Even Small Business Can Benefit From Customer Pain Research

Call it sweat equity market research. With 20 to 30 hours of effort, a small business can obtain the same depth of findings about customer pains and needs as bigger companies that spend $35,000 to $50,000 on focus group interviews.

While most big businesses rely on focus group interviews to uncover customer pains, one-on-one interviews do a better job at a fraction of the cost, report Chris Stiehl and Henry DeVries, co-authors of Pain Killer Marketing: How to Turn Customer Pain into Marketing Gain (200pp, hardback, $19.95, W Business Books), a new book to be released on April 17, 2008.

Marketing research contrarians Stiehl and DeVries demonstrate that 12 to 15 one-on-one interviews will generate as many customer pain points (about 80% of all possible pain) as 7 focus groups with 10 to 12 participants each.  With typical focus groups costing from $5,000 to $8,000, this can easily be a cost savings of more than $35,000.

In addition, one-on-one interviews can be conducted by a small business by telephone as well – something difficult to achieve with focus groups if customers are spread out in different time zones.

The depth of information obtained for each topic is actually greater in one-on-ones as well, since the moderator or facilitator does not feel the pressure to cover every topic, but rather wants to cover the topics that interest this particular customer in greater detail.

The book’s focus on customer pains is based on the premise that psychologists and sociologists have repeatedly found that consumers are more motivated to avoid pain than to seek pleasure This book provides a proven method to find the pain of the customer and then “kill the pain” in sales and marketing messages. Also featured is a detailed description of the process of collecting the pain of the customer, including writing an interview guide and conducting interviews.

How does a company decide which pain points to address? In most big businesses, say Stiehl and DeVries, the decisions are political, based upon who complains the loudest. Much of the focus of this book is to help a small business owner decide what needs attention, how to select the appropriate issues and what strategies would address the most pain points where the business has the most to gain.

The authors, both marketing research consultants and university instructors, build their case on academic research dating back to the early ‘90s and extensive field testing over the last 15 years.

Stiehl, a former General Motors market researcher and a noted expert of Voice of the Customer research, was a participant in Cadillac’s winning of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 1990. Today he is the president of a worldwide consulting practice that has tested the Pain of Customer concepts with such companies as Palm, Cisco Systems, Flowserve Corporation, Kennametal, Pacific Gas & Electric, Carl Zeiss Meditec.
DeVries teaches marketing at two universities and is the founder of the New Client Marketing Institute. He is the former president of a large West Coast advertising agency and was a senior executive at a $5 billion insurance and financial services organization where he used the Pain of Customer concepts to generate more than 100,000 qualified leads a year.

In praise of the book Rodney Toy, senior director of sales development for Palm said:  “Like many others, measuring the impact of our channel programs was proving to be a difficult task. By focusing on the Voice of the Customer process, we were able to take a systematic and proven approach to truly understanding our customer’s needs.”

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About Henry DeVries

Best-selling author and “marketing with a book” expert Henry DeVries is an authority on typing and talking: how to maximize revenues by writing books and making speeches. He speaks to thousands of business leaders, professionals, and consultants each year, teaching them successful tactics that shine a spotlight on their company, cause, or career. Along with his best-selling books — Self-Marketing Secrets, Client Seduction, Pain Killer Marketing, and How to Close a Deal Like Warren Buffett — the buzz-building tools of Henry DeVries have been used to dramatically increase revenues and leverage marketing budgets for two decades. He speaks to thousands of professionals and consultants each year, teaching them scientifically proven tactics that bring them new clients.

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