I always look forward to the first time meeting with a client. I love learning about them, who they are, what experiences led them to where they are today. During that initial discussion, I get to learn both about them and from them. I always leave feeling excited and inspired, especially when it's the right fit for both parties!
Our customers are pregnant women - and short of becoming pregnant, we had to go meet them to figure out what they wanted, what challenges they faced, etc. We read pregnancy magazines and blogs to learn. We hung out in OBGYN waiting rooms. We went to pregnancy tradeshows. It's a fun consumer to get to know for sure!
We have a structured form that we send to new prospects. It is a google form that gathers everything. Once we get further along, we will have a real CRM, and integrate it. But that really captures the quantifiables and checks the boxes to save time during a discussion. Our approach is to ask questions about their goals, and challenges.
The hard part, which we are still struggling with is listening. For me at least that is a skill I need to keep developing.
I help develop online communities for my customers, and my projects all contain some dimension of user experience design. As part of our process we we invest a lot of time in 1:1 conversations and interviews with both our clients as well as our client's clients (meta, I know!)
I wrote a blog post a few months ago about conducting community member research, and a lot of the post is directly relevant to the topic of getting closer to customers. I hope you all might find this helpful:
@BillJohnston -- thank you for sharing your article. It's really a great read. Here's one part I particularly resonate with:
These "Question Word" questions (prompts that begin with who, what, why, where, how and sometimes how come) can do so much work for us in many situations. They're a sure-fire way to start interviews when you're a storyteller, they can help to move friendships into deeper and more meaningful territory, they work when you're networking -- the list of uses can go on and on.
In your example they're are working for people who work for themselves! Thanks for the tips :-)