Imagine you have thousands of customers in the lower tier option of your SaaS, and you need to find a silver bullet to convert more to your higher tier.

One of our cybersecurity clients was facing this very scenario. An industry conference was coming up, and they wanted us to attend and research untapped opportunities in the market.

Here is our journal entry about how we teamed up and delivered. You can follow this process to help your team research at your next conference.

Conference Prep

One week before the conference, we met with our client. We asked for $20 Amazon gift cards to hand out for customer interviews. The gift cards were little incentives that helped start conversations and thank folks for their time answering questions.

That week, we prepped a list of about ten questions to surface real pains and inefficiencies. Since we’ve done interviews with these customer types before, we weren’t starting from scratch.

We were ready to travel and team up with our client at their booth.

Day 1 - Understand the industry

New to our client’s industry and conference, we divided our time between working our client’s booth and touring other booths with many questions and genuine curiosity. Our goal was to interview shop managers and uproot any pain points they encountered daily.

We were wondering:

  • How do we find these shop managers?
  • Are we in the right area, floor, or building?
  • Are there enough shop managers to interview?
Getting to know the industry better

One thing we didn’t expect was the opportunity to listen to the sales team explain our client’s different services. Being in the booth was a tremendous help to parrot and sell our client.

We talked to everyone else but the shop managers on the first day. Yet, these conversations were insightful, but we needed to hone in on shops.

Day 2 - Interview shops to find and understand their pain

We set up a laptop to show a screen (single slide keynote) that blinked in inverse colors every ten seconds: “$20 Amazon gift card for 5mins to ask you questions.”

It worked. We interviewed ~25 shops (plus many vendors) and composed a list of concerns these shops wanted to solve. This was a productive day listening to shop owners.

Doing user research with real customers

Day 3 - Have shops stack-rank their pain

It’s all too easy to jump into solving problems. We want to avoid going to solution-ville, where you ignore the symptoms and the diagnosis process.

Based on what we learned the previous day, we listed the top problems on sticky notes. We asked the shop owners to rank the issues with the highest-to-lowest pain scale.

The exercise helped validate the problems we found. We kept learning more and more. We hadn’t expected shop owners to be reminded of bigger problems they needed to solve.

Getting customers to stack rank their problems

Outcome - real valuable problems

Now that we understood the most painful things for shop managers, our team was ready to devise creative ways to solve those problems.

The following week, we presented our findings to our client. We shared the list of problems and provided recommendations.

"It was spectacular having you there. You guys definitely earned your keep. So, I want to thank you both. Really, really good stuff here." - David Sequino

Two biggest takeaways:

  1. Industry conferences are worth attending if you are new to the industry and want your team to have a competitive advantage.
  2. Customer interviews and user testing are two of the most powerful tools to understand how to better serve your customer.

Want to learn more about validating your ideas?

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