Case Study: Using Your Customer’s Voice

To use your customer’s voice, find negative emotions

In all walks of life, you benefit by listening for inflection points. It’s no surprise they often come on negative words. Thus, a nifty messaging hack is to search for negative “trigger” words in comment threads your customers are a part of. Be alert for words such as “hate”, frustrated”, “shocked”, “disgusted”, and the emotions behind them, usually frustration, anxiety, and resentment.

Words and feelings like this are encased in genuine, instinctual wording. Like the immigrant who slips back into her native tongue when she’s wronged, the triggered brain voices whatever words form in the moment.

This is the essence of “use your customer’s voice” advice. 

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Let’s say you are Nuclino. You sell a simple, web-based document editor to small work teams. How do you convince someone to at least try it? What you don’t say is something like:

Empower your team with a collective brain

Which is exactly what you will read – first – when you visit their website. 

Why don’t you say this? Because no one says this, because no one ever even thinks this. “You know what, we need a document editor that empowers our team, as if it were our collective brain!!”. 

You know who does say something like that? Nuclino’s owners and product designers – to one another. They say it to each other in meetings with their UX designer, in company-wide meetings, and at “Tech All-Star” startup weekends or the like. They say it to investors in their struggle to sound smart or edgy.

And maybe they say it to some customers, ones who like the product and are willing to indulge the enthusiasm of the entrepreneur.

This type of diplomatic customer smiles and nodes, “Ohh our collective brain, haha, that’s nice, yes”. But their inner thought bubble reads, “Love your enthusiasm but we don’t actually need a collective brain; we’re not brainless. We just need something that does what MS Office 365 or Google Docs does, but ________ (even simpler, easier, cheaper, with better privacy safeguards, team-focused, wiki-features, etc).”

Empower your team with a collective brain” is the opposite of speaking in the customer’s voice.

So how do you do speak in their voice? One way is to interview them methodically.

A simpler way is to go find their negative emotion.

How To

Two sites contain more of this than anyone else – YouTube and Amazon.

Reddit, Twitter, and Quora also have vast comment threads, but they’re too fraught with commentary-as-performance, status seeking, and other forms as artifice. Whereas on Amazon, you can easily find pissed off customers who just want to vent.

So let’s visit Amazon’s library of business software. Doesn’t take long to find MS 365, from whom Nuclino would love to steal 10,000 word editing customers.

Now: filter by 1-star reviews, lean back in your office chair, arms extended to the sides, and bask in the negativity.

Here’s one.

Robert Finnegan

Reviewed in the United States on September 9, 2020

I purchased this software 2 months ago and still don’t know how to get it installed.
When you click to “Redeem License Now” it takes you back to the amazon page to buy Office 365.
When I go to my subscriptions it goes back to this page.
We keep going around and around and honestly it is more frustrating than anything

What’s particularly infuriating here is that Office 365 is supposed to be a cloud product; it was invented to compete with Google Docs. Yet it still makes customers endure downloads and licenses and other small pain points.

So what do you get from this if you are Nuclino?  Sentiment and word-for-word phrasing. Fast-forward through a dozen principles of copywriting and you eventually arrive at something like this:

Going around in circles installing downloads and “redeeming licenses”? 
That’s not how Nuclino works – sign up and your whole team is editing on it 60 seconds later

As you can see, using your customer’s voice is the kind of advice to take literally.

Quick afterthought on messaging: Nuclino’s current subheader contains a nice, helpful description of the product:

“A lightweight and collaborative wiki for all your team’s knowledge, docs, and notes.”

While this is helpful it’s not persuasive. If persuasive is your goal, then make that a detailed tagline, or “infoslogan”, and feel free to depart a little bit from your customer’s voice. Say your piece but keep it as simple, like this:

lightweight team wiki for docs and notes

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One last afterthought: All teardowns like mine above need this caveat: a brand may have valid, invisible reasons for how it expresses itself. Teardowns contain too many assumptions to have actionable value.

As an outsider to Nuclino, I don’t know the internal team dynamics, the customer relationships, the future product vision, etc. It may be less concerned with acquiring customers than with acquiring investors. Or less concerned with acquiring new customers and more concerned with keeping old ones. Or something else I’m unaware of. All of which can affect messaging.

So take teardowns with a big grain of salt and don’t think of this as advice for Nuclino.

I’m simply using them to illustrate this point: to speak in the voice of your customer (or voter, supporter, member, or client) go find them venting negativity about the alternative, the thing they have been choosing over you.

My best