There are two approaches I’ve used to help clients gather win/loss data after asking them some key questions:
The cyclical approach would mean doing research with a targeted number of people every so often (could be quarterly or twice/year, for example). When I first began doing win/loss research for clients, I recommended doing a round of research at least twice a year. This was partially driven by client preference/budget/resources. This approach would involve reaching out to a pool of won and lost prospects about 6 months apart. We would invite people who had evaluated my client’s product/services within the past 6 months to participate in interviews with us as an objective 3rd party.
The challenge of this approach was that getting people who hadn’t talked to my client for 4+ months to participate at all was tougher than engaging those who had recently selected a vendor (only about 10-25% participation rate). And the details we were able to get from those 4+ month people were usually nowhere as helpful as the rich information we could get from people who had just been through the purchase/evaluation process. Those more recent contacts could pull out spreadsheets, emails, etc. to trigger their memory even more, making their input extremely detailed and valuable.
The other downside of this approach was that data about competitors tactics/strategies and customers’ criteria could be a bit stale by the time it was disseminated to my client’s sales team. In many cases, things were changing too often to rely upon information that was 6 months old.
The beauty of the cyclical approach was that we could tie up the whole project in two fell swoops per year…every round of research ended in a comprehensive report to summarize what we learned and what had shifted since the last round. Very efficient!
Based on these experiences, I began to experiment with a different approach.
The “drip” method involves conducting ongoing interviews all year long. This means that we can reach out to a new customer or lost prospect within weeks of their vendor selection. The response rate is much better (in the 40-50% range) and their memory is fresh and full of great details in response to our probing questions. We are able to go a level deeper to learn about their selection criteria, perceptions of how each of the vendors they evaluated measured up on those criteria, and insights about their overall experience during the process.
This type of conversation nets much more valuable information that my clients can use to adjust their marketing messaging, sales techniques, or even product roadmap. By having access to an ongoing funnel of information, it’s more likely to have some valuable insights to provide to functions that are looking for the customer perspective as they make decisions, write content, etc.
And the insights about competitors are very fresh and can be acted upon, if appropriate. Same with the insights we gather about customer pain points…if there is something that has recently changed in your customer market’s world, you have timely input about that and can adjust as appropriate to show them that you understand their needs better than your competitors do.
We still do a report/analysis phase after a critical mass of data has been gathered, but in between reports, the data is available in real-time in a variety of forms.
Based on both experiences, I am finding that the ‘drip’ method works best for most organizations.
See a future blog post on some of the critical success factors for the ‘drip’ method.