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Product Management Rule #31: Tap Into Your Customers

Product Management Rule #31 from the best-selling book, 42 Rules of Product Management, was written by Jen Berkley, Founder, The Insight Advantage

Your customer’s perceptions are the only thing that matters when it comes to them plunking down money to buy your products

When I was a product manager managing an entire product line, my instincts told me that our customers held insights that were important to constantly tap into in order to make the best decisions about product features, packaging, marketing messaging, and more.

Now that I’m doing customer research for organizations as a consultant, I’m even more aware of the need to make sure that you integrate your customers’ perspective into the design and marketing of products to ensure market success.

How many products do you use that are missing some key feature that would have made the difference between “good” and “great?”

How many times do you install new software and think, “I wonder if they tested this on anyone?”

Unfortunately, way too many product development teams are focused on the cool, latest new technology that they want to put in their customers’ hands vs. talking to those same customers and understanding things from their perspective. It is common sense—it really doesn’t matter what you think about your products. What matters is what the buyer and/or user think. And it’s all about their perception of how well your products meet their needs. Have you heard the term “perception is reality?” Well, your customers’ perceptions are the only thing that matters when it comes to them plunking down money to buy your products.

Sure, some people buy products simply because they “need” to have the latest technology.

But most of us buy a product because it solves a need or takes away some pain that we are having.

So you need to make sure that your products are solving your customers’ needs better than your competitors’ products are—and that you are communicating that in a way that they can make that connection themselves.

Grant Thornton International Ltd., one of the world’s leading organizations of independently owned and managed accounting and consulting firms, published a report in September 2009 (“Innovation: The Key to Future Success?”) that explored the sources of innovation. They found that customers are now the leading source of innovations globally (41 percent) and are more important than other sources inside companies, including research and development.

They also found that Asia Pacific organizations are more likely to integrate customer ideas, 48 percent—versus 40 percent of Western European companies and 35 percent of North American companies.

Some of the ways that you can easily integrate customers’ perspectives into your product work include:

  • Conduct interviews with people from your target market to help you prior- itize product features in new products based on what they consider most valuable.
  • Conduct ongoing customer surveys to gather current user input that can help you target what changes will be made to future product releases.
  • Test your marketing messages out on target customers to see which are most effective.

Make sure to build these types of activities into your product development and launch time line/budget. You may run into resistance based on time, money, and the old engineering argument, “How can customers understand emerging technology?” However, these objections can be overcome.

It doesn’t have to take a lot of time and money to make sure that you are launching really great products. Doing so is a great investment that will ensure that you are building something that your customers will really want!

Product Management Rule #31 from the best-selling book, 42 Rules of Product Management

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