Introduce your customers to a product at every stage of development.
In order to develop a product or service, whether it be software, clothing or a new e-book - obtaining customer feedback and input is crucial during every phase of development.
When the product or service idea is identified, the customer should share their input as to:
- How they would use the product?
- What do they expect from it?
- What problem will this help them to solve?
- Would they be willing to purchase it?
- What value would they put on it?
- What other products in the market place would they consider instead of this?
- What do they like about the other competing products on the market?
- What are the existing products on the market lacking?
- What would help them decide to change to your product?
- Would they even consider using your product if they are already using a competitors?
During the development phase, you need to hand the product to a customer and ask for their input.
What do they think?
If it's complex, such as a software solution like Google Spreadsheets, ask them to complete various day-to-day use cases.
- How difficult is it for them to complete the simplest of task?
- Are they able to find everything in the locations that they expected?
- Have they used Microsoft Excel before?
- What do they like about Microsoft Excel?
- Would the features that Excel has keep them from using Google Spreadsheets?
- Are there any features that Google Spreadsheets offers that would negate the additional benefits of Excel?
- Is the fact that Google Spreadsheets is free persuade them to use the product?
- What value do they put on this product?
- Do they see any value in Google's offering?
- What problem do they see Google'solution solving that isn't available with Excel?
I was talking with someone in senior management at a Fortune 500 company and he informed me about how he's had many entrepreneurs come to him about an idea they had for a software product.
They would discuss the item at length and this manager informed them about all of the critical features this software must have for him to want to purchase it for the company's use.
These ideas would help solve an existing problem and would be of high value, if implemented correctly.
Both the entrepreneur and the senior manager would leave the meetings with high hopes.
Regretfully, the senior manager would not see the entrepreneur again until the software was completed.
The entrepreneur only introduced concepts and never prompted the user (manager of Fortune 500) for feedback on use of the product or the results provided by the software.
Unfortunately, both the entrepreneur and the manager had different visions.
In the end, the manager felt that the software didn't meet their needs and there were existing products in the market that could answer his problem better.
The manager stated that if the entrepreneur only kept him in the loop during the design and implementation phase, he would have been first in line to purchase the software.
Keeping the customer out of the loop resulted in the product's failure.
An example of a product development gone wrong is Pontiac Aztec, Microsoft Zune, Apple Newton, etc. There are probably a lot of details about these online.
Now, I'll ask you:
- Do you know your customer?
- How well do you think you know them?
- Is this new product or service going to be for your current customer base or a new customer base?
Getting to know their customers not only helps for product development but also to fully develop their marketing campaigns.
Introduce your marketing campaigns to your customers.
- What do they think of these campaigns?
- Is it engaging?
- Is it answering a current problem that they have?
- Does it introduce additional questions and result in greater confusion?