In the episode, Jen and Annalisa interview EbaNee Bond. Until recently, EbaNee was an entrepreneurial fellow at the University of Akron Research Foundation. A graduate of the university’s mechanical engineering program, EbaNee recognized her love of creative problem solving and decided to take some time off to “unbox” herself and decide her next career move. EbaNee describes herself as a curious creator, champion of fairness and an authentic relationship builder. She’s also exceptionally good at the customer discovery process, which was a major part of her role at the Research Foundation.
EbaNee shares her aha moment in customer discovery, talks about the role of empathy in the process, and the importance of building something people actually want. She also references The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf.
What Are We Learning?
Small Business Shoutout
So Fresh Used Auto in Akron, Ohio, a black-owned, family-owned business
What Are We Drinking?
EbaNee: anything with ginger, including drinks from the Northside Speakeasy in Akron
Please don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast and give us a review.
Note: This content was created, and is best consumed, as audio, an intimate communication experience. Transcripts fail to capture tone, voice inflection, emphasis, and the other characteristics of audio that make it so personal. So, we hope you’ll listen.
If you do choose to read, please be aware this transcript was created using artificial intelligence, machine learning, and a little bit of human editing; it may contain mistakes and typos.
[Meaningful, Measurable Marketing Podcast Intro]
Jen Carroll 0:57
When Annalisa and I recorded this episode with EbaNee Bond in May, she had recently left her position as an entrepreneurial fellow at the University of Akron Research Foundation. A graduate of the university’s mechanical engineering program, EbaNee recognized her love of creative problem solving and decided to take some time off to decide her next career move. EbaNee describes herself as a curious creator, champion of fairness and an authentic relationship builder. She’s also exceptionally good at the customer discovery process, which was a major part of her role at the Research Foundation. From the first time Annalisa and I spoke with EbaNee about a new idea of ours, we knew we had to have her on our podcast. Here’s our interview. So good morning, EbaNee.
EbaNee Bond 1:42
Jen Carroll 1:42
Hey, it’s good to hear from you. Thanks for joining us on meaningful measurable marketing podcast. It’s such a mouthful, what a mouthful. Today, we’re going to be talking with you about all of your knowledge and experience in the customer discovery process. And it’s really cool that we, Annalisa and I, actually had that opportunity to meet you because of the customer discovery process and really enjoyed learning some things from you. I mean, we’re I mean, obviously, we’re, we’re longtime marketers, but we’re always learning and you you really had a lot to offer. So we’re, we’re really grateful to have you. Yeah, I’m really grateful to have you on the podcast today. So tell our listeners about you. What do you what do you want them to know?
EbaNee Bond 2:31
So this is this is always an interesting story, because I’m like, let me give you my memoir really quick.
Jen Carroll 2:36
EbaNee Bond 2:40
About Me. So I’m from Mansfield, Ohio. So the south of Northeast Ohio.
Jen Carroll 2:46
EbaNee Bond 2:47
Okay, so I went to a school system was really interesting. I was a school system that is what 610 out of 612 in the public school system in the state of Ohio at the time, like in an academic state of emergency like this.
Jen Carroll 3:00
EbaNee Bond 3:01
Like I was like blew my mind when I learned I was like, oh my god. Yes, like crazy. Then I came to the University of Akron. I was studying- I came here and I was studying electrical engineering at first and it was like super boring and tedious. And I was like this is not what I thought it was. I thought it was gonna be like innovating some stuff and creating some stuff not doing these long ass math. Yeah.
Jen Carroll 3:28
Like I do I know what I mean even that you that you attempted to do that blows my mind because- oh, wow. Yeah, because only been here only because I would think it would be incredibly boring to so.
EbaNee Bond 3:40
It was so but it was like I’m like this is like not this is not what I thought it was gonna be. And I was that I wasn’t like knocking those classes out of the park. I was but it was just boring. And then I switched to be a biology major because I was like, You know what, I’ll be your pediatrician. And I’ll give you hope is such a critical part of healing.
Jen Carroll 4:02
And then how old were you at that point?
EbaNee Bond 4:06
I don’t even know barely 22 or something like that. 21- 22?
Jen Carroll 4:11
That’s a great age. We’ve got to have hope.
EbaNee Bond 4:15
It was a great age I found out for you know, ended up poverty for me. But um, so after a year and a half of being a biology major. I was like, Who am I kidding? I hate school and I don’t want to be a doctor.
Jen Carroll 4:30
EbaNee Bond 4:31
And then I dropped out and I found out poverty wasn’t for me. So fortunately, that was caused to come back to school. And I finished mechanical engineering, but I like had no desire to use that. So fortunately, I was able to work for an accelerator and an incubator. They kind of like shared me at the same time helping early phase entrepreneurs and innovators which is like the thing that was like the reason I originally went into engineering 10 years before that, which was like crazy.
Jen Carroll 5:04
Like, this is what I’ve been waiting for. Yes, yes. But it’s 10 years and 1000s of dollars.
EbaNee Bond 5:12
Nuts. That’s a little bit about about about me in a nutshell. I’m just I love independent thinking and innovation and like new stuff and novelty and just like discovery. I love curious, like, beyond probably what people you know, can handle is
Jen Carroll 5:30
No, you totally spoke to us right away. And we’re like, that’s, that’s how we are. And so this is a perfect segue into one of our regular segments, which is what are you learning? Or what’s bringing your joy? What’s bringing you joy? So what are you learning right now? or feeling good about?
EbaNee Bond 5:46
Yes, I had to think about this question, which is like, weird. Which I hate that. I hate that I had to think about it. Because I’m like, something should be like, very clearly, like, I should be enjoying it. What am I doing, but like,
Jen Carroll 6:00
Oh, I didn’t mean for it to be that deep. That’s awesome.
EbaNee Bond 6:05
I’m a processor. One of my friends used to say you’re so fake deep Ebony. And I’m like, Oh, low blow low blow. Like, decided, you know, to stop working in in February. So I resigned to try to like figure out how to unbox myself, like, you know, I’m doing all these things. And my whole life has been about the next step that I should do. Like, this is what you should do. This is like what humans like should do. And I’m just like, what the friggin like, what I did I get here and I don’t want to be here, I want to like build something for me and try to figure out what that is. And so I resigned in February to unbox myself and try to really discover like, who I am outside of like trying to act professional. And so the thing I’m like, really enjoying right now is like really unveiling my authentic self and like having the space to do that without like any, like, external influence, or any influences from like, some, like a power authority, whether it’s like, this has nothing to do with them, but just, you know, them being there. Kind of influences, you know, how you show up. And so that’s the thing that I’m learning how to do and that, like, I’m enjoying, like, even like this morning, I woke up and I just like, go and dance, and sing around my neighborhood. Like it’s a frickin blast.
Jen Carroll 7:26
We should I think we need to move like nobody’s doing that here.
EbaNee Bond 7:30
Yes, I might go out and be like, with the sun I’m like, hi sun! So, that’s the thing that like, I’m like learning. And it’s been a process of like, really taking those kind of like layers off. And you know, trying to figure out like, what’s really naturally there.
Annalisa Hilliard 7:46
kudos for that. I feel like especially that’s like super far from engineering, or at least what we know is engineering, right? Because it’s like, very boundary driven, I feel like
EbaNee Bond 7:58
exactly like, one of my like, classes that I was even speaking about on, LinkedIn, it was called control systems design. And like, the like, one of the things is like, every system has its inputs. And then you have the system that the inputs go through. And then you have your outputs. The whole thing about a system is you get to define the boundaries of what the system is. And so how you like controlling. So I’m just kind of like redefining what those boundaries are for me. And
Jen Carroll 8:30
I think what, what you’re learning actually meshes really well with a couple of things. Annalisa and I are learning as I shared with you before we started recording is just finished think again by Adam Grant. And this book is to me just yeah, it’s got me thinking again, exactly what exactly what the intent of you know, Adams intent was, and I can’t even encapsulate everything that I want to process as a result of reading this book. But I’ll just share this, this little quote that I thought is a true gem. He said, “It’s when we progress from novice to amateur, that we become overconfident, a bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing. In too many domains of our lives, we never gain enough expertise to question our opinions or discover what we don’t know. We have just enough information to feel self assured about making pronouncements and passing judgment, failing to realize that we’ve climbed to the top of Mount stupid without making it over to the other side.”
EbaNee Bond 9:35
Jen Carroll 9:36
I know I love that. That was that was fairly early in the book. And he he was opining about how our society of course has become very polarized. And that’s because oftentimes, we never we never reached the, you know, we know a little bit of information and maybe it’s even inaccurate information and we’re sitting at that of Mount stupid making, making judgment calls about other people. And we need to have some humility. He talked about that, like confidence with humility, basically was where he said the ideal place to be. So I’ve been thinking about, think again, so Annalisa, and you have a book about that.
Annalisa Hilliard 10:17
So I would be thinking about think again, because we were actually at the Stark County Library. And I saw that book. I was like, featured book table, and I picked it up and like, soon as I picked it up, Jen like snatched my hand. I’m not reading that book right now.
Jen Carroll 10:37
I’m gonna pass it. I’m gonna pass it over to her Now that I’m done. I know, but you picked up a number. So
Annalisa Hilliard 10:43
I’m reading how I built this by Guy Roz, which is a podcast, right? And he turned it into like, he did some highlights, and in a book really good, really good podcasts, obviously. But the the book, the first part of it talks about two of the two female entrepreneurs, the one that started Zola, which is like a wedding planning,
Jen Carroll 11:05
and also the name of your dog,
Annalisa Hilliard 11:06
also the name of my dog,
Jen Carroll 11:08
which, which was not intentional
Annalisa Hilliard 11:12
And then the other one was the fvounder of Stitch Fix, just really resonate with their stories, went back and listened to those podcast episodes. Just definitely was kind of inspired on kind of where we’re at with our entrepreneurial journey.
EbaNee Bond 11:31
What was the, I was the I was just kind of curious, when you say like, really resonated, like what resonated?
Annalisa Hilliard 11:36
Like she started out in social media. And just like, I think both of them kind of started out in like digital marketing, which is where
Jen Carroll 11:43
actually I think maybe you’re talking about we listened to a third one with Away. The suitcase, the suitcase. Yep. So there was a, there were three that he highlighted. And then we listened to that one, too. And it was the founder of Away and she started out in social media. So go ahead.
Annalisa Hilliard 11:59
Yeah, just when it was like new and young until like, I mean, she’s obviously very smart. But like, she was only like, very few people were doing social media. When she took on like social media management for people out in LA. I think she graduated from Penn State even maybe went partway through Penn State.
Jen Carroll 12:17
I don’t think she even graduated. And that was part of it, too. She was just always so intrepid. She was like, I just, well, like you talk about like, unboxing. EbaNee, talking about that. She was very much. Oh, there has to be a way around this, like, Oh, I don’t have marketing experience. But I want to do this. Well, there has to be a way around. That was her. She was always finding a way. Well, and then she found it Away, ironically.
Annalisa Hilliard 12:43
Yeah. And one of the things was like finding a partner in the business, add kind of complimentary skills. And I really feel that’s true. Like with Jen, like, we each have our strengths, and I feel like we together we have a better skill set, than separate
Jen Carroll 12:58
definitely. I appreciate you, man. All right, just a moment to say I really appreciate you Annalisa so much. Okay. She’s truly an awesome business partner. So we want to talk today about customer discovery. How do you define that EbaNee, when you when somebody says, Oh, what is customer discovery? It sounds like an adventure? What is it actually,
EbaNee Bond 13:20
um, how I, you know, maybe would naturally describe it or define it is like really understanding your customers and like their problems so that you can solve them. like people really like pay to have problems solved. So you really just need to understand more about your customers and what is motivating what will motivate them to adopt a new solution or a new way. And that’s really what customer discovery is. But I do have a book here. And I wanted to see like what the formal definition of it was in it says customer discovery first captures the founders vision and turns it into a series of business model hypotheses, then it develops a plan to test customers reactions to those hypotheses and turn them into facts. And then another part of the book goes on to say that is really so that you can understand the customer’s perception of the problems, understand their need to solve it, and figure out is it important enough to get a significant number of people to you know, want to do something about it? And so I think that that’s really the essence of customer discovery, nothing more, nothing less is really just understanding customer’s current processes and their problems.
Jen Carroll 14:37
And you shared during your your mini memoir, your work with the accelerator. So how did you how did you get to love customer discovery? It sounds like it’s totally your thing, new things learning. But tell us about your experience.
EbaNee Bond 14:51
I remember when I like I had an internship and through the internship got to volunteer and kind of, I guess, be an observer of a program called ICORP through the National Science Foundation, and when I learned that these were like the foundation of building a business, like it demystified it for me in some ways, and made it more attainable, or like some, like, I could see myself more in it, it wasn’t like business was this big, like, contro give me give me give me a Take, take take type thing. It was like, Oh, my God, it’s like, the basis of it is empathy. Like, if you do it well, like, it’s because you started with empathy. And so for me, I was like, Oh, my God, I love that!
Jen Carroll 15:34
I love that too, actually. Wow, that’s awesome.
EbaNee Bond 15:37
Yeah, again, so that’s, you know, it was my like, kind of like aha moment with it. And as far as like, my actual experience, like, a lot of it like on the formal side, through my job was more so like helping entrepreneurs kind of like frame their questions or dig out kind of like, what their real hypotheses are about their business and why they will be successful, or why they will fail. Aside from that, honestly, like, even if we take it back five years, six years from even, you know, working in this space, I used to work for Time Warner Cable, and their sales, inbound sales, people will be calling it like, hey, I need to set up cable, the process that they take you through is kind of like customer discovery. So you have to understand people say like, how many people are in the home? How many devices do you have, like all these things, and it’s really like you do the customer, you really understand the customer what they have going on, and then you truly just tailor the package to what they need. I’m not trying to oversell or undersell you. I mean, I might try to add in a phone on you, right. Like I really tried to design packages based on what they said, and I wasn’t trying to like, and so that was like, also like kind of like an experience. What was customer discovery was even as I was in a sales room.
Annalisa Hilliard 16:49
that’s definitely interesting. And I love how you said like, empathy is was kind of the aha, because we I think we think about sales is like, oh, like, I have this thing, and I’m gonna try to sell everybody on it, whether they need it or not, or whatever their you know, whatever their situation is the you know, it doesn’t matter. It’s more about my product, or my service,
Jen Carroll 17:10
don’t you think? I mean, maybe we can comment here, don’t you think our culture has kind of? I mean, I think there are I mean, people who do that, that’s literally how they conduct their sales,
Annalisa Hilliard 17:20
for sure. But then yeah, not being able to see yourself in that, like, I totally Can, can relate to that, like, Oh, I don’t want to do business, if that’s what I have to, you know, I don’t want to have a business if that’s what I have to do.
EbaNee Bond 17:32
So for sure. Yeah, for sure. And I think another thing is, like you have to keep in mind also like as a sales person, like, it’s okay, if like, what you have isn’t a fit for the person. And you have to keep that up. Like it’s not your job to manipulate the person. So like, I know, this isn’t for you. Like it’s okay. Yeah.
Jen Carroll 17:49
And Annalisa, and I talk even in our own business, a lot of times about fit with our clients, and we, you know, we say no to people, you know, who essentially, you know, want to give us money for marketing, because we know that it’s not going to be a good fit. And that’s okay, because it then frees us up to find somebody else that you know, another company that we will be a better fit for. And I guess I mean, I want to like make a comment about, you know, the customer discovery process in terms of marketing, where I think at least and you can, you know, tell us what you think as well, I feel like it’s so essential to messaging. I, I feel like many people in marketing roles are like, Okay, what are we going to put on social media? What am I going to post on LinkedIn today? What am I going to do on Instagram, or what web page Am I going to write and they give very little thought to the message that they want to communicate. And if you don’t know what job your customer wants to accomplish, if you don’t know what challenges they have in getting that job accomplished, there’s a really good chance your messaging is going to be off, especially if your messaging is our brand is awesome. Here’s what we have to give you. So for me, as a marketer, I really think customer discovery is so critical in that in that messaging piece, just relating, like relating to people and their needs. And like you said, if they should know when they come to your website, or whatever, they should know if that’s if if what they offer is a fit. I mean, generally speaking. Anyway, what what about the entrepreneur? I mean, we can digress a little bit what where does customer discovery come in? You kind of alluded to it with the entrepreneur journey.
EbaNee Bond 19:36
I think that it helps you build something for when people want. And like, I think that people have to get out of their own way, in time. So like, it helps you understand that you can like eliminate a lot of time building the wrong thing, effort, money, resources, all of that self esteem. So I think that it’s like super key because oftentimes you have this vision about like, why this is like the best thing. And then, like, for example, you might say, like, Hey, we need to build this app, because like, people internally in our company, they are not communicating enough with each other. But if we just had this app where people could like, communicate, like, it would be like, so great. And then you go and talk to people, and they’re like, if I have another app I have to deal with, I’m going to go bang my head. And I’m like, I don’t want an app. Like, what if it was just some email templates that were already like, constructed and like, I just have them on deck to send out that will like, make it easier for me to communicate, because then I’ll have to put in that extra work, it’s already there. Like, I can just send the email, you when you spend all that time and money, like building an app, or there was another like a startup here in Northeast Ohio, they had these sensors, and they are originally designing them for people who had amputated limbs. So they could put these sensors with their prosthetics and say, You went and grab a cup, the sensor realize you were making that like grabbing motion, and then assist you with picking up the cup. But when they went and actually talked to people, they figured out that a lot of amputees just figure out how to navigate life without a prosthetic. And so like there wasn’t going to be enough, it wasn’t going to be significant enough people to you know, make a profitable business out of it. But what they found was runners really care about their running form. So they can put that same sensor. And that sensor in a shoe could give information about a runners running form. And even if it shaved a second off of their running time, that second is so valuable to a runner. And so they were able to you know, pivot and now that’s their, their product, and so truly listening to your customers. And I just think that you have the best idea but let your customers tell you like, if it’s worthy.
Jen Carroll 21:57
Yeah, that’s, that’s thinking again, right there. Yeah, that’s awesome. I was gonna say, Does customer discovery have like buckets, or like main aspects in the process? Like, you should make sure that when you’re embarking on customer discovery, you do these X number of things?
EbaNee Bond 22:15
I think so I think that is really key in understanding, like, what your hypotheses are, what your guesses are, about why the business will succeed, or about why it will fail, I think it’s really, you know, important to actually like, write those things out. And kind of break it down, I think far as, like buckets of information that people need to get out of an interview is like, what do you believe, is a customer’s current processes for, you know, how they navigate solving the problem today, and then your customer discovery, you go and just ask them like, Okay, tell me your current processes. So you can kind of see what the customers perception or like, what their actual processes against what your perception of the process was, understand, you know, you have hypotheses about what problems they have in the need to go ask them what problems they have, you have your guess about what happens when that problem doesn’t get solved. Now you need to figure out what happens when that problem doesn’t get solved, you need to understand their current solutions, why their current solution suck, what their, what their desired outcomes actually are, from that, you know, so that’s really just getting really dig and deep into it and understand, like, customer’s problem and need, but then also, like, after you get better, and you have a better understanding of that you can go into understanding, you know, what the customer’s current budgets are, and what they what they currently spend on trying to solve the problem understanding their decision making unit. So like, who are the influencers in this, you know, kind of like ecosystem? Who are the people that would recommend a product like yours that they would look to for guidance, like, Oh, this person is the industry expert, this person, like whatever they’re doing, we’re following? Who are the champions in an actual organization or a family where you know, whatever kind of relationship would influence somebody to adopt a new solution? Who are the saboteurs? whose job could you possibly be eliminating? That would not like what you’re doing? Whose job are you making harder? You need to be mindful of who all those you know, players are. And it goes on, like, you know, understanding what are their current methods for finding out about solutions? You know, you might be trying to market to them on social media, but they actually all get this magazine from sports entertainment. And that’s where they look to to see like, what’s the best new- I don’t know,
Jen Carroll 24:33
Sensor, right? For the shoes?
EbaNee Bond 24:36
Yes, and so like, it all comes back to like, you really need to understand directly from your customers and not just one or two, but like, try to talk to 200 of them and figure out the answers to all those things. And you will have a more informed decision about what’s the best way to solve the problem. What’s the best way to get it to them, what’s the price point that they, you know, will be willing to pay for it and all of that by just listening to people and Have you have your own assumptions, but also go in and challenge them and test them. So I think those are like the major things to, you know, really try to glean from an interview.
Jen Carroll 25:10
You sit you totally sound like a scientist you are, you are no, no seriously
Annalisa Hilliard 25:14
Jen Carroll 25:15
Yeah, very quick. Yeah. But I think, you know, that’s that scientific approach, you know, you have an idea, but you’re willing to let somebody tear that idea down, essentially, so that you can build a better one. And I feel like, so many people get really, really attached to their their dream, and there’s nothing or their idea, and there’s nothing I guess wrong with that, unless nobody else shares that. So you have to kind of like be be willing to scientifically
Annalisa Hilliard 25:46
Deconstruct the box.
EbaNee Bond 25:48
Yeah, it’s true. Yeah, to build it to build it back as something more like, you know, go build the Taj Mahal now.
Annalisa Hilliard 25:56
Yeah, for sure.
Jen Carroll 25:58
Well, what are I guess, are there Can you recommend any tools or resources that people use in the customer discovery process? I have a couple actually that because we’re going through some customer discovery, but what do you recommend?
EbaNee Bond 26:10
You know, thinking about the difference between tools and best practices, and so for, for me, I would say tools would be taking another person with you when you go do customer interviewing, because then you get to focus on the questions are really being present in that, you know, conversation. And then they can focus on taking the notes and really trying to gather all of the information and even like, when you’re in the interview, there’s only you have limited attention, you’re, you know, attention modalities, like you’re using like the same ones to try to like conduct the the interview and record it. And so I think having someone there and then also like, what you think you might be the takeaways or what you heard, the other person might have a different perspective on that. And so I think that like using another human you know, as tool can be good in interviews, actually asking, you know, people to record it, well actually in the state of Ohio, you don’t need the other person’s permission, actually, to record it. As long as one party as long as one party has permission, which is you. And you’re not using it to like she you’re just using it to go back and take your own, you know, notes on it, so you don’t miss anything, and you can actually do it. I also think another tool is having a paper like with your, you know, hypotheses at the top if you want to, but more importantly, having the strategic questions there. Because you can have these idea of these are the questions I’m going to ask them and when you go into it, you just start having a conversation, you’re not really testing your hypotheses or learning more about them. So
Jen Carroll 27:46
I was gonna say like, I think it would be really easy to mix up your like, if you’re not asking everybody the same questions you might be drawing the wrong conclusions, I was just thinking like
EbaNee Bond 27:59
yes, you’re tainting the data. And you need to, like, keep some integrity, you know, there by actually asking the same questions. And then having a section at the bottom of the paper that you use to, you know, write those answers of the questions like immediately after going back and say, okay, based on what they told me, like, what are my key takeaways? Did they confirm or deny or validate or invalidate what my initial belief or guess was? So I think that, as far as like tools or resources actually going into an interview, that’s what I recommend as a tool or a resource. But I’m curious, like, What What about you, you said you had
Jen Carroll 28:38
Yeah, and actually, you kind of hit on it, which was, sometimes I we can’t, I can’t always have a second human in the in the interview, it’s just not, you know, not feasible with schedules or whatever. And that second human would normally be, you know, Annalisa of were like, you know, think, you know, doing this customer discovery process. But so I use a transcription, a record and transcribe service, which we have been through because we’re because of podcasting. Actually, we have been through, we’ve tested a lot of different ones, many of them are really lacking in the transcription area, the AI you know, the AI just isn’t there. But I we’ve had actually really good luck with otter.ai. I say that very carefully, because it sounds, o t t e r.ai. And that’s of all the ones that we’ve tried. It’s our favorite, and actually, our Podcast Producer recommended it and I think it was a great recommendation. So that’s the one I take it in to the customer discovery interview. And I always ask, like, you know, I’m not going to be
Jen Carroll 29:45
Now you know, you don’t have to.
Jen Carroll 29:46
Well, I’m still gonna ask, because I don’t want the person feeling uncomfortable, about what we’re doing and I always explain, it’s just so I can listen and talk with you and how Have a conversation without worrying about taking notes, I know that that this is gonna transcribe pretty accurately. And we can just talk and have a have a good conversation. So and it’s done. It’s, it’s been great, I have loved it. Now, of course, there’s still the process of going back and gleaning the nuggets, so to speak from, like you said, taking what your takeaways from each conversation, but it’s, it’s been really helpful, otter has. And I want to ask you something too about about the customer discovery process. Obviously, you’ve mentioned multiple, you know, testing multiple hypotheses, have you found that there’s value and benefit to? Like, question, you know, having a discovery process that’s like almost a quick something that somebody could answer online in like five minutes versus a more in depth conversational type of discovery? And are there benefits? Are there benefits to both?
EbaNee Bond 30:53
So that’s a good question. As a champion of customer discovery, I am against the the survey method, because you guys what I don’t remember exactly what the percentages are, but like, not what 93% of communication has nothing to do with the actual words that are said it’s, you know, a significant portion of it is the non verbal stuff. And then I think it was like 67 70% is nonverbal. And then the other verbal piece is tone, which has nothing to do with the words either. And so I think that there is a lot of information that you can get just from, you know, body language, like, for me, I like tune into those things, just knowing like, you know, somebody’s talking to you, and they’re leaning one way, or maybe they’re, you know, tapping their fingers, like all of that is giving you information about like, what’s going on, or what their responses or somebody tells you Yes, but they’re shaking their head. No. Maybe they really mean no, but you know, and so, I think that there’s so many little cues and stuff that you get from actually being able to see a person, I do think that there is value in in surveys, but not as like the main method that you’re trying to get information from, I think that if you do an interview, and maybe there’s some, some follow up questions that you have, that could be like a survey type of method, like on a scale of one to 10? Or can you prioritize this, which thing is more intense for you? Which problem is more intense? Like you can get information like that. Or maybe, you know, you like tell everyone at the end of your interview? Hey, um, is it okay, if I send you some, you know, follow up questions, if something comes to mind or something like that, or, but I wouldn’t use it as the sole method of getting information. I will use that as something that is, what’s the word out supplement? Yes. Yeah. So either to an interview, or even if you’ve done a chunk of like, in person interviews, you can use, you know, the survey method, if you want to, like take your interviews, maybe from 100 or 200, to 500, or something to see what differences you know, and information you might be able to get as well, but I wouldn’t use it as like a primary customer discovery tool.
Jen Carroll 33:13
Oh, good. Okay.
Annalisa Hilliard 33:13
Yeah, I was thinking, going back to like tools and resources. I know, for us in Data Dames, like we’ve used customer service teams and sales teams, to get some of our information that they’re talking to, you know, they’re talking to clients or potential clients, and they’re interviewing, like, what questions are you hearing? Or what, you know, what things are you hearing? Or what are people telling you?
Jen Carroll 33:38
Great. I mean, that’s a great point. Because, yeah, a lot of times when we’re consulting, as, as marketers, it’s very hard for us to get direct access to our clients’ customers, you know, we’re a little bit removed, but when we can get the sales and customer service teams into the same room, which most of the time they’re, they’re fairly open to doing that, then we can collect all kinds of information about you know, what they’re hearing as a result of all of their customer contact for marketers out there. It’s, you know, your sales and customer service folks are a, a rich source of information. So much, so
EbaNee Bond 34:17
They know what the problems are for sure.
Jen Carroll 34:20
They do well, and if they don’t, that’s a problem.
Annalisa Hilliard 34:24
I wish there were a tool. I mean, other than so what we’ve used is when we do an interview with a with a potential customer, you know, asking them at the end, like, Do you know anyone else that we could interview? Like, I wish there were a tool, because sometimes that’s the hardest part is like coming up with Okay, who do we? Who do we need to talk to? And how do we, how do we reach out to these, like, how do we find them? And then how do we get ahold of them?
EbaNee Bond 34:51
Yeah, that was so I had like that answer under like best practices.
Jen Carroll 34:57
And I imagine it probably depends on the audience. How, how difficult that is.
EbaNee Bond 35:02
Yeah, I think that, like they’re, you know, a couple of things. So I think Steve blanks, which is they what they call like the grandfather of the lean startup, if you can like research any tools or programs that cater to his teaching, which the National Science Foundation does adapt, like, adapts his curriculum for startups and customer discovery, through their ICORP program, tech stars, if you go on YouTube, they have a video about customer discovery, I believe the video was like six or seven minutes long, but they give you kind of like a format for which they ask like very, like high level questions, I like that definitely recommend people to research, their kind of like startup scene or small business scene and their city to figure out who, and the region might be helping people really understand their customers more. But then as far as like actually conducting the interviews, like looking for kind of like any conferences, or trade shows around, you know, what it is that you’re trying to do, or tackle, even is actually going to them. But also looking at the pamphlets and seeing who was there, you know, if you’re, you know, maybe it’s about people who can, you know, manage apartments, you can see who are some of the biggest apartment owners or something like that in the land. And, you know, a lot of times they’ll have their contact information there. And you know, like, reach out to them. I think another one is looking in any journals or publications, like, Who’s talking about this right now. And if you can, can reach out, reach out to them? Always at the end of the interview asking like, Who else? Is there anybody else that you recommend that I talked to? But even before that asking, is there anything that you feel like I should have asked, but didn’t or anything else that you’d like to share? Because there might just be something that you’re completely missing? And then you kind of alluded to it beforehand, like we said, like you’re going directly to like the customer service department is asking them what they’re hearing. See, maybe if there’s a similar watering hole like that, in your industry, so maybe you are talking to people who have diabetes? What would it look like to get insight from someone who actually is a doctor of people who have diabetes, they can give you like, so much insight? So is there someone that you know, people, a lot of people go to, that is your actual income, your your target customer and user, but you know, might meet with or engage with a lot of people that are your end user or target customer?
Annalisa Hilliard 37:55
That’s sounds like a great way to get, you know, various perspectives.
EbaNee Bond 37:59
For sure, for sure. And, you know, they could they have like, insight beyond, you know, they have even the outliers. Now they know information about them, fishing where the fish are, so if you have like, a hair product, per se, and you’re trying to like design it, or whatever, like, would it hurt for you to go to Target and hang out near their hair product section and just observe people? Not even ask, but see what they’re doing, like, guiding their decision making? And what’s their behavior? Like, wait, you know, items? Do they put in a cart and take out? are they paying? are they paying with cash or credit? Are they using coupons? Or are they when they’re actually shopping? Are they looking at their phone, and then going back to the shop and looking again, or looking at their phone? That’s like, you know, like, what is actually influencing their decision making? And then you get like, talk to them, Hey, I noticed that checking out something. A best practice be a creep. Like, that’s it, that’s
EbaNee Bond 39:03
a frame that No, no, do it go in it, and the people will ask you what does that mean? Or maybe they’ll just walk out of your house? Running out of here.
EbaNee Bond 39:19
I think, you know, those are probably you know, a couple of, you know, best practices that I would recommend like actually observing, asking people talking to people after you observe them. And and then going through the process yourself. That’s the best practice.
Annalisa Hilliard 39:36
that begs the question, like, when is the customer discovery process finished? Is it ever finished? Like I feel like it’s kind of kind of just ongoing? And I mean, with we talk about MVP, minimum viable product, like and, and you start there and you iterate. I feel like yeah, the customer discovery process is just like ongoing Right,
EbaNee Bond 40:01
yeah. Oh, we got excited. Because at the beginning of the conversation, you were talking about, you know, marketing and how there’s just so many different, you know, facets of and there’s always stuff to learn, like, you started off the conversation saying, like, you’re always learning. Yeah. And so I think that that is so key even like, like an example is with the the K cups with the coffee and Keurig. Beside, I think it was Keurig maybe was a different company. But they decided, Okay, like this coffee Keurig thing is like, you know, like, people are loving it. And so they decided that they were going to invest these millions of dollars into like a coke cup Keurig. So you can make like, cold, you know, like iced tea, you know, iced tea and stuff. And they start all these millions of dollars or figure out the market did not respond, they thought they would. And so perhaps maybe they did a little bit more customer discovery is that they, they would find that out. And so I do think you know, as you continue to grow and expand, you’re always going to need to be listening to your customers. And even if you know it, definitely if you if you’re not innovating and putting back money into research and development, like you are going to die, you cannot resist the fact that change is always going to be happening. Your customers mindset is going to change their experience of what’s available to them, it’s going to change and so you need to be, you know, on top of what that changes for the like, what’s becoming meaningful to them. Now going back into the meaningful marketing, he’s like, yeah, even like, what am I also one of my favorite stories I can go on? Or like, there was a, what do you call it a martial arts studio, and like, their marketing was all about, like, we’re about to make the next black bill and you know, bla bla, bla, bla bla. And then like, if that’s like how you, you know, fit all your marketing, and then when you’re talking to people, they’re like, yeah, I came here with my friends for a fun way to work out. Yeah, right. You know, I just wanted to have fun. And this was different. And it’s like, imagine that, you know, you change your whole messaging and your whole business around, you know, you want to find new way to, you know, work out versus become the next gen I black belt.
Jen Carroll 42:17
Yeah, that’s probably such a small segment of people who actually, like you say, want to become the next gen black belt. But far more people are like, Hey, I just want to I want to get in better shape. And I’d also like to maybe learn to defend myself or whatever, you know, there might be like, just some different angles, but way, way more toned down. Yeah, yes, that’s hilarious. Well, I guess that leads to like, biggest mistakes, I guess, as we kind of conclude this, this conversation about customer discovery, what what are the biggest mistakes you’ve seen, and that you can give people a heads up to avoid when they’re doing customer discovery.
EbaNee Bond 42:54
So this is really hard. Like, even you know, as you know, myself, as someone who’s helped, you know, and work with, you know, a lot of entrepreneurs, I can, I know, for a fact that when you’re in something and it’s yours, it’s harder, but to really get out of the way from trying to like validate your, your idea, or having someone validate you really is really what it is. And so, people are people go into it, and they really just want to be confirmed. And it’s like, you’re not, you shouldn’t go into it to be confirmed. There’s this clip that we show at my old job, and it’s a dumb and dumber, and
Jen Carroll 43:36
I remember that movie.
EbaNee Bond 43:39
So like, do you think that, you know, we, you know, have a chance and she’s like, he, there were, you know, only a million people on the planet, maybe there’s like a one and a million or something like that. And he’s like, you’re she’s like, no, not one in a billion. And he’s like, so you’re telling me there’s a chance? Like, I think, you know, as an entrepreneur, that’s like a big mistake people make is like, they just hold on to that one thing they wanted to hear. And it’s like, you’re not, you need to take that back into context of what’s really going on. And so I think that that’s like a huge mistake is, you know, not really listening. So there is like this. It was like a passing was a podcast or interview or something I was listening to was the blanks, actually. And he’s saying that they found that there’s a direct correlation to an entrepreneur’s passion and their failure. And you would think that it would be the opposite, that the more passionate people would be the least likely to fail. And it’s because the most passionate people are just so stuck on their idea and it’s the best thing since sliced bread, and they’re not willing to actually be wrong and go and test those, you know, beliefs that they have, you know about why They’ll be successful. And so I think, you know, passion is a good thing, but you also have to be open. So like really understanding your your cut, who knows your customer best wins. And so you really have to get out of the way and really listen, you know, to people
Jen Carroll 45:14
so, so that that was saying essentially that people who are passionate actually might fail at their at their business
EbaNee Bond 45:22
idea, okay? They’re not actually, they’re just so gung ho about it, you need to actually go, and listen. And I think the other mistake people made is like being in sales mode, like they’re trying to, you know, win people over and get them to, you know, buy their product or whatever. And it’s like, you shouldn’t be in sales model, you should really just be trying to understand your customers that this is the difference between customer discovery and selling. And I think that some people don’t differentiate the two. And so I think that that’s a big mistake that people make,
Annalisa Hilliard 45:56
I feel like, that’s a perfect circle back to the empathy piece. Because like, yeah, I mean, again, going back to like, what we what we usually hear sales to be or think of sales to be as, like, get to sell, you know, sell the product or service and be passionate about it, right, isn’t it? Because like, those things are what sexy like, you know, success, like if we just talk about success, right, and like, having passion and and, and making sales like that. In reality, it’s like the in the trenches is like, really what it’s all about.
Jen Carroll 46:29
Yeah. And nobody knew, and I don’t think that the business. Well, I mean, good business coaches certainly will talk about that. But sure, the people who are like, you know,
Annalisa Hilliard 46:37
posting on LinkedIn,
Jen Carroll 46:38
right, yeah. Thank you. Yes, you’re right. They don’t exactly like, yeah, this, this idea that it’s not quite not quite that easy. And, and yeah, I agree. Well, I’m gonna make sure that we have all of these resources that have been mentioned in in the podcast, I’ll link them in the show notes. And Ebony, if you like, you, like did some quotes from the book, right at the beginning of this segment about customer discovery definition. If you could, like, send me that info I want make sure like that book gets included in this in the show notes. Oh, yeah. Cool. So yep. The startup owners manual. That’s what it’s called. Okay. All right. So well, I will send it to you. Perfect. Thank you. Well, we will now like talk a little bit about small businesses we like to do like I know, we love to, we’re a small business. And we love to give other small businesses a shout out. So is there anyone in the Akron area that we everybody should know about? That’s a great small business.
EbaNee Bond 47:43
If you if you tell me one, there is a lady that I just you know, recently met and become acquainted with. And it’s an essential business really, because everybody has a car and then either cars service and so that is a family owned business, a family black owned, family owned business, and she’s actually taking she’s taking it over. And it’s called so fresh use auto.
Jen Carroll 48:09
That’s a it’s a different name for it for used cars, for sure.
EbaNee Bond 48:13
I guess. So I think it started off I think she said like as a carwash. And then they evolved into it. So they kept it kept the same name. But if you like major oil change, or need to get your brakes done, or you know, stuff like that, and she’s now leading it, and I just think it’s so phenomenal. That she’s like a mechanic.
Jen Carroll 48:33
That is awesome. And you know, as to women who’ve, you know, tried to and you also even doing engineering, those are often so such male dominated industries, I would think, yeah, car repair is I yeah, the number of women I’ve ever heard in that field. I think she might be one. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a woman in that industry. So that’s awesome. Good for her. Sure. For sure. So what’s it called again? One more time. So
EbaNee Bond 49:00
fresh use auto. Okay. I believe I believe that’s what it’s called. Do they sell cars as well?
EbaNee Bond 49:06
I think wow.
Jen Carroll 49:08
All right. Well, she must be Well, I mean, used cars are like, I was listening to a podcast right now. Yeah, they’re hot. Yeah, they are a hot commodity. Like you had like, they went up from April to May. In the consumer price index. 10%. Like, that’s, Oh, wow. That is like something that never happens. I guess it’s just never happened before that used cars would be up that much. And I don’t know, like, a lot of factors that are Yeah, of course. I mean, we only have a pandemic once every 100 years. 100 years and and cars.
Annalisa Hilliard 49:41
Right. Knock on wood.
Jen Carroll 49:42
Right. And yeah, right. Hopefully, and they’re, you know,
EbaNee Bond 49:44
I need to be preparing the future generate, like my future generation.
Jen Carroll 49:48
Yeah, well think about it. I mean, in 1918 I mean, how many people actually had cars in 1918? So you know, who would like oh, use cars really went up post the Spanish flu. Oh, wait, okay. So who knows your world to be like, I hope Yeah, I hope like you said, it’s only every 100 years or maybe 200 would be good or never. How about never again, you can we make these huge mistakes. I know it’s going, it’s coming. I know. I know. I know. So finally we get to our favorite part, which we always like to talk about. What are we drinking? It’s just because Annalisa and I are such a huge fan of beverages in general. You go first, what is there something? Excuse me? Is there something that you’re drinking? That’s a new favorite or an old favorite? It’s,
EbaNee Bond 50:39
it’s uh, can you hear me swirling my feet earlier? So I really like I am a huge ginger fan like I love ginger like real ginger. I love it. So any drink the ginger I’m a fan. So the what I’m drinking now is a combination of peach tea and then I add like freshman’s ginger in it and like coconut sugar. And it’s just like so good. Like peach and ginger go together and I actually stole this idea from there’s a small business in in Akron, Ohio. She doesn’t know the name. I don’t know the name of it but I seen her at a couple of markets and it hurt. I kicked my T doesn’t compare it to hers like phenomenas like a peach ginger, I have to figure out where her business
Jen Carroll 51:31
scientist I will add it will add it to my notes.
EbaNee Bond 51:34
I will and then drinks there is the the speakeasy at Northside in Akron and I believe I believe the dream maybe it’s called the penicillin I don’t know. That sounds which I’m actually allergic to amoxicillin so I thought that makes me automatically allergic to penicillin. penicillin, actually, but um, but I like to
Jen Carroll 52:00
drink. Like, thank God it has nothing to do with actual penicillin, right? No, it’s
EbaNee Bond 52:06
got to do with lots of ginger. I think that the ginger drink I could be wrong, but I just love ginger. So
Annalisa Hilliard 52:11
anything with ginger, maybe that name just comes from talking about pandemic connection.
Jen Carroll 52:19
I was gonna say Annalisa you’re you’re a huge ginger. Oh, yeah. I love her gin and ginger. Yeah. Oh my goodness. Do you do gin and ginger? I don’t like gin. Oh, yeah. Okay, well, that was an alternative.
Annalisa Hilliard 52:33
I mean, you could do well, I’ve done bourbon and ginger. Yeah, very good. It’s very good. those goals that go good together. Yeah.
Jen Carroll 52:42
Well, and we had like, what’s the ginger beer? Like? You’re very Cuellar. Yeah. Q
Annalisa Hilliard 52:47
si ginger beer
Jen Carroll 52:48
super particular. And where do you even get like Q is not in the pop aisle? You know, I’m saying pop. Yeah, the soda aisle.
Annalisa Hilliard 52:57
I mean, I found it in Giant Eagle.
Jen Carroll 52:59
Okay, so is it? Thank you. Yeah. But yeah, it’s they come in like small cans. So it’s not meant to really it’s really more of a
Annalisa Hilliard 53:06
I don’t know, I guess I have another brand. That’s probably more well known. It’s like fevertree. Okay. Yeah. I love that. Yeah. And they’re really good. But you, you would probably find q where you would find fevertree
Jen Carroll 53:17
Okay. All right. All right. So you have to let you have to let us know if you’re like up. I’m a fever tree fan or I’m a Q fan. So look, I will let you know i’ll post about it on LinkedIn, but maybe not. too good. Everybody’s so but everybody’s wondering. I used to say people are a little less buttoned up now then then that LinkedIn used to be like, I think pre pandemic was like, Oh my goodness, let’s not admit that we drink or that we like, boring. I know. So we we recently had a trip to Pittsburgh. My daughter was celebrating her 21st birthday. I have a 21 year old daughter now which blows my mind. But she she wanted some what I want to say advice from the elder statesman on what really good places to you know, really good drinks and vibe. Yeah. And she wanted to imbibe properly. So she asked us to take her to Pittsburgh, so we should talk a little bit about some a couple of the places that were outstanding, like arsenal. Arsenal cider. Yeah. Wow.
Annalisa Hilliard 54:30
They have a couple locations in Pittsburgh and they just opened a location in Ohio city. Oh, there’s not one in Ohio.
Jen Carroll 54:37
Oh, hey, all right. Well, we can all go clean Oh, cider. So they have an amazing ginger. cider. Go you. Yeah, you It’s so it’s all hard cider, obviously. And it’s believe me if you’re thinking of Mike’s hard or whatever, like Angry orchard, just put those thoughts out of your mind. no comparison to that kind of mass market. Right. So Very craft cider and they have this amazing ginger one that I was like, Wow. So you would probably love it. Okay,
EbaNee Bond 55:09
I will. I will. I will try it because I will be Sunday. Oh, one of my friends has a like a apartment or run over downtown Cleveland. So we’re gonna go on the rooftop and have some drinks and so maybe I can pick up some side Oh, yes. Although I don’t I don’t like beer though. The cider is only like beers like you handle so don’t perfect. Yeah,
Jen Carroll 55:31
that you then yeah, the ciders is a good choice and the other cidery that we set a cidery did they call it that? IV brewery? cidery is threadbare.
Annalisa Hilliard 55:43
Yeah. And their sister company which actually they were they were incepted first? I think the word
Jen Carroll 55:51
I don’t know. Anyway, right? They seemed that sounded bad. Yeah.
Annalisa Hilliard 55:55
So was his wiygul or wind goal or they call it wiggle? Which is so weird. It’s Wi Fi.
Jen Carroll 56:03
Yeah. Why would you think why would you think a word wi GLA within
Annalisa Hilliard 56:10
an aged like whiskey. So clear, clear whiskey never been put in a barrel to age. And that was Gosh, probably. I grew up near Pittsburgh. So that was probably 10 years ago or so that they started and then they’ve just like exploded. They have like every kind of liquor they’ve got like, yeah, like liquorice, like lemon cello. And
Jen Carroll 56:37
they had another I was trying to think of the other. rhubarb. Yeah, they make like an tomorrow. Very good. Yes. Very good. The only thing I would say the only place I would say in Ohio that we’ve tried that I would say is on par with Weigel. And we’ve mentioned them before on the podcast and that’s Western Reserve distillery in Cleveland. They are also
Annalisa Hilliard 57:00
they have a couple different liquors, but they they don’t have quite the selection that right.
Jen Carroll 57:05
They’re just starting out. They’re they’re new to I think they’re a fairly new distillery. But what they have made is is really exceptional. So yeah, so for Ohioans looking for not feeling like going all the way to Pittsburgh for why go all the way it’s
Annalisa Hilliard 57:21
not that far, right.
Jen Carroll 57:24
Yeah. So anyway, that’s our that those are our bevvies of choice recently. So sweet. Well, thanks, Ebony. Yes. Thanks so much. You have been an amazing interview. He and I have learned even Yeah, I’ve definitely learned from from from you. And from talking with you. I hope you’ll come back. Thanks, everybody.
Annalisa Hilliard 57:46
Thanks so much. Thank you.
Jen Carroll 57:48
That wraps up another episode of meaningful measurable marketing. If you manage marketing, sales, customer service or operations for growing small business, we hope you found this podcast helpful. Any tool resource or article re referenced can be found in the show notes for this episode. And if you haven’t already, subscribe to our podcast or left us a review. We hope you’ll do both today. I’m Jen Carroll, my co host Annalisa Hill you deny our marketing strategy consultants. And together we are the day to day times of day to day AMS marketing. Learn more about us at data dams marketing.com
A digital marketing professional since 2011, Annalisa is a technical SEO with a Google Analytics certification and a passion for data. When she’s not helping clients improve their website performance, she’s off on a hike, riding her bike (affectionately named Newton), or getting lost in a good book, article, or podcast with a cup of locally roasted coffee or craft IPA in hand.
Jen Carroll writes. She excels at making complicated things understandable, telling a compelling story, and developing manageable plans to achieve big ideas. She’s the content marketing and social media advising half of the dynamic Data Dames duo.