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3 steps to getting cheap, easy and relevant product feedback (Step 2: Share it)

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In the start of this series, I laid out a framework for gathering and using relevant product feedback:

  1. Go get it.

  2. Share it.

  3. Live it.

Gathering the information is the critical first step in the process and it can be very rewarding. It’s great when people validate our ideas and it’s even better when they improve on them.

Collecting this data is important, but it’s still just data. It only becomes valuable product feedback if you actually do something with it. And this brings us to…

Step 2: Share it with your entire organization.

You’ve collected the data, you have some product feedback and you think you know the right thing to do…but people around you aren’t listening. How do you overcome their resistance?

At Arena, everyone knows "Brad," the VP of operations.

The answer: Put it in the voice of the market. Share the information you gathered. Point out trends in the market. Relay the product feedback, highlighting the praises and the criticisms. One of the most effective ways to do this is to give a name and a face to each of the key buyers in your market.  This is often referred to as “buyer profiling” or creating a buyer persona. (Note: This is different than creating a user persona.)

Here’s an example of buyer profiling. At Arena, everyone knows “Brad,” the VP of operations. Brad is 44 years old. Brad went to a state school. Brad gets frustrated with engineering. Brad gets fired if his product ships late.

Brad is not a real person.

Brad was created from the aggregation of dozens of conversations, hundreds of survey data points and a lot of product feedback. Through our analysis, we identified his top responsibilities and the main problems he encounters in trying to get his job done. We also gained insight into his personal and professional goals. Further, we learned where he gets his job-related information and what his preferred methods of communication are.

After we created Brad, we introduced him to everybody in our company through a series of presentations, conversations and printed materials. We made sure that each group had the information it needed to make the best decisions about how to serve this key buyer. For marketing, for instance, we made sure the team knew that Brad hates email but trusts his LinkedIn groups. For our developers, we described how Brad is a pretty savvy user (he’d be comfortable approving a change order from his Blackberry) but not a hardcore technophile. We went through our findings with sales, support, training and all of management.

The results have been great.

Now, everybody understands Brad and the problems that we solve for him. We hear it in meetings all the time: “Yes, but would Brad care?”

What happens when times change though? How do you keep up with product feedback in a moving economy?

The answer: Live it.

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