How to Select Buyers for Purchase Story Interviews

We’ve previously covered the benefits of interviewing your buyers for their purchase stories. They’re useful when you’re wondering what caused your customers to go out and seek out your product for a job they have to get done. To get those details out, the interview format asks questions to recall in vivid detail the circumstances leading up to the purchase.

By the end of each purchase interview, you’ll have…

  • Obtained vivid contextual details of the circumstances preceding the purchase, so that you can say you’ll have…
  • Understood some the emotional and rational forces which swayed each decision to move closer to the purchase, so that you can say you’ll have…
  • Obtained a better understanding of what caused your buyer to move ahead toward the purchase, so that you can say you’ll have…
  • Found out what your product was replacing that didn’t do a good enough job, so that you can say you’ll have…
  • Articulated the real job for which the buyer hired your product, so that you can say you’ll have…
  • Added one more anecdote to your collection of purchase stories, so that you can say you’ll have…
  • Obtained what you need to more sharply communicate and package your product and its features.

Criteria for Selecting Buyers to Interview

And so, to select which buyers to talk to, here are some criteria:

1. The buyer must have purchased the product in the last three months

In order to elicit the recall of those vivid details, it works best that the purchase have been made recently, and no further back than three months from the purchase interview.

2. The buyer must have deliberated (internally debated) whether to go ahead with the purchase.

If the purchase was mindless or automatic, there won’t be much context around the purchase. So it’s important that the buyer had some mental back-and-forth when thinking about solving their problem, some form of hesitation or discernment. For this, it helps that the purchase price was a sizeable amount. It also follows that…

3. The purchase can’t be a refill

Refills would be when the purchaser had previously bought the product (or something very similar), and that this new purchase is simply to replace the old one.

4. The purchase can’t be a gift to someone else

When purchasing something as a gift, a buyer won’t be thinking through the options the same way as when purchasing the item for herself. Gifts are bought to fulfill the purchaser’s job-to-be-done to signal love or consideration or to pay back a debt, and that job is separate from the job-to-be-done of someone who purchased the product with their own money. So gift-giving is a catch-all job that you’re probably not interesting in learning about.

Finding the Buyers to Interview

Whether you invite your buyers from a mailing list you have or from social media, you want to have them qualify themselves against the above criteria before the interview.

A short questionnaire on Typeform would do the trick. Additional questions could include the actual product they purchased and the total amount, but don’t include too many questions in this questionnaire. You want a high rate of participation on this questionnaire, so keep it short.

To encourage participation in responding to the short questionnaire, be sure to communicate to your audience that they would be compensated for their time if selected for an interview. Since the interview will last about 50-60 minutes, a $50 gift card is usually an appropriate incentive. If the purchase interview was for a large business-to-business transaction, offer an incentive that would be worth the time of the buyer, like a discount on their next purchase.

Once you’ve collected enough survey respondants that qualify, you would then have them select a time for the interview from a predefined list. Tools like calendly are great for scheduling, and userinterviews.com allows you to setup both the qualification questionnaire and the automatic scheduling of qualified users.

Also be sure to record the interview (with the buyer’s permission). Be sure you’re identifying the Four Forces of Progress and that you’ve got details about the whole timeline of the purchase story.

With five to ten interviews, you’ll get a good enough idea of the jobs for which your product was hired to do, and you’ll gain some new confidence in how to communicate it and how to package it.

Stay Sharp!


Once you got a few interviews in, please reach out to let me know how they went. I’d love to know! I could also run the whole interview process for you, if that’s helpful, or just sit in on a call to give you feedback.



@pascallaliberte

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