Last Wednesday, a day removed from being announced one of Built in Boston’s Top 100 Tech Companies, WordStream hosted our first in-house Customer Insight Round Table. We invited 11 of our customers to visit our office for a day of learning and knowledge sharing. They walked into our 101 Huntington offices excited, alert, and ready to share their experiences as business owners, digital marketers, and WordStream customers.
Our 11 generous participants.
I am proud to share that the event was a total success!
Since joining WordStream as President in late Spring, I have spent many hours speaking with our customers. One of many important lessons I’ve learned in my career is the power of truly understanding what makes customers succeed, and translating that into how you build your business.
A lot of companies like to bill themselves as customer-centric, and WordStream counts itself among them. We also realize, however, that customer feedback surveys and other arms-length methods of customer interaction can at times fall short of true human connection. Our solution?
Be a customer-inspired organization. Design our customers into our business. Bring them in, get them talking, and get down to the business of real understanding. What are their biggest challenges? What parts of our product can we improve upon? What do we need to continue to do well?
At an organizational level, our goal is for each and every employee to keep our customers in mind as they go about their day-to-day jobs—regardless of what function they perform at WordStream. And that is why we created our Customer Insight Roundtable.
Let’s take a look at some highlights from the day!
After a quick breakfast, welcome statements from CEO Ralph Folz and myself, and industry and product updates, we opened the floor to our customers. It was time to get their perspective, their stories—the good stuff. Sitting side by side with our employees, they were charged with a task: draw a picture of the highlight of your business experience in 2017.
Facility with illustration varied, but there were two constants throughout: honesty, and connection.
The spoils of ideation.
One of our customers, at one time an owner of two home furnishing brick-and-mortars, told how she only decided to venture into ecommerce and online advertising after relentless encouragement from her son. The start of her digital marketing journey consisted in toiling with the 20-Minute Work from behind her retail counter, a team of local high school students handling online orders and shipping from the back of the store. Today, she owns her own warehouse, has seen her business grow exponentially, and remains one of WordStream’s valued customers.
Success stories like these abounded, and got the day off to an encouraging start.
The majority of the day’s remainder was spent in three groups. Our customers identified their biggest challenges as online advertisers, then worked to identify solutions to those challenges. Each group created three unique problem statements based on the challenges they had in common. We heard problems like: How can I prioritize various accounts? How can I customize reporting to please each of my clients? How can I better manage remarketing and wasted spend? How can I target my ideal buyer?
Working through story boards.
After forming problem statements, groups worked to generate as many solutions to their problem statements as possible. Solutions were story boarded, and new user journeys were created. From there, groups silently critiqued each other’s work by walking around and placing dot stickers next to the things they liked most. Finally, the group gathered as one to vote on which solutions made the most collective sense, and which deserved further investigation.
Just as common challenges were identified, so were common solutions. One member of an agency in the healthcare vertical told about how, when she added Bing to her search campaigns, she saw a massive lift in performance—so many healthcare decision-makers were, it turns out, Bing users, and she had been missing her ideal customer by relying exclusively on AdWords. Members of other agencies in that vertical said they hadn’t thought about that strategy, and were excited to try implementing it.
Group brainstorming led inevitably to common ground.
The day ended with the main event: a customer panel that took place in front of all WordStream employees. Introductions were re-made, and the floor was opened to a Q&A. What our employees heard: our customers’ desire to make WordStream their go-to solution for the most fundamentally important of their online marketing needs. What our customers heard: the willingness and the curiosity necessary to push headlong toward that end.
Our goal in putting on this event was simple: continue to design solutions and experiences through the lens of our customers, rather than through the lens of our company. We strive to be respectful of our customers’ time, to communicate in their language, and above all, to inspire pride when they think about our company and the solutions we provide.
Events like this one allow us to continue to foster a relationship of mutual growth: our employees build intuition about the needs of our customers, and our customers become more intimate with our organization and the people that make it go.
We look forward to keeping you updated on our journey!
Howard M. Kogan joined WordStream as president in June 2017 and became CEO in January 2018. He is responsible for overseeing the company’s day-to-day operations and internal strategy with a focus on rapid growth.
See other posts by Howard Kogan
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