You believe understanding your customer is imperative to the success of your product, but you have a limited budget and an aggressive timeline. Sound familiar? Given this common reality, many time-pressed, resource-squeezed product managers forgo customer research in their product development process. Instead, they rely on intuition and any quick secondary research they can get their hands on. However, this approach can fail to provide sufficient insights to help businesses stand out from their competitors.
The good news is, with digital technology being what it is today, product managers can get customer insights on a shoestring and in a timely fashion. Here are three options:
Leverage social networking sites
Social networks allow people to connect with one another in an unprecedented way. Facebook has 500 million active users and more than 620 million groups. B2C product managers can easily tap into one of these communities and ‘listen’ to their customers’ needs, behaviours, and attitudes.
Outside of Facebook, there are countless niche social networking sites (e.g. patientslikeme.com for health, bottlenotes.com for wine). Make sure you choose the right forum depending on your target audience.
On the B2B front, LinkedIn has more than 850,000 groups and 90 million members worldwide. Similar to B2C social networking sites, B2B product managers can listen and learn about their target audience or acquire direct feedback through conversation.
Leverage Third Party Crowdsource Services
Another way to effectively tap into customer insights is through the use of third party crowdsource services such InnoCentive and Kluster. These sites provide platforms for companies to crowdsource ideas and solutions from the public.
InnoCentive matches complex problems from large companies with professionally qualified members who group together to provide solutions for monetary rewards. Kluster.com is an example of a platform that anyone can use to assemble a small network (or kluster) of users to collaborate or provide instant feedback on product or marketing ideas.
Yet another way of accessing customer insights is through the Omnibus offering from market research firms. For those who are not familiar with the concept, market research firms with access to a research panel typically offer a service where proprietary questions from multiple customers are pooled into one survey. This cost-sharing model allows product managers to cost-effectively access answers to their specific question(s) with statistically representative data. (Delvinia’s AskingCanadians™ Omnibus offers 1,000 responses from a nationally representative sample of Canadians).
Active listening is the bedrock of creating successful products. As the customer custodian, product managers should continue to strive to be connected to customers, regardless of barriers. With digital technology today, product managers have unprecedented access to their customers. Take advantage before everybody else catches on. After all, the early bird gets the worm!