By this point, most PMs know that the key to growth is a deep understanding of your target customers. Simply relying on internal ideas is not enough, nor is it enough to just look at google analytics and product usage data. You actually have to talk to the market.
But even if you are convinced to regularly interview customers to get the voice of the market, of the big blockers I have seen is simply HOW to go about it. How do you land customer interviews? What do you say during the customer interview?
Who are the people that can't live without your product? Why is that product a must-have for them? And what is the difference between these must-have users compared to other users for whom it's just a nice-to-have? These questions are at the root of scaling growth. Find your must-have users.
Yet, when planning target markets, it’s human nature to want to go broad. There is a feeling of safety and comfort. “Why, my product has hundreds of uses, for everyone! Let me list the ways…” But one of the great paradoxes of growth is that, in general, the more broadly you define target markets, the less business you actually take in. It literally pays to get more targeted.
Now that you've read the The Complete Guide to Customer Research Interviews, you know that gathering intelligence from customer interviews, market analysis, online research, win/loss analysis, is critical to developing a strategy that drives product-market fit and growth. But once you have accumulated all your customer and market insights, what do you actually do with it? Here are 5 immediate steps to infuse your strategy with intelligence in practice.
Product leaders know they need to tailor their roadmap to customer demand. They base these decisions on market intelligence from the usual sources:
These sources are important, but are often indirect and lagging information, not to mention other biases. For those that just want to appease their boss, this may be enough. What you release next may or may not be successful, but at least you can show that you based your roadmap on sources. But for those that really care about a product that sells and users love, you need to balance this with more direct and predictive sources of intelligence.
"How would you feel if you couldn't use the product anymore?" According to growth hacking pioneer Sean Ellis, this is the question to ask to determine your level of product-market fit. In response, you are looking for at least 40% of your customer base who say they would be "very disappointed". This represents user passion.
Read any article on product/market fit and it will say "Talk to customers and focus on their problems. It took us 2 years but we found our product/market fit and sold for $X!". One thing? Simple! Talk to customers.
But there's a startling lack of practical guides on how to actually talk to customers to elicit and qualify pain points. And there are so many false pains that you can latch on to in customer conversation if you don't know what you're doing (which may explain why that article invariably says "it took us 2 years to find what customers wanted"). Let's look at the reasons why actually getting to a real customer pain point is so hard, and how to do it right.
"Know your audience". "Understand the buyer." "Be customer-centric." The key to lead generation and growth has been in MBA 101 textbooks since the dawn of time.
These 101 textbooks also say to capture the relevant information about your target buyer in the forma of a persona. But the vast majority of teams don't actually create personas, or use them in the right way.
Product leaders are inundated with data. SaaS product and website analytics can slice and dice every aspect of the customer journey. I can see that 22% of my customers between the ages of 30 and 40 spent over 3.2 seconds looking at the new graphic on my website. I know that 16% of freemium users converted to paid in the last month since we added 3 new features.
Quantitative measures like this can point to areas of interest that require investigation and experimentation, but they won't tell you why these are of interest. Qualitative data, ie. talking to people, gives you the why. Qualitative data tells you what was motivating the user when they spent 3.2 seconds looking at your graphic, what problem they were trying to solve. You need both, quantitative and qualitative.
As a product leader, you need customer intelligence to plan your strategy. But the customer data you collect from sales is biased. The data you get from market analysts is indirect. Even the data you collect yourself from customer interviews can be artificial, as customers are all too willing to be positive and tell you what you want to hear.
But there is one undeniable source of raw unfiltered customer intelligence that is too often overlooked - the Customer Success team. The Customer Success team gets customers when they are at their most passionate, emotional, even angry. Where there's emotion, there's usually a real pain point. It's rare to find that sort of honesty elsewhere.
For years I worked at a UX Design agency, and one of the most common things we heard from software executives is that they want their user interface to "wow" their users. Typically, everyone says they want a design that is "clean", "sexy", "wow", "whiz-bang", and so forth. They think of User Experience Design as being all about visual eye candy and creative features.
And it makes sense. More than ever, the user experience of your product will define the success of your product in the market. No one wants an ugly solution, they want an aesthetically appealing, creative app that users will instantly fall in love with. Something that communicates to the world that your company is breaking new ground.
The only problem is - users don't care about that stuff.