Step-By-Step Guide to VOC Project Work

Step-By-Step Guide1,2 to VOC Project Work

1 Schedule 4+ hour, face-to-face meeting with client NPD team and their leader.

2 At close of meeting, team and leader agree on:

  • Target market for their product concept.
  • Opening script all potential customers will hear when I cold-call them.

“My name is George Castellion from Solid State Chemistry Associates.

Is this a convenient time to call?

I’m a consultant working with clients in the front end of new product and service development.

I’m on assignment now from a client that is working on an innovative <innovation’s application>. In alpha testing they have been able to demonstrate that this new <application> can <list 1-2 of the innovation’s attributes for creating new value or new satisfaction for its customers>. The <innovation> comes out of some basic research they have done in <the innovation’s application>.

I’d like to ask you some questions based on the understanding I’m beginning to build about the use of <innovation’s application> in <the target market>.

My client is a US multinational company. They have a good basic research knowledge about the technology used to produce the <innovation> but have relatively little knowledge about its application in <the target market>.”

N.B.,_ I built this script’s effectiveness through trial and error in thousands of interviews. Here are reasons why I think it works.

1st Sentence: Positions me as a technologist and not as a marketer asking for business.

2nd Sentence: Absolutely magic. I’ve interrupted the customer but not with an annoying pitch. Instead they say, “ What’s this about?”. Most of the time I get positive answers. “I’m busy right now, but call me back (time and cellphone #)” “Your client’s concept is interesting to us. The person you should talk to is (name and phone #) and tell them I suggested they talk with you.”

4th Sentence: Positions the customer’s role as the Professor and my role as the Intelligent Pupil. Maintaining these roles is crucial when gathering competitive intelligence, elicitation interviews.

  • List the voice-of-the-customer issues on which the team wants me to gather information and analyze.
  • A date, eight+ weeks in the future, when I deliver: 1. A written report of the project, 2. A four+ hours face-to-face presentation of the report.
  • A date 4 weeks in the future, when on a phone conversation with the team, I deliver a summary of my findings thus far.

3 Send the client an outline of the project work_ discussed at our meeting. Included is a commitment to complete the proposed work and written report agreed on at the meeting pending approval within 2 weeks hence to begin the project.

The consulting fee for this work will be $xx,xxx., The fee includes travel expenses for the final report meeting.
N.B., the language used in the project proposal speeds approval by the client’s attorney and senior decision-makers.

4 After approval, build an unbiased list of 200+ potential customers in the target market. (To remain unbiased, I don’t use lists from the client.)

Instead build the list from the ground up. A favorite way to do this is to search for conferences that customers might chair, present papers, or are listed as attendees.

5 Print out a randomized list _of the telephone numbers of potential customers.

Cold-call the individuals. When I reach a “Professor” and our conversation lasts at least 15 minutes, I transcribe handwritten notes made during the conversation.

N.B., a. The notes are taken using shorthand that does not interfere with conversation’s flow. Do not take them on a computer during the conversation.If you do, the Professor recognizes this and delivers a lecture.
b. Call using a phone system that displays on the customer’s phone, only this information, Your name, a non-biasing acronym for your organization … I use SSCA. and your phone number. If you do not answer your phone, any call should default to an answering service which repeats your name, acronym, and phone number

6 Four weeks after the project starts, the team meets with me for a phone conversation. They hear a summary of what I’ve discovered thus far.

Sometimes the findings show the product concept is of intense interest to a target market overlapping the initial target. The team can decide if they want me concentrate the remaining interviews on customers in the overlap market.

7 Eight weeks after the project starts, we meet for my face-to-face presentation of the project report. For more than 4 hours team members work to understand previously unknown factors affecting what customers really need and why.



1 This guide is shared in my client and university workshops. Steve Markham and Angus Kingon incorporated it in their copyrighted Technology, Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Program (TEC) process. Steve Blank incorporated the TEC process in his Technology and Entrepreneur process.

2 a. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) brochure,“Elicitation Techniques”
b. Confidential John Nolan, Harper Business, NY, NY (1999)

3 Software tools I use

Filemaker Pro

Relational database. Helps to 1. Build random sample of potential customer 2. Transcribe notes from each elicitation interview.


An easy-to-use, software tool for getting ideas down as quickly as possible and making connections between them.