Question: How can a product manager get customer feedback without spending a lot of money?
How do we deal with budget cuts during hard times, while at the same time keep our ears open to the customers? What are great ways to get feedback of the product remotely?
Answer from Paul Young of Product Beautiful: When budgets are cut, Product Management is no exception. You’ll see less travel opportunities, which can mean less face time with customers and target customers. Keeping your ear to Market is even more important in lean economic times, because customers are less willing to spend on your solutions, and features that are “thrown in” to the product are more than just a waste of resources, they could be a danger to your product or company’s existence! Thankfully, it’s not hard to find very inexpensive ways to connect with the Market, it just takes work and patience.
If you just want feedback on an existing product, there are cheap/free options like GoToMeeting and WebEx that allow you to do webinars and demos. You can use Google Ads, an ebook or white paper to attract an interested audience. You can also tap your customer base. We all have our favorite top 10 customers that we call for feedback; treat them well and they will return the favor. Give them extra attention, expose them to advance betas, listen to their feedback and treat them as an early indicator of things to look for in the Market. Just remember that as your customers, they are going to give you feedback through the lens of the product they are buying from you: “I want a button on this screen,” or “I want feature X.” If you only build for your own customers, you risk missing out on trends in the Market. You need to be talking to target customers.
Depending on the type of product or service you manage, ask yourself – where can I find my target customer? If you’re selling consumer goods, you can probably go down to the local grocery store and observe your potential customers yourself. If you’re selling to IT managers or CIOs, it can be harder – there’s not a grocery store where you can watch these people work…or is there? I recently wrote a post on Product Beautiful about how you can use social networking to connect with your customers. There are millions of blogs out there, and some are being written by your target customers. There are throngs of people on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites who are putting details about themselves and what is important to them out there for you to see. Google for keywords that people may be writing about and then follow my tutorial for how to connect with them via email – it’s nearly free, only costs you a few minutes of your time, and can potentially connect you with some very valuable people willing to have a conversation.
Other ways you can connect with customers is by win/loss analysis. Keep a database of your win/loss analysis and follow up with the losses after 6-months. Usually by that time the deal is dead and Sales isn’t as uptight about you getting in their way. By now the customer has moved on to something else, which is a great time to talk to them and find out why. You may find out about a key feature that you didn’t think was important.