to ask all of my guests just a few rapid-fire questions.  And so, I’ll go through them pretty quickly, but your answers don’t need to be short.

0:34:39.8  And the first one is just, right now, what would you say spend too much time doing?

Kristin:  0:34:44.9  Oh god.  Actually, I’ve gotten rid of that sort of thing.  I used to spend too much time accounting and keeping track of the back end.  I’ve gotten rid of that.  I used to spend too much time giving people instructions and I know have a really good project management system so I got rid of that.

I really don’t – I mean during my day, I don’t think I spend too much time on any one thing anymore, just because of the way I’ve organized the business.  So I guess I don’t have that problem right now.

Andy:  0:35:14.7  Well that’s a good spot to be in.  I wish we had an interview just to dig into that.  But the follow up though is, are there anythings in your day that you wish you were able to devote more time to doing?

Kristin:  0:35:25.0  Yes.  Learning new application programs.  You can’t do enough keeping up with technology.  And so I try to do devote some part of my day, every day, to picking up, learning, understanding, finding new apps, because the apps are really depending – really making your business or breaking your business now.  So, I must have gone through about 50 project management tools and right now I’m on 0:35:53.1 [Resource] and I’m loving it.

Andy:  0:35:55.7  I was going to ask what you ended up on and TeamWork is really great, especially if you’re doing client work.  They – I’ve actually done work with them in the past, so when I dove into the project I was like, “Oh wow, this is something that I can see just how useful it is.”  So people, definitely check that out.

But Kristin, 0:36:14.0  the last one is, I know you just relaunched your business, what are you hoping to accomplish with that in the next quarter?

Kristin:  0:36:21.1  What I’ve been doing so far, I’ve only been in business about six weeks now, and the first six weeks have been making sure that all the clients I brought with me, because I split off from a partnership – it was all friendly and everything, but I took half the clients with me.

I wanted to make sure that they were – that I was keeping my promises to them, and so the whole infrastructure, that people – their social, their SEO, everything had to be just as good or better than it had been in the past.  We’ve now accomplished that.

0:36:50.7  Now we’re working even more on structure and getting the systems set up.  And frankly, TeamWork is playing an enormous part in that.  So, I’m now – I”m just now starting to say, “Ok, I’ve got these promises are being kept, now I can start going out and looking for new clients.”

Mostly mid-sized companies with someone inside who is doing some marketing is a lot of what I tend to handle.  And then they want to get to the next stage, or they just don’t feel like they’re getting the traction they need to out in the market.

Andy:  0:37:22.8  And then if listeners want to hear more about what you’re up to.  If they want to read more of your advice, maybe it’s your book, maybe it’s other thoughts you have, where are the best places for them to go to just see what you’re up to?

Kristin:  0:37:35.2  Ok, so there’s LinkedIn, you know, they can always look there and see what I’m doing.  My site is  Z-h-i-v-a-g-o like Dr. Zhivago.  So it’s and my blog is there.  I’ve just started getting that up again and I’m going to make it so people can subscribe to that.  0:37:56.6  There’s a lot of speaking podcasts on there on my speaking page as well, so they can also listen to that.  And then, of course, my book is available on Amazon.

Andy:  0:38:06.3  Awesome, I’ll make sure to get all of that linked up in the show notes, and Kristin, I just want to say thank you so much for your time today, it was a lot of fun chatting.

Kristin:  0:38:12.5  Thank you!  Good questions.