As product managers, we have a responsibility to our potential customers to make the product identification, selection, and purchasing process as easy as possible. However, all too often we seem to get caught up in trying to use the latest wiz-bang marketing tools that we’ve just read about and we can lose sight of just exactly how our customers go about the process of purchasing our product…
Where Is Your Customer At?
Back in product management school (we all went to that didn’t we?), right after we learned what the product development definition was we were taught that the buying process is not an instantaneous decision but rather it is a process that each customer goes through. In order to understand why potential customers are (or are not) buying your product, you need to have a good understanding of just exactly where they are in this buying process at all times.
In our desire to win over more customers it can be very easy for product managers to make the purchasing path too confusing for our customers. If we want to make the purchasing path more efficient, then what we don’t have to do is to create the fanciest web site. Rather what we need to find is a way to do is to minimize the number of different information sources that our potential customers will have to come into contact with as they move through the purchasing process for our product.
What you need to do is to collect information. Lots of information. What you are going to be looking for is data from four modern marketing sources: ad-effectiveness, monitoring of social media channels, web site clickstream analysis, and campaign-tracking information. Your goal, once you have all of this information, will be to get a feel for the common purchase paths that your customers take when they are looking for a solution to their problem. Get this right and you’ll have something to add to your product manager resume.
Once you understand how your customers are going about trying to solve their problem, you can determine how many of your customers are taking what path. You can also determine which of the paths instill the greatest amount of confidence in your customers.
Your goal here will be to determine at which point in the process you can provide your customers with what type of product information in order to move them closer to making a buying decision. You’ll also be able to determine where in the process your potential customers may be losing confidence in your product and may end up giving up or selecting another firm’s product.
If you are looking for a magic bullet here, I’ve got some bad news for you – one does not exist. However, the product managers who do a good job of making it easy for their customers to select and purchase their product do it by making the purchasing process more personal.
What Information Does Your Customer Want?
Knowing what information your customers don’t want is important; however, is not really all that valuable. What you really need to know is what information your customers would like to have.
The key thing to understand when trying to answer this question is that there really are multiple answers. Depending on what stage in the purchasing process your customers is at, they’ll have a need for a different type of information.
You can expect a customer who is at the start of their search to have a need for more basic, high-level information. This can be determined, for example, by the type of web searches that they are doing. An example of this would be a search for “4G LTE mobile phones”. Later searches may show that the customer is getting ready to make a decision about their purchase. An example of this kind of search would be “Apple 4 vs Samsung Galaxy S III”.
The customers who are looking for general information can be directed by the product manager to product overview documents. However, when the customer is getting close to making a decision, you are going to want to personalize the process. You can do this by directing them to a web site where they could get social proof that selecting your product would be the right decision.
What Does All Of This Mean For You?
Our customers do not just wake up one day and decide that they are going to purchase our product. Instead, they go through a process in which they collect information, talk to other people who have solved the same problem, and finally make a buying decision.
As product managers, we need to be careful to not make the purchase process too complex for our customers. Instead, we want to make sure that they are only presented with the information that they need, when they need it. This means that we need to collect information to understand the purchase process and then we need to provide the right information at the right time. This should really be a part of every product manager job description.
Understanding how our customers come to the conclusion to purchase our products is the key to long term product success. We need to take the time to study the purchase process for our product and then make sure that we’re spending our product management time in the best way possible in order to ensure that we’ll have the greatest success.
Question For You: When we understand the purchase process, who inside the company should we share this information with?
P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Product Manager Newsletter are now available. It’s your product – it’s your career. Subscribe now: Click Here!
What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
Have you ever had to make a decision between two products that you were considering buying? How did you go about doing this? If you are like most of us, you collected what data you could on both products and then you weighed the data in order to try to see which product would best meet your needs. Just exactly how do your customers go about weighing your product against other products?
More Product Data Does Not Make Product Selection Easier
Just exactly how do your customers go about determining if they want to buy your product? Studies have shown that for products that cost US$50 or more, 25% of customers say that they spend most of their effort on product research. Of this 25%, 20% say that most of their effort is spent doing comparison shopping. How are you helping your customers to do this?