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3 steps to getting cheap, easy and relevant product feedback (Step 1: Go get it)

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In my last post, I laid out three steps for gathering market data:

  1. Go get it.

  2. Share it.

  3. Live it.

The idea, of course, is to collect information that helps you make a great product that the market wants. Nothing irks me more than when a “cool” feature finds its way into the products that I use – often at the cost of the usability of the product (and in my case, a cut finger and loss of temper).

Getting the right market information is one of the easiest things you can do. It’s also the hardest. It’s easy because your potential buyers are all around you – via phone, email, in person…and they’re probably all over your website. It’s hard because it takes time you don’t have.

My advice? Just do it.

Step 1. Go get it. Figure out what to ask — and ask it.

Before making any final decisions about what product to build or what new features to build in, ask yourself a number of questions: Is my idea valuable to the market? Does it appeal to the primary buyers and decision makers? Does it map to our company goals?

Then turn these into interview or survey questions and pick up the phone or build a web survey with a free service like SurveyMonkey or Survs. Here’s a sample of how those questions might look:

  1. How would you characterize the need for cup holders in your car?

    • Absolutely necessary. The more the better.

    • Useful, as long as they’re not in the way.

    • I do not allow eating or drinking in my car.

  2. How useful would you find heated cup holders to be?

    • Extremely useful

    • Somewhat useful

    • Not useful

  3. How willing would you be to pay for heated cup holders?

    • I’d pay extra just for that feature

    • Very likely, but only if it was part of a package (e.g. cold weather package)

    • Somewhat likely

    • I would not be willing to pay for heated cup holders

Once you know what to ask, find the right people and start asking. This is difficult. Nobody wants to get an unsolicited call from someone they don’t know. It’s hard to incentivize anybody to complete your survey. You don’t want to spam the members of your LinkedIn group. Yes, these are tough objections, but it’s even tougher to explain to management why you spent $1 million on product development and nobody bought your product.

How to find people to talk to:

  • Leverage your network – you might be surprised who knows whom

  • Dig into your CRM system

  • Use LinkedIn (ask a contact to make an introduction)

  • Advertise on the website of a relevant organization (I’ve used APICS in the past to advertise a survey)

  • Post questions on your website (a simple yes/no may be all you need)

  • Hire an army of cheap or free interns to do online research

  • Go to where your market is—trade shows, conferences, etc… even if you are a lurker

  • And if you have the budget—there are a number of excellent market research firms out there

Be relentless. Track down your buyers and decision makers, ask the questions and record their answers. After a time, you’ll be able to aggregate their responses and determine clear trends.

Great—now you know what your market wants. But what about everyone else in your company?

Step 2. Share it within your company.

Step 3. Live it.


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