“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}