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How much effort does it take to get someone to check out your product, let alone trial it and buy it? There’s a lot of time, energy, and cost associated with building awareness and acquisition, especially if you’re engaging in any kind of paid marketing activities. If you lose that person and never get them over the finish line, you’ve lost that investment. Right?

Well, not entirely.

While you’ve likely lost the chance to win them as a customer, you haven’t lost the opportunity to learn from them. A little market research, executed at the right time with individuals at unique stages in your business cycle, can go a long way to pinpoint what could have been better and give you actionable, data-centric steps to help you nail it the next time.

The Lost Customer Segments You Should Care About

Lost customer opportunities abound in any business. They can include fairly unqualified segments who are just looking around but may not be all that interested in buying. Or, they may be past customers that choose not to buy from you again. Identifying these unique segments, and using market research to learn what impedes their future engagement, can help focus your attention on needed efforts to change this behavior around.

1. Website Bouncers

These are people who visit a single page on your website and then leave, the digital equivalent of a ding-dong-ditch. While these are the least qualified individuals in terms of their likelihood to become customers, the fact that they even came to your website in the first place shows they made at least some effort to check out what you offered.  However, their rapid departure shows that whatever they saw was not of interest.

What Can You Learn: While they are relatively unqualified, you’ll find that this group represents the highest volume of individuals in your reject customer category. As a result, isolating what’s not resonating with them can have a major impact on business volume. Pinging these individuals with an on-site survey just as they are about to leave your site can help you learn if you have…

  • Marketing Tactic Misalignment: This would tell you that the marketing tactics you’re investing in (e.g. paid ads, PR, sponsored content, content syndication, etc.) are bringing in individuals with backgrounds or needs that don’t align with your product.
  • Misaligned Marketing Messaging: This problem area would indicate that the messaging—value propositions, features, or benefits—aren’t resonating and therefore not compelling individuals to learn more.
  • Incomplete Marketing Messaging: If individuals aren’t getting the information they need quickly, they won’t spend further time exploring what you do.

2.  Visited But Never Converted

This group is a bit more invested than the website bouncer segment. These non-converters, as we’ll call them, are people who have visited and engaged with your site, but haven’t done more. This could include having viewed multiple pages on your site, or engaged with richer information like eBooks, white papers, webinars, or more.

What Can You Learn: While still somewhat unqualified, they are making a deliberate effort to engage and learn. Using on-site triggered surveys or email surveys can help you isolate if you have issues with…

  • Marketing Messaging: As mentioned above, the information they are receiving may make them uncertain that your product will fulfill the needs they have or perhaps be as comprehensive as it needs to be.
  • Customer Segmentation: People may be interested in the product, but may not be sure that it’s for someone like them. For B2C businesses, this could mean thinking that the product is for someone with a different background or profile while for B2B businesses this could mean thinking the product is for someone in a different industry or profession.
  • Pricing: If you have pricing on your website, and people aren’t buying or asking for more information, there could be a problem with pricing. It could be the static price point itself, or perhaps an issue with the pricing model.

3. Lapsed Trialists

Lapsed trialists are people who have given a product or service a try, but then ultimately choose not to buy. These are individuals who are on the cusp of making a purchase, making them an extremely qualified segment. As a result, the fact that they choose not to convert makes this segment extremely important to understand.

What Can You Learn: Because this segment stops right before the finish line, they represent your biggest short-term opportunity for improving sales volume. Taking the time to interview them and dig into their concerns will let you understand if any of the barriers below are impeding purchases:

  • Product-Market Fit: Now that they’ve tried the product, this segment may find that it’s not meeting their needs. Or, as you may uncover, they are not recognizing the full breadth of what the product offers and therefore aren’t deriving enough value from it.
  • User Experience: Perhaps the underlying product or service is good, but the experience around it—on-site or in-app navigation, customer support, etc.—makes it difficult to use and therefore not worth the trouble.
  • Pricing: This time around, price may be an issue if, in this segment’s mind, the price is not a fair rate relative to the product’s perceived value.

4. Proposal Decliners

In some businesses, there isn’t an opportunity for a free trial prior to making a purchase. Instead, prospects may request a proposal that tailors a service to their specific needs. Choosing not to move forward makes them a Proposal Decliner. Like lapsed trialists, the proposal decliner segment is seriously considering a purchase but choses to pass.

What Can You Learn: Because this segment so closely matches lapsed trialists, doing interview research will help explore the same potential issues outlined above. Given that they are a highly qualified segment, understanding impediments to proposal acceptance can help you isolate issues that are, in the short-term, impeding sales.

5. Lost Customers

The last segment of note is lost customers. These may be individuals that made a single purchase but never came back. Or, they may represent individuals that actively cancelled a recurring service or subscription. Because the process of acquiring a new customer is so resource intense, this is an especially critical segment to understand since their loss represents the biggest hit to your topline revenue.

What Can You Learn: Because this segment made a large commitment by purchasing from you at least once, doing one-on-one interviews will help you understand if you have issues impeding long-term retention, like:

  • Product-Market Fit: Similar to the issue noted above, this time around customers may have initially thought there was enough value from the product, but over time may not feel they are getting enough for their money.
  • Poor Training: For more complex products, onboarding and training can be key to using the product to its fullest. There may not be sufficient training for new customers today for them to reap the product’s full benefits.
  • Poor Support: Related to training, customers may need help troubleshooting issues or evaluating how best to do something with your product. Poor support staff or materials may be resulting in dissatisfaction and churn.

How To Reach Each Segment With The Right Market Research Approach

Of course, you can’t just use one type of market research method and expect it to work with each of the segments we described above. You don’t have any kind of business relationship with a bounced website visitor, let alone even an email address, so expecting them to spend 30-minutes talking to you is unreasonable. On the flip side, because you have developed a relationship with trialists and lapsed customers, there’s a much greater chance of being able to talk to them and learn more nuanced details. This is why you need to map your research approach to individuals based on their known behaviors.

When To Use Surveys: Surveys tend to be ideal when you can collect enough data points or a large-enough sample size that you can see trends in the numbers. This is one reason why using surveys with the segments like bouncers and non-converters is ideal. Depending on your trialist volume, surveys may work well with that segment as well. Also, because you can keep surveys fairly short, they are ideal when you can only get a small amount of time from a respondent. This is most likely true with these least qualified groups.

When To Use Interviews: Interviews require more time commitment on the part of participants. As a result, you’ll likely find that those who invested more time in your product—lapsed trialists, proposal decliners, lost customers—are more willing to participate. Additionally, you likely won’t have as high a volume of individual in these categories meaning simple quantitative metrics gathered from surveys may not give you the insights you need. Instead, use interview research to give you deeper, more nuanced insights.

When To Use Observational Studies: Observational studies are ideal when you want to be able to observe behaviors that individuals may not even be aware of. This can include doing screen shares with known users and watching people engage with your product or website, or it can be capturing behavior patterns from anonymous visitors. Observational studies are especially useful when trying to understand user experience issues, a common issue with the lapsed trialist segment.

Regardless of which market research method you select, remember that it needs to be oriented around helping you answer and address the core question of, “Why are individuals in each segment not engaging more?” Having a clear north star behind your research will help keep efforts homed in on solving issues impacting new customer and revenue growth.