“Can we come visit you?”

One of the most powerful tools for understanding your customers is to talk to them where they live, act, work: the on-site visit.

Unfortunately, site visits can feel so daunting that many companies don’t even try.  How do you coordinate dates and schedules? What do you have to do to set up? Why would anyone want to agree to let you come on-site and disrupt their day?

I’m lucky to have on my team a researcher who is passionate about ethnography, and her persistence and energy has propelled us into doing site visits now across four U.S. states and two foreign countries.  It also inspired me to coordinate a few scrappy local site visits last month.

Just as with customer development interviews, it’s much easier to get a “yes” to a site visit if you send a really effective email.

Keep it brief, anticipate and address concerns, and be enthusiastic.  Here’s a template:

Hi {name} –
The ask: Could I and my research team come observe at {person’s company name} during {timespan}?

What we’d need:

  • You to vouch for us so we have access to the building
  • You to forward emails to 2-6 folks who might be willing to be interviewed for 30-60 minutes (60 minutes better, but we understand that’s a lot to ask)

Is this something you could help us with?

What we’re looking for:

  • {active users of our product / any users of our product / people with a specific role / whatever criteria matters to you}

Our goal is to learn about {1-2 topics that you care about}. We will not ask questions around confidential or competitive information.  All responses will be anonymized for our internal use and will not be shared outside of our team. We will not take video or photographs without permission.

We’re happy to share with you a report of what we’ve learned (other companies always learn something new from this!).

Please let me know if it’s a possibility for us to visit your offices during {timespan}.  It would be an incredibly helpful learning experience for us! If so, I’ll respond with emails that you can forward to your team. We’ll make it as easy as possible to coordinate dates and times.

Thanks in advance,
{your name}
{if you’re emailing someone you already know, don’t include your title — too stuffy/formal}

Should I send a survey? Before you hit send–

(In case you missed them, there are three earlier survey-related posts: don’t use a survey, still don’t use a survey, and okay fine, use a survey.)

You’ve written your survey and you think you’re done.

Stop. Email the survey to yourself (exit out of your survey app so you’re starting from an experience similar to your respondent).

Make sure you can answer “yes” to these 10 questions:

  1. Is there a smooth experience between viewing the survey invitation and clicking through to the actual survey? (i.e. continuity of language, same branding if you’ve included visuals)
  2. Does the survey start with a friendly explanation of why you’re asking this person to complete it?
  3. Have you limited the survey to 10 or fewer questions?
  4. Read each question out loud – does the language sound human and conversational?
  5. Have you eliminated jargon or corporate-speak? (If you’re not sure, send a preview of the survey to a smart friend who works elsewhere. If they’re confused, rewrite. Your customers may use your product daily but still not recognize what you call certain features.)
  6. Have you limited yourself to 2 or fewer freeform write-in questions?
  7. If you referred to a feature or function, have you also included a screenshot so that the respondent feels confident that they know what you’re talking about?
  8. If you promised survey respondents an incentive, did you provide a place for them to input their contact information?
  9. Did you ask permission to send follow-up questions or contact them for future research?
  10. Does the survey end with a thank you message?