This is the final installment on how to gather and use relevant product feedback. In an earlier post I laid out this three-step framework:
The premise behind Step 3 is that it’s one thing to have a conceptual understanding of the buyers in your market, but it’s another to walk a mile in their shoes. In order to truly understand your buyers, step away from your desk and go see them in action. If you can, go live a day in the life of your customer.
Step 3: Live it. See what your customers see. Think what they think.
There are a lot of ways to get a better understanding of the buyers in your market. Here are some of my favorite ways to live it:
Take a field trip. Visit your customers and talk to the people who made the decision to buy your product. Watch them use your product and ask them to articulate the value they get from it.
Attend the same trade shows and conferences as your buyers, even if you’re not exhibiting. Have casual conversations at lunch or between sessions.
If applicable, attend your company’s training classes and listen to your new customers’ expectations for your product.
Create in-person focus groups or advisory boards.
Cultivate relationships with key customers who are representative of your greater market.
Perform in-person product testing.
Give out samples or free trials, observe the behaviors of people who use them and talk to them about their experiences.
Don’t forget to pick the brains of the subject matter experts in your own organization.
Nothing takes the place of in-person interactions, but as a matter of practicality, we can’t spend every day in the field. Keep up to date by leveraging the web to listen to the conversations in your market. Follow your market’s LinkedIn groups, newsletters, forums, blogs (including the replies!) and industry events.
Listen for the nuances in your buyers’ language and adjust your own to make sure you’re truly speaking to them. Be observant when their problems change and adjust your understanding of what your solution needs to provide. Do this often and make sure you’re feeding any updates back to the rest of your organization.
Soon, you’ll all be looking at your product through the eyes of the customer. The beauty of this approach is that making product decisions ultimately becomes easier. Once you know who you’re building for, you don’t need to guess.