How and Why You Should Run a Customer Panel for Your Marketing Team


As a marketer, we sometimes ask ourselves the next query no less than a dozen instances a day: “Would our prospects and customers like this?”

Ideally, you will use a mixture of qualitative and quantitative information to reach on the reply to that query.

But one nice place to know what your prospects like (and love … and hate … ) is straight from the purchasers themselves.

At HubSpot’s department-wide advertising group conferences, for occasion, we regularly host buyer panels. There’s good purpose for this.

As Senior Product Marketing Manager, Katriona Heaslip, notes, “A good marketing strategy should always incorporate the voice of the customer — you could have the best product in the world but you won’t see any growth unless you’re positioning it in a way that appeals to the customer.”

Additionally, Amanda Whyte, HubSpot’s Director of Voice of the Customer, says, “Customer panels are such an important way for feedback to be heard, especially for teams that are non-customer facing in their day-to-day job responsibilities.”

Whyte provides, “Hearing from a customer what their experience has been, in their own words, creates empathy among decision-makers in a way they couldn’t get from looking at data alone. It drives more customer-centric content and communications.”

A buyer panel is an distinctive alternative to be taught extra about your prospects’ factors of friction and success tales. And, together with utilizing that materials to tell your future advertising technique, it will possibly additionally encourage your entrepreneurs to work more durable by reminding them why what they’re doing issues.

Here, we’ll dive into greatest practices when internet hosting a buyer panel — together with what makes a “good” buyer for a panel, learn how to ask efficient questions throughout a buyer panel, and why a buyer panel is crucial for creating alignment throughout your advertising group.

Let’s dive in.

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How to Choose Participants for Your Customer Panel

When you start curating a checklist of potential prospects to host in a buyer panel, there are a few components you will need to contemplate.

First, as Lauren McKenzie, HubSpot’s Director of Product Design, factors out, “A ‘good’ panel has a wide range of experiences and feedback to offer. For instance, the panel should represent your customer base. If 50% of your customer base is based in Latin America, you’ll want 50% of your panelists to be based in Latin America. A thoughtfully curated panel allows you and the team to hear from a diverse set of customers, offering a breadth of experiences and opinions.”

Plus, McKenzie provides, “Gabby Thomas, our Program Manager for DI&B, always asks whose voice are we not hearing. This is important to consider when creating a panel, as well.”

“It’s our job to give all of our customers a platform to have their voices heard, and often that means seeking out the customers we don’t hear from as much. You don’t just want your fans or ambassadors — instead, you want customers that are going to push you to think differently and improve.”

Ultimately, while you’re curating a checklist of shoppers to host, you will need to contemplate whether or not your panelists ship a wide selection of views to get probably the most out of your panel.

Laurie Aquilante, HubSpot’s Director of Customer Marketing, echoes this attitude, including that range in your panel is crucial. She says, “Make sure you have a panel with diverse perspectives. Do you have a mix of industries, use cases, and backgrounds represented? What about titles? Company size? Racial and gender diversity? High NPS and low NPS?”

Additionally, contemplate curating a group relying on the questions you need to ask throughout your dialogue. If you are releasing a product meant to assist enterprise prospects, be certain your panelists are enterprise-level. Within that group, you may embody a marketer, developer, and IT particular person to supply a vary of views on the enterprise product. 

It’s additionally vital to think about which panelists will supply probably the most constructive suggestions to really allow your organization to develop.

Shauna Carroll, HubSpot’s Program Manager of Voice of the Customer, says, “When selecting your customers for the panel it is important to understand the customer’s ability and willingness to provide candid feedback. When recruiting for HubSpot’s Customer Advisory Board this is one of the most important factors for us — we want members who are invested in our success, but not afraid to share their honest opinion.”

Of course, it may be tough to pre-determine which prospects will supply useful, constructive suggestions.

For this purpose, Carroll advises, “You can determine this by having quick screening call with each of the participants. This screening call is also a great way for the facilitator to understand the various personalities joining the panel and he/she can start to build a plan for how to get the most from the panelists.”

As if this does not appear specific-enough, there’s yet one more factor you will need to contemplate when selecting a panel: how properly they communicate on-camera. 

Kinzie Trompak, HubSpot’s Manager of Customer Stories, says, “You’ll want to find speakers that are comfortable on camera. Do your speakers have a sample talk they can share?”

“Are they comfortable speaking on Zoom where they can’t necessarily see faces or pick up on non-verbal cues? This piece is part of doing research and effectively preparing your speakers.”

Once you have discovered prospects that may supply a wide selection of views and opinions, it is time to host the panel.

But relating to internet hosting the panel … what questions must you even ask?

Effective Questions to Ask During a Customer Panel

I spoke to Katriona Heaslip, a Senior Product Marketing Manager at HubSpot, to be taught what forms of questions you must ask a buyer throughout a panel. She instructed me, “Customers have the answers to the questions we as marketers spend a lot of time agonizing over: who is our persona, what’s the perfect price point, what category should we be in, what’s the best tagline to use.”

“Your customers have the answers, you just have to unlock them by listening.”

So — how do you unlock them?

Heaslip says, “Always have a goal or objective in mind: this will help you develop questions and add more focus to your time with customers, giving you better insights.”

For occasion, at HubSpot we regularly host panels a couple weeks or months earlier than a new product launch. This permits the advertising group to uncover issues revolving round that sort of product, and how our advertising supplies may mitigate these issues.

You may contemplate doing the identical factor at your personal firm. If you have simply added some new options to your product, maybe you host some current prospects and ask them how these options may assist them — in addition to any apprehensions they may have.

McKenzie additionally suggests creating open-ended and particular questions, to make sure your prospects can keep on-track, whereas nonetheless broad sufficient to offer them a possibility to offer any anecdotal info they’d like. She says, “Focus more on asking questions that start with What and How rather than Why. Ideally, questions should focus on their actual experience, rather than asking them to project into the future or imagine what they would do in a hypothetical scenario.”

To get you began, listed here are a few potential questions I’d suggest asking:

  • What was the choice course of like when shopping for [our product]? Did you take a look at or use different instruments?
  • How lengthy have you ever been utilizing [our product]?
  • What have been the earliest successes you noticed? What type of long-term affect have you ever seen?
  • Which options or instruments do you want probably the most? How do you be taught from them?
  • Which sources do you utilize most? (Blogs, ebooks, whitepapers, video, and many others.)
  • Did it’s a must to persuade stakeholders to purchase? What was that course of like?
  • If you might wave a magic wand and change one factor about our product or general shopping for course of, what wouldn’t it be?

In phrases of distribution, Aquilante instructed me, “Consider having a set of questions you’ve sent the customers in advance, so they can prepare best for the discussion. Then, during the panel, have attendees at your company write down questions that come to mind and save them for the end of the meeting.”

Additionally, you will need to guarantee your questionnaire is constant throughout the board. Heaslip advises, “Make sure you ask each customer the same questions (where relevant) in order to compare answers and ascertain trends and patterns in feedback.”

4 Best Practices Before, During, and After a Customer Panel

Before the Customer Panel

1. Decide whether or not or not you will take reside questions, and how lengthy your panel might be.

Once you have received your prospects chosen and questions deliberate, you will must plan logistics. For occasion, will you settle for questions in-the-moment from the viewers, or present a while after the ready panel for viewers questions?

If you do go away time for viewers questions, contemplate requesting that your workers ship their inquiries to a pre-determined Slack channel, so the moderator can sift by means of and select those best-suited for the panel. This offers an extra degree of management over the questions requested.

As Trompak suggests, “I’d collect questions ahead of the panel. There is nothing more awkward than asking for audience participation, followed by silence. By collecting questions ahead of time, you’re setting your speakers up for success as they have time to prepare and think through their answers.”

Another logistical issue you will need to work out pre-panel: How lengthy would you like your panel to final?

As Aquilante places it, “You’ll want to prepare ahead of time and make sure the customers and the people at your company are aware of how things are going to go. Ensure they understand how long the panel will go, and whether or not you’ll take live questions. If you choose to take live questions, figure out whether or not you’ll take them during or after. For us, we’ve found about 45 minutes to be a good length of time for a panel of 3-4 customers.”

During The Customer Panel

1. Invest in recording software program to show the client panel into a case examine.

If you are conducting a buyer panel by way of video conferencing, contemplate the way you may document and transcribe the decision after-the-fact. Alternatively, even when your buyer panel is in-person, contemplate whether or not you may entry video tools to document the chat and transcribe it later.

Katriona Heaslip instructed me, “It’s useful to record the customer call using a tool like Gong, which also provides a transcript, so you can engage fully with the customer in-the-moment without typing furiously trying to keep up. This way you can reference the call afterwards and pick up things you may have missed, or even share it with some other stakeholders internally if there’s some particularly useful feedback.”

Additionally, Heaslip advises utilizing the content material from the client panel and turning it into a case examine. This means, you may leverage the client panel as a lead technology alternative and reveal to prospects how your current prospects’ have discovered success along with your product.

2. Have a good moderator to facilitate numerous points-of-view.

Ultimately, a buyer panel is just nearly as good as your moderator. It’s your moderator’s job to maintain the dialog flowing, encourage alternate views, and merely facilitate which prospects reply during which order to make sure everyone seems to be heard equally.

As McKenzie instructed me, “A good moderator asks open-ended questions, involves all panelists in the discussion, and moves the discussion along rather than offering up their own opinions.”

Additionally, she provides, “A potential pitfall of a customer panel is when one loud voice dominates the conversation or causes other panelists to second guess themselves.”

“A good moderator can counteract this by not only encouraging differing opinions, but actively seeking out different points of view throughout the discussion.”

3. Follow a few Zoom greatest practices to create an excellent viewers expertise. 

Whyte recommends a few suggestions she follows every time her buyer panels are completely distant. 

“If the panels are over Zoom and we’ve a bigger viewers, we suggest the next suggestions to make sure the perfect expertise for everybody:

  • Hide Non-Video Participants (Go to Preferences > Video > Check the field for ‘Hide non-video individuals’).
  • Everyone who will not be a panelist or moderator can Turn Off Video & Mute.
  • To see the panelists concurrently slide content material, use Side-by-side Mode (Go to View Options & activate “Side-by-side Mode” to see slides + gallery view of shoppers).
  • During any Q&A portion, flip your video again on and unmute your self so the panelists can see who’s asking the query.”

Of course, should you’re utilizing another video conferencing instruments, you will need to discover the choices it’s a must to mute or conceal non-video individuals.

Ultimately, you will need to determine what works greatest for your advertising group and panelists, however it’s a good thought to iron out the small print earlier than going reside along with your prospects. 

After the Customer Panel

1. Thank your prospects for their time with a word or present.

Once your buyer panel has ended, you will need to follow-up with individuals to thank them for their time.

Laurie Aquilante suggests sending alongside a thank-you word or present to point out prospects you admire their time: “How are you going to thank customers for their time? Consider delivering a hand-written thank you note from your team or a small gift. Alternatively, perhaps participating in a customer panel is part of a greater advocacy and rewards program.”

2. Provide panelists with networking alternatives.

After the panel, contemplate the way you may encourage additional interplay between your prospects to facilitate long-term skilled connections.

For occasion, Carroll suggests, “After the customer panel, it can be a nice gesture to provide the panel with the opportunity to network further with each other and with employees from your company. Many customers will be grateful for this opportunity, and offering to facilitate/host this is a nice way to thank them for their time.”

Ultimately, there are a number of different channels you may leverage to be taught extra about your prospects, so it is as much as you to determine whether or not or not a buyer panel is the best-fit for your group.

As HubSpot’s Director of Customer Marketing, Laurie Aquilante, places it, “Getting your customer’s perspective is incredibly important for any business. There are lots of ways to do that — you can look at reviews, NPS, various feedback channels, a user/customer research function, focus groups, and customer panels. Ultimately, you’ll want to consider which method you need for which program.”

A buyer panel is a implausible choice to reveal how a lot your organization cares about your prospects’ views — and lets you align your group beneath one shared imaginative and prescient: the client.

Additionally, Trompak instructed me, “The majority of marketers rarely speak directly to customers. Panels are a great way to infuse the voice of the customer into your work without bombarding your customers with asks from multiple teams.”

She provides, “As an example, At HubSpot, we ran two panels in January to inform marketers’ work for 2020. The Super Admin panel helped my teammate Lucy Alexander design the offerings for HubSpot’s Power User Community.”

Hopefully, with these greatest practices in-hand, your group can go away your subsequent advertising group assembly feeling impressed, aligned, and able to sort out their advertising challenges with a contemporary sense of who your prospects are. To discover different choices, take a take a look at Customer Feedback Strategy: The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need.

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Originally printed Sep 17, 2020 7:00:00 AM, up to date September 17 2020


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