Product Managers Need To Know How To Find Customers In A Dark Room

by drjim on January 27, 2014

How are you going to find customers if you can't see them?

How are you going to find customers if you can’t see them?
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Just exactly how much do you know about your customers? Sure, we all do some segmentation and stuff like that as a part of our product development definition, but do you really know where your customers are in terms of thinking about buying your product? Are they at the beginning? Are they almost ready to make up their minds? Wouldn’t it be great if you knew where they stood and could take action to help them select your product?

Learn To “See” Where Your Customers Are

What all too many product managers don’t realize is that our potential customers don’t see the world in black & white terms. It’s not like they are not our customers and then all of sudden they are our customers. The act of choosing to become one of our customers is actually a process and this process is what we need to do a better job of “seeing” if we want to add understanding our customers to our product manager resume.

In the old days, it would be up to your sales teams to go knock on a customer’s door and introduce them to your product. However, things have changed with the arrival of the Internet. Nowadays, our customers are taking the initiative and they are going out and learning about your product using the information that is on your web site.

What this means to you is that a potential customer goes from having no interest in your product to having some interest in your product via your web site. As a product manager you need to become aware of them when this happens. With a little luck they will become more and more interested in the products and services that your company can offer to them. As this happens, they’ll download more information off of your web site and perhaps will even decide to start a free trial of your product. All of these potential customer actions will help you to get a better view of where your customer is in their decision making process.

How To Use The Information That You Have In Order To Find Your Customers

I like potential customer information, you like potential customer information. However, the information by itself is going to do us no good. Instead, a product managers we need to take the steps that are needed to turn this information into knowledge that we’ll be able to use.

What we want to do is to create tools and indicators that will let us know where our potential customers are in their decision making process. We want to know each time they log into our web site. If they are using a sample of our software, then we went to know when they run it. If they use an online calculator, then we want to know what they were calculating.

The value of all of this information is that it is going to allow you to sort out your customers. You’ll be able to determine which potential customers have the best chances of turning into real customers and which ones are just “window shopping”. With this level of information on how your potential customers turn into real customers, you can refine and shape both your product and their marketing message to help potential customers to reach a decision faster.

What All Of This Means For You

A product manager has many tasks to take care of. One of the most important of these is knowing what his or her customer is thinking – where are they in their buying decision making process. This task should be a part of every product manager job description. Our traditional sets of market segmentation tools won’t answer these questions for us.

Instead, we need to start to take a close look at the clues that our customers are giving us about where they are at in their decision making process. In the 21st Century a lot of this has to do with the types of information that they are requesting from our web sites and how they are interacting with free or trial versions of our products.

Just collecting the data is never enough. As product managers we need to be sure to take the time to sit down and go over the data – what is it really trying to tell us? If you can get good at doing this, then you’ll be well positioned to help your potential customers end up selecting your product when it’s time to buy.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: How often do you think that you should process the data that has been collected – every day?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

What does it take to get a prospective customer to turn into an actual customer who buys your product? When I’ve asked this question to many product managers I always seem to get the same answer: the sales funnel shows how long it takes to move a customer from prospect to customer. Everyone seems to think that this is a part of their product development definition. It turns out that they are wrong: your customer is asking the question “What’s In This For Me” and they ask that question long before they enter your company’s sales funnel.

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