If I’ve learned one thing in several decades of hands on marketing leadership, strategy and execution, it’s that great marketing requires great listening. And great listening means asking your customers questions your competitors don’t ask.

One of the pivotal moments in my evolution from Chief Marketing Officer to Chief Listening Officer was when I started asking my clients’ customers (and prospects) this simple question during my “customer rediscovery” interviews.

What would make you a customer for life?

Why should you be asking your customers (and prospects) this question?

This priceless question has helped me uncover countless invaluable insights about what really matters to decision makers:

  • Ways to add value and differentiate that other vendors haven’t considered.
  • Tweaks to a product or service that would better address an important or even unspoken pain point.
  • New use cases for a product or service that my client hadn’t considered.
  • Better ways for my client to approach or engage with their customers.
  • Things customers hate about vendors’ customer-facing processes or marketing and sales approaches.

These insights have helped my clients formulate new strategies and approaches that are more relevant to their target audience–cutting through the ridiculous level of noise in the marketplace.

Why did I start asking this “golden question” during my customer rediscovery interviews?

Short answer: A CFO used the expression after I floated a concept that might potentially address the pain point she had just described. She thought about it for a moment and said, “Now that would make me a customer for life.”

In every customer interview since then (hundreds), I’ve asked the question.

Here’s what happens when I ask it.
  1. There’s usually a pause. The customer is taking a moment to step back and think more deeply about his or her answer. I’m clearly not going to get a canned response.
  2. The customer says, “That’s a great question.” This indicates to me that they appreciate being asked.
  3. The customer often says, “No one’s ever asked me that before.”

Given how much would all like our businesses to stand out in the crowd…to differentiate our products, services…to have unique and powerful positioning and messaging…and more successful marketing campaigns and sales outreach…

…So ask them the question your competitors aren’t asking.

And take the answers to heart when you develop or refine your marketing strategy and priorities.

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