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"Customer Interviews Featuring Kristin Zhivago" (Inbound Success Ep. 47)

Kathleen Booth

VP of Marketing, Speaker, Host of ‘The Inbound Success' Podcast, Leader of the Annapolis HubSpot User Group

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Customer Interviews Featuring Kristin Zhivago (Inbound Success Ep. 47) Blog Feature

Published on July 16th, 2018

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What's the easiest way for marketers to uncover insights to inform your marketing strategies while also creating buy-in with the C-suite?

KristinZhivago
Kristin Zhivago

On this week's episode of The Inbound Success Podcast, marketing expert and author Kristin Zhivago shares her tried and true process for conducting customer interviews and distilling the insights she gains into actionable marketing strategies - all while gaining the trust and buy-in of her C-level clients.

Kristin's exact strategy is provided in detail in her book  Roadmap to Revenue, How to Sell the Way Your Customers Want to Buy, but you can get the CliffsNotes version here!

Listen to the podcast to get step-by-step instructions for carrying out customer interviews (not to be confused with buyer persona interviews!) and learn how the results can transform your business.



Transcript

Kathleen Booth (host): Welcome back to The Inbound Success Podcast. My name is Kathleen Booth, and I'm your host.

This week, I have a special announcement before we get into the conversation with today's guest, and that is that the podcast now has an Alexa skill. So, if you have an Amazon Alexa, go into the app under skills, search "inbound success," and you can add it to your Alexa and hear my voice talking to you every day if you so choose. 😉

With that little announcement, I want to introduce my guest for today, who is Kristin Zhivago. She's president of Zhivago Partners, and the author of Roadmap to Revenue, How to Sell the Way Your Customers Want to Buy.

Welcome, Kristin.

Kristin Zhivago (guest): Thank you. Glad to be here.

Kathleen: Yeah, I'm glad you're here, as well. Tell our audience a little bit about yourself and what you do.

About Kristin Zhivago

Kristin: Well, we are a digital marketing management company. So, we come into the middle of our clients' movies and really give them the kinds of services they need, combining our efforts.

I have a team of specialists, 21 people working for us now. Because digital marketing has gotten so specialized at this point, there aren't really any generalists out there being very effective. So, we have a lot of specialists that focus on the different areas, and then provide all of those services to our clients.

Kathleen: Great. And what sorts of clients do you work with?

Kristin: My background is decades of working with tech CEOs. So we have a lot of B2B tech companies, but about a third of our business is B2C, consumer, e-commerce. So, we really run the gamut.

Kathleen: Great. And I'd love it if you could just talk a little bit about the book, and what it's about, and what led you to write it.

Kristin: Okay. For many of those decades, I was a revenue coach. So I helped CEOs and entrepreneurs make more money by understanding what their customers wanted to buy from them and how they wanted to buy it.

I think I was one of the first people to recognize that there was a buyer's journey, and that how they bought was often different than how we sell, and that's where the big gap was. And the reason I knew that is because as part of my revenue coaching work, whenever I took on a customer or a client, I would ask them what they thought were the most important things for their customers, and they'd have a list one to 10 things or whatever the number was. And then I would go out and interview customers for them, and the list was never the same.

Sometimes there would be a few things in common, but the priorities were never the same. And it was often that I found that these software developers that I worked with, for example, would think that the thing that was the most difficult for them to implement or create was the most important thing to customers. And much to their sadness when I did the interviews, customers would say, "Oh, yeah, everybody has that. No big deal."

It was a baseline thing. There's a lot of things in industries that are industry baseline. Boats are supposed to float. Planes are supposed to fly, and all that.

So, it really opened my eyes to the gap. And that gap was there with the tiniest Moms and Pops, all the way up to IBM, Dow Jones, and Johnson & Johnson. These are companies that I worked for over those years. And it surprised me. The gap was always there. I never found a company where the two lists were always the same.

Kathleen: That's so interesting. And there's that old saying, "Where you sit is where you stand."

Kristin: That is so true.

Kathleen: It really does apply to this, because as marketers, we are so culpable as part of this process. We do, I think, very easily default to making everything about us and the product we are trying to sell, or the service we are trying to sell.

I attended a conference and somebody once said, "How is it that we are all human beings who buy things? So we are all consumers. But as soon as we work in marketing, we forget everything that we know and do the opposite of what we want as consumers." It's kind of mind-boggling.

Kristin: That is so true. And that is the difference right there. Part of the problem is the marketer's first customer is management. And management has beliefs, false beliefs, based on their audience of one. "Well, I don't read this, so nobody else is doing that. And when I do..." you know. So, they just have all these wrong beliefs. And they run their whole strategy, and everything they do and talk about is based on those wrong beliefs.

So as consumers, you're absolutely right, we look at that stuff and we go, "Oh, man, they just missed me by a mile. That's not what I want. This is too difficult," or, "This doesn't matter to me."

So, you're absolutely right. You hit the nail right on the head. That is the problem. So, by the time I'd done this for a few decades, I thought, "You know what, there's a real problem here, and somebody needs to talk about the way to fix it."

What I did as a revenue coach is, I would interview those customers. And after interviewing thousands of customers, I discovered that you could find a trend after talking to five to seven customers of a given type.

It didn't involve massive, $40,000 bring-in-some-big-consulting-firm or anything. It was really just a matter of getting on the phone, introducing yourself properly so the appointment was set up, and they'd set time aside. And these were existing customers, so you were reverse engineering a successful sale, and working backwards.

And you would ask them open-ended questions, and I worked out these questions over all these interviews. And that's what's in the book. It's a step-by-step prescriptive absolute, "Here's how you make the calls."

Chapter 3 is nothing but that. It's, "Here's how you set them up, here's the questions you ask, here's how you do it." There's a lot of subtleties.

And then I teach people how to take that and apply it to their organization so that their managers get the clue. And then all of those arguments that salespeople say, "Well, no, that's not what my customer said," -- but that was one customer. You don't have that full picture that marketing is supposed to get. And you get rid of all that bias. And suddenly, everyone is moving in the right direction and doing things the customer actually wants.

Kathleen: Yeah.

I want to rewind here for a second, because you said a lot there, and there's a lot that I think is really interesting. I've seen that a ton with companies I've worked for -- with clients that I've worked with.

Gaining C-Suite Buy-In for Marketing Strategies

I had my own agency for 11 years, and I had lots of clients who were just sure that they knew their customers. I mean, a great example is I worked with one technology company that sold -- I won't say exactly what they sold, because there's not that many of them, and somebody could figure out who it was -- but they sold a SaaS product that had to do with clients. On the client side, the decision-makers -- the buyers -- tended to be in their 50s, let's say, and male, and fairly advanced in their careers.

I remember telling my client, "You need to look at using Facebook for marketing." And he laughed at me. He was like, "My client is not on Facebook." And the clients were related to the call center industry. And this client of mine was like, "They're not on Facebook, they're on LinkedIn." And I said, "Okay, I'm going to talk to some of your clients, and we'll see what they say."

I remember interviewing the clients, and they were like, "Oh, we're totally on Facebook." First of all, that age group is on Facebook personally, because that's how they see pictures of their kids and their grandkids.

Kristin: Exactly. That's what it's become.

Kathleen: Right.

But what was so interesting is, call centers these days, that business is changing a lot. And they have to be on Facebook, because it's part of responding to customer inquiries. You're not just taking phone calls anymore. You're answering things on social media.

I'll never forget it. I went back to the client and shared the results of this interview with him, and he was still like, "Well, that may be true, but Facebook is not the right channel for us." And I remember thinking, "What do I have to tell you to get you to believe me?"

Kristin: Yeah. Well, I actually come back -- I used to always come back -- with a report. I still do this for clients now, where I'd transcribe the conversations. And then I split them into categories. So, here's a paragraph of what that person said in answer to that question, and then the next person, and so on. So you take all the bias out. Because there's a real problem with people saying, "Oh, that's so and so. He always-"

Kathleen: Right.

Kristin: So, I promise anonymity when I start the call, and I keep that true all the way through, because I'm making the report anonymous.

When they read those reports -- and it's kind of a competition between the management people, that they all read the whole report, because they don't want to be left out when we have the big brainstorming meeting -- and they read 70 to 100 pages, and I know that's just mind blowing that somebody would do that, but it's kind of like somebody telling you your life.

It's like a fortuneteller. They were always shocked at how much people knew about their company. They felt like their dirty laundry was out for everyone to see, and they had no idea.

They really were gobsmacked. I mean, that's an old term. But they were just shocked that those things were happening. And they got a whole different mindset. And when you're in that mode, when you're in that "deer in the headlights" mode, that's when you say, "Okay, now we're gonna summarize this and make recommendations about what to do and what to fix."

Kathleen: Yeah.

Kristin: So, you have to catch them. There's a method to this whole thing, and part of it's the big problem that marketing has always had with management.

How to Conduct Customer Interviews

Kathleen: So, let's dig in a little bit deeper, here. So this becomes necessary because the listeners of this podcast are all marketers. So they know, you've gotta develop your audience personas, and that's the foundation of your whole marketing strategy -- understanding your customer.

But knowing that and then doing it are two different things. There are people out there who know it but haven't done it. But then there are people out there who know it but have done it. But there are, I'm sure, a lot of subtleties in terms of how you do it that could make a massive difference as to the quality of information you receive back from that feedback loop.

And so, I want to talk a little bit more about that. And I have a lot of questions.

The first one is, who should do those interviews? Because I mean, the person doing the interview has to at least be perceived in part by the person who's getting the call, as someone who's not going to get offended, right, if they give tough feedback?

So, talk me through that.

Kristin: Yeah. I do recommend that CEOs make some of the calls. They hardly ever did, but some of them did. I have total faith that a marketer can do it if they are trained properly. And the book gives all those secrets out.

You're absolutely right about them not being offended. People who buy things -- when you come back to them and you're asking for their opinion -- are actually very polite. And they'll sort of tamp it down a little bit. They'll be a little more careful about what they say and how they say it. The trick though, is for the interviewer to make sure that they stay in the zone.

So let's say the person says, "I'm having this problem with your software, and it's terrible, or your product -- whatever, and I can't get this thing done." Well, that's a customer service call. And so you say to the person, "You know what? At the end of this interview, we'll talk about that, specifically." Or, "You need help beyond what I can do in this interview." They'll still get the data. They still need the data. But fixing the problem is not the thing you distract from the interview call.

You also don't sell. So, let's say they say, "I love your product. In fact, I was thinking of buying this add-on." And you could immediately jump into the whole selling mode. Don't do that because then they're going to clam up, because nobody ever tells someone the truth when they're being sold to. And so, you lose the whole openness thing.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Kristin: One of the reasons I built a whole career on it, is that it is true that it's better for an objective third-party to be hired by the CEO, and to say that in the email. "Hired by the CEO to find out how you feel about our products and services. I'm going to ask you open-ended questions. It's going to take an hour, blah, blah, blah." If you set it up that way and you have that third person, and they are trained, and they don't get excited about anything, and they also know how to drill down -- because a customer will say, "Well, it was all right" -- and they are really not saying it was all right.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Kristin: They're not saying it was great, they're saying, "Well, there were problems, and if you're really smart, you'll dig down and ask me. And if you don't, then I know you don't really care."

Kathleen: Yeah. I work with a man named Marcus Sheridan, who's brilliant. He's written a book called They Ask You Answer. And one of his things is, you never get the real answer at the first question. It's usually the third question.

Kristin: Yeah, you have to dig around a little bit.

Kathleen: You have to keep saying "Why?"

Kristin: Yeah.

Kathleen: And, "Tell me more."

Kristin: Tell me more, exactly. Also, they have to know that you are really listening, so you can't be doing your email. You can't be distracted. People get bored the easiest if they don't think you care.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Kristin: They're just out of there. It's a very fragile thing and again, I worked it out over thousands of interviews and I wrote the book to answer your first question -- to share that knowledge -- because it's always worked. I was always able to get the company in the right frame of mind.

Marketers would come up to me afterwards and say, "I can't believe that you got him to say yes, we're going to do this now, because I've been trying to get him to do that for six months."

Kathleen: Yeah.

Kristin: But a CEO will not take your word for it. He will take 20 customers' words for it. If they're all saying "This thing sucks" then you really gotta fix it. He's going to say, "Okay, okay, all right, I gotta do this."

Kathleen: Yeah.

Kristin: You can't do that by just being the marketing person, or even the sales person trying to give them a little snippet of information.

Kathleen: Let's go back to when you first start this process. One of the first things is to determine who will do the interviews. We talked about the difference between an objective third party -- which could be an independent person you hire or an agency -- there are many options for that, or it could be somebody in house. Once you determine who's going to do the interviews, then I would think one of the crucial decisions is who will you be interviewing.

Kristin: Right.

Kathleen: You talked about how you're reverse engineering. You're talking to current clients but a lot of companies have a lot of clients so when you look at the wealth of clients that you could pick to interview, how do you zero in on who are the best ones to speak with?

Kristin: Yeah, it's a good question. You're asking great questions.

There is a process to this as well. What it is, is you say, "Okay, what are the basic types of customers that we sell to?" I'm not talking about demographics or the usual obvious stuff, but let's say you're selling a high end IT kind of thing.

They really have two buyers. They have the implementer who runs the data center, say, or IT. Then you've got the CEO or the VP of operations or whoever. Those people are both decision makers in that realm. You have to talk to both of them and you have to talk to at least five to seven of each group. By the way, this is all very logical. When you sit down together and work out the list, it makes perfect sense. Everybody agrees, "Okay, we're going to have this many of these people and this many of the other people."

I should tell you that you need three times the number of people that you're going to want to end up with, because everybody's gotten so good at avoidance.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Kristin: By the way, I do want to bring up something. Two things. You said you had to hire somebody objective and that's fine, but that person has to understand your industry, especially on the more tech side. If you get on the phone with a technical person and you're not technical enough to at least understand what they're talking about, they're going to clam up.

Engineers will talk your head off if they think you understand what they're talking about. They won't say a word if you don't.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Kristin: So, there's that. The other thing is, you mentioned the buyer persona. I'm going to be really sacrilegious here and say that that is probably one of the most meaningless things that we've all done in this industry.

I think of it as a buying process persona. Because the person could be short or fat, or old or young, or up there in the hierarchy or not. But it's how they want to buy your product. What they want from your product and how they buy it. That's the thing we all have to understand and fix. You have to--

Kathleen: Yeah. I'm okay with sacrilege.

Kristin: Good.

Kathleen: We can go there.

Kristin: All right.

Kathleen: Okay, my question is, you want to segment your customer into whatever different types you have...

Kristin: Yeah.

Kathleen: ...your economic buyer, your influencer, et cetera. Within those segments, let's talk about, for example, the economic buyer. Because this is a conversation I've had with a lot of clients. If you want to have five interviews, you have to come up with a list of 15 people at least. Are the 15 people you put on that list your 15 favorite customers, the best fit ones? Or do you intentionally include some poor fit ones so that you can see what those differences are? How do you engineer that mix so that you understand fully?

Kristin: It is a bit of a 3D chess game. There's no question about it. But, the basic idea is you want mostly happy customers. Then, some of the really unhappy customers.

Now what's interesting about that is the basic things they come back with are pretty much the same. Even your happy customers will say, "Well, they're real good at this but they're not so good at that."

One of the questions I recommend people ask is, if you were the CEO of this company tomorrow, what's the first thing you would fix? That answer is almost always 100 percent the same going across all the buyers.

Kathleen: That's really interesting. Is that question on your list of questions on your--

Kristin: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Kathleen: Okay. We've got who does the interviews and what skills they need to have. You've got who should be interviewed. You come up with that list. Then walk me through the process of how you conduct outreach to the people who are on your hit list.

Kristin: You send two or three emails. You will get a third of the people in the first email. The subject line is really important. I'm very prescriptive about that in the book as well. I say, "Would like to interview you." That gets their attention because that's not "I'm going to sell you" even though they might think it might be a selling thing. But then you immediately say "The CEO of such and such has hired me to da, da, da, da, da."

Then there's the second email and I say, "Second request, would like to interview you." The second third of the people will respond favorably to the second one and then if you don't get them on the third interview request, they're never going to come.

Kathleen: Now before you email them, if you're working with a client for example, do you ever have the client send an initial introductory email? Like "Kristin will be reaching out to you?" That sort of thing.

Kristin: Sometimes, yeah. It depends on the business. It depends on the relationship with their customers. I would say that's optional depending on the situation with the customers.

Kathleen: Got it. Okay, so you're emailing these folks and you're getting roughly, after it's all said and done, let's say two thirds of them respond -- somewhere between one third and two thirds.

Kristin: Right. Right.

Kathleen: You've set up the call. How long? Is it a phone call, a video call?

Kristin: It's always a phone call and I've done all types of research you can imagine and the phone call turns out to be the best because, one, they're sitting in their normal environment and they're very relaxed. They're just talking. If their boss walks past, they're talking about work so that's all good. Two, they're much more open on the phone than they are in person because there's none of that bodily language thing that you have to deal with. They're just very relaxed. They just open up.

I wouldn't even do the video thing. I use video for interviewing candidates for jobs and things like that but for this you really don't want them to be feeling uncomfortable.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Kristin: They last an hour. You almost always make an appointment for an hour. Sometimes they last fewer minutes because it's a simple product like jewelry buyers or something like that.

Kathleen: Got it.

Kristin: But for the most part, people are used to an hour appointment.

Kathleen: Once you get on the phone and you're having your interview call, can you talk to the types of questions that you ask and do you mentally segment them into different blocks? Is the first block the getting-to-know-you basic kind of background? How do you organize the way you're gathering information?

Kristin: It's just like a webinar or seminar where you give them that little bit of housekeeping up front. You just say, "Hi, are you ready? Is it okay? Fine," and then you say, "Okay, I'm going to be asking you some open ended questions. I am recording this."

Kathleen: How do you record it?

Kristin: It's interesting. Good question. I use Skype for most of my calls and I use Call Recorder, which is a little add on for Skype. But you can also go into things like UberConference where it records automatically, so either one of those types of things would work.

Kathleen: Got it.

Kristin: You can't really do it well on a cell phone. iPhone hates any kind of recording thing so it basically bans it, but Skype works well with a good microphone.

You do the housekeeping, say "We're going to be recording. The reason I'm recording is because I can't take notes as fast as you can talk. I want to make sure I get this all accurately." We will transcribe the conversations but then they will be split into categories so it's completely anonymous. You're just putting them at ease.

In the case of the technical people, because I had a 40 year background in tech, I would say to them, "I've got a 40 year background in tech so you can say anything technical that you want." Then they would relax about that.

Kathleen: Yeah. Okay, then what's next. You--

Kristin: You have it transcribed. You ask the questions. There's about 12 questions that worked over the years. You can ask a few specific ones for your industry, but those questions have really been vetted and tested. You get them transcribed. You turn them into report, then you meet with the people after you've presented the conversation report and the recommendations.

Kathleen: Can you share some examples of some of the questions? You mentioned one earlier.

Kristin: Yeah. They're mostly basic.

"How do you feel about our products and services?"

The CEO question, "What trends do you see in our market right now?" Your market, so you can see opportunities. I've found that I was about six months ahead of the press, online or otherwise with market trends by talking to customers ahead of time.

"What's the biggest problem or what's your biggest challenge right now?" You find opportunities there as well.

At the very end, I ask them if there's anything I should have asked them that I didn't ask them. Which is very interesting because they say, "Oh, no, you covered everything but let me just stress this one thing." So you find out what's really important to them.

I also ask about pricing. It turns out there's a way to ask price questions that the answer will include your profit margin. If you say, "Do you think their prices are fair?" If you use that F word in there, then they actually say it's not what they would want to pay but it's fair for you and them, so then they tell you that price. That's very helpful for people.

Kathleen: Interesting. Great. So, okay. The interviews are done. You get them transcribed. You separate them into categories. Then tell me how that then gets presented to the CEO or whoever the audience is for--

Kristin: Yeah. Even though I had an executive summary slash recommendations document, I would make sure they read both of those -- the conversation transcription report and then the recommendations -- and then we would have a meeting where I would have a prepared slide deck.

We'd go through each part and everybody would be in the room. You'd be discussing it together, and you'd have big easel boards or white boards up. You'd start prioritizing and summarizing to each other. This is very much a back and forth thing because none of this is going to work if they don't do their job afterwards.

If everybody just walks away and says, "Oh well, that was nice" but they don't actually fix anything, then nothing is fixed.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Why Conduct Customer Interviews?

Kristin: I want to bring up two things because I'm conscious of time. One is that the reason that calling current customers works so well and they will open up so much, is because they have a vested interest in your success once they've bought from you. They've invested in you so they want you to succeed. It's a completely different mindset than when they're selling, when you're selling to them.

If a CEO says, "We don't need to interview our customers because our sales people are talking to them all the time" then I just look at the CEO and say, "Well, when's the last time you told a sales person what you were really thinking?" And he goes, "Okay, never mind."

Kathleen: Yeah, it's naturally a more adversarial relationship when you're engaged in a sales process.

Kristin: Absolutely.

Kathleen: What about past customers?

Kristin: That's useful and it's certainly helpful if you lost a sale. I know a lot of people that do lost sales interviews. They're helpful but it's like trying to find all the back roads when you want the freeway.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Kristin: It's too much guessing to get to the thing that actually works so you're reverse engineering that successful sale.

The only other thing I wanted to make sure I cover in this call is that marketers often complain -- not in public -- that they have no political power. They just feel like everybody is doing everything subjectively and the most powerful guy in the room gets the CEO's ear and gets his way.

The reason they don't is because they are supposed to be the customer expert. If they don't do something like this, they aren't. You can't guess at this stuff. You're always surprised at what customers are really thinking. Once you have this, and it's proven, and it's all in this report, and everybody's read it, it changes everything.

Kathleen: Yeah. That's definitely true. I would agree from experience that when somebody sees language directly from the customer, you could have said it a thousand times as the marketer, but as soon as the customer says it, it carries a lot more weight.

Kristin: Yeah, and if they're all saying the same thing, okay.

Kathleen: Yeah. You can't really argue with that.

Kristin: Right.

Kathleen: Well that's so interesting. Going back to the book, this whole process is mapped out in the book. Am I correct that all the questions are in there?

Kristin: Yes. All of the questions, all of the techniques, I just put everything in there that I had learned. It's just come out in Audible because a lot of people were always saying, "We want ..."

I would say the only problem with that is that there are parts of the book where I explain how people buy things. Like, all of the products and services in the world are really in four categories based on the amount of scrutiny that the customer applies to the purchase. The light, medium, heavy, and intense scrutiny products -- each one of those has its own chapter and talks about the buying process of that type of buyer. It keeps people from doing stupid things like a newsletter on how to chew gum. They don't get that that's a light scrutiny product and doesn't need to be handled that way.

Kathleen: Yeah, definitely. I checked the book out. I will put the link in the show notes so that people who are listening can find it. It definitely sounds like a lot of practical tools.

I know that's something that many marketers struggle with. We know we need to do these interviews, but we don't have the question set. Even if we have the question set I think a lot of marketers go into it like, "Oh. Alright. I asked that question - check. I asked that question - check."

They don't dig deeper, so having that methodology and that guidance I'm sure would be really helpful to a lot of people. Could you maybe share an anecdote of how doing these types of interviews has changed the way one of your clients has thought about their business?

Kristin: Yeah. One of my favorite ones is a company that was making software for companies that send people out, like field technicians. They're washing machine people, or somebody's going out in the field and fixing something. They have big fleets, and they have to manage that whole relationship.

This company had built the software on which you could run that whole business. The thing they were the most proud of is that it integrated with QuickBooks. I went and did the interviews and discovered that it was one of those baseline things. "Oh yeah. Everybody interacts with QuickBooks. What's the big deal?" Well, yes they were integrated with QuickBooks in a most elegant way, but it just didn't matter because it was one of those baseline things.

What they really loved about the program, what it had in it, the Holy Grail of computing, which is so rare even today, which is that if you enter the data in one part it will automatically populate to all the other relevant parts. You're typing in the customers address. It goes to the invoicing section. It goes to the directions for the field tech to go the place of the business or the house.

The people who had made that software just didn't even think that was the big deal. To them, it was an obvious thing. We ended up changing the name of the company from something like Plymouth, or Pioneer, or something, to Field 1, where you enter at 1, and it was #1 in the field, and it was still software and all that.

They just took off and ended up selling the company for a whole lot of money and living happily ever after. That's a good example of them thinking one way and customers having a completely different mindset.

Kathleen: It's so interesting. This reminds me a of a story that I heard at a conference I went to. The person telling it was a woman named April Dunford who is a very well known person that advises start-ups, etc. She was talking about positioning. She told the story of Tesla. Everybody knows Tesla.

It's funny because I had never thought of this until I heard her tell it, but I knew it intuitively. She was like, "Think about it. Before Tesla really came onto the scene, you had Prius." Prius was the original really successful electric care maker. Prius' marketing really started out all about battery life. How long is that battery going to last?

All the other entrants to the market were like, "Oh, we've got to compete on battery life." It turns out everybody just assumed that. Like, "Yeah, you got to have the battery life. That's a given." Like you're saying.

Then Tesla came along, and they did what April calls, "reframing the market." They were like, "Yeah. Of course we have good battery life, but we know that what you care more about is how fast the car goes and how sexy the design is." They had race car drivers that were testing their cars and things like that.

They changed the whole conversation in the market by really tuning in to what customers cared more about, not so much what they as a manufacturer cared about. I think that's just another really interesting example of how that can play out and really change an entire market.

Kristin: Yeah. You can even reposition, you can make an industry for yourself. When I wanted to go out and consult and help, I had an ad agency in Silicon Valley, and then we decided to help people go in-house because they were all getting maxed. I knew they were going in-house.

I didn't want to be called a sales consultant or a marketing consultant because there are a million sales and marketing consultants, and CEOs don't love marketing and sales. They consider it a necessary expense. They don't like it. It bothers them. But they love revenue, so I call myself a revenue coach. I could just stand in an elevator and somebody would say, "What do you do?" I say, "I'm a revenue coach." Immediately I'd have their attention because, "Oh wait. That's somebody who helps me make more money." Okay.

Then I would say, "I help you make more money by understanding how your customers buy what they want to buy and all that." I coasted on that for years because it just immediately put me in the right frame of mind with that CEO.

That's what I'm talking about. You can't fake this. You can't push your way into this and try to make the audience think the way you want them to. You actually have to figure out what they really want, and then how you're going to give it to them. That's the secret of making money.

Kathleen: That makes sense. All right, I love it. Like I said, we'll put the link to the blog in the show notes.

Kathleen's Two Questions

Before we wrap up, I have the two questions I ask all of my guests, and I'd love to get your take on this. The first is, company or individual. Who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well right now?

Kristin: I know you asked me this ahead of time, and I'm supposed to be prepared with something.

Actually I was watching the people that put on the conference that I went to. It's called SearchLove. I was just there last week in Boston. I think they did a really good job. They're an agency so of course, yes, they would do this, but it was full delivery of everything you wanted in a conference from the very beginning to the very end. The way they presented themselves and had things ready for you, and even how you gave feedback for each session was right there. It was an easy link. You could go to it and just plug it in. It was beautifully executed.

I think that's an interesting site to go to and just see what they're doing. It's called SearchLove. They had fantastic speakers. It was really a good thing to attend.

Kathleen: Oh, I'll have to check that out. That sounds interesting. Second question. The world of digital marketing is changing so quickly, how do you stay educated and up-to-date on the latest developments?

Kristin: Okay, so because I've been in tech for so long, I'm used to learning something new every day. There's just no way to live in tech without being that way.

The thing I've been doing is because I'm hiring specialists, I am learning from those folks every single day. We're giving our clients what they need, and I'm learning.

I've gotten so good at really understanding how to better use Adwords because we have a fantastic strategist who then implements beautifully, and so you see the right way to do things. There's so much talk out in the digital marketplace, and there's so much guessing, like Google changes its algorithm four times a day. How on earth can anyone keep up?

You have to be embedded in it and immersed in it all the time. Then I'm literally standing behind them looking over their shoulders and, "Okay. That's good. I get that now." It's just a constant education. You really have to be with people who get it, and then just keep asking questions and learning more every day, and testing, and testing, and testing.

Kathleen: Yeah. Definitely. I do that with my team as far as having them teach me things. I work with a couple of people who are in a younger demographic than I am. I'll leave it at that.

Whenever I want to learn how to do something new especially on social media, I just go to them and I say, "Make me an expert." So far they've done a very good job of it.

How to Reach Kristin

Great, well I'm sure people will have questions about some of the things that you've mentioned here. What's the best way for somebody who is a listener to reach out and get in touch with you if they want to learn more?

Kristin: Yeah. The book is on Amazon and Audible now. It's Roadmap to Revenue: How to Sell the Way Your Customers Want to Buy. Our site is zhivagopartners.com. They could also just Google me at Kristinzhivago on Google. I've got a lot of stuff up there... YouTube, and there's a lot of speaking, things that I've done that are also on my site, so it's pretty comprehensive.

Kathleen: Great. Of course, I'll put links in the show notes as well. Well, thank you so much for joining me.

Kristin: Thank you.

Kathleen: It was a lot of fun.

Kristin: Yeah, same here.

Kathleen: If you are listening, first of all, remember we now have an Alexa Skill for the podcast so just go into Alexa under Skills and search inbound success.

If you're listening and you liked what you heard, please consider giving the podcast a review on Itunes, or Stitcher, or the platform of your choice. If you know somebody who is doing kick ass inbound marketing work, tweet me @workmommywork because I would love to interview them.

That's it for this week. Thanks Kristin.

Kristin: Thank you.

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