If you want to build the wrong things, there’s an easy way to do it:
Don’t talk to your customers.
As product managers, we can get wrapped up in the excitement of designing a solution without the partnership of our customer base. But this ultimately wastes time and resources, and leads teams to build software that adds no value. Because at the end of the day, our goal is to create software that solves a problem for our users.
In the last year, product teams have been driven to work more efficiently. As a result, we’ve seen the rise of hot topics like product discovery and continuous discovery—and rightly so!
Product teams are getting better at ensuring the voice of the customer is included from the very beginning. But what are the real benefits of this approach, and how can you get started?
Why do (continuous) product discovery?
Product discovery means that product teams are talking to their target customers (and sometimes prospects) to understand their problems and pain points before putting energy into designing a full solution.
It’s a product manager’s way of gathering more information to help them know where to invest resources and which projects to prioritize. The most successful product teams perform product discovery continuously as they look to bring new products to market or improve ones they already have. This means they regularly talk to customers to understand what’s working—and sometimes more importantly, what’s not.
What are the benefits of product discovery?
There are huge business benefits to involving customers in your product development strategy early and often:
1. You don’t waste engineering time
Engineering time is precious. And if you don’t understand your customers, chances are, you’re sinking effort into things that won’t have the impact you want.
And it’s not just engineering time. Think about how long it takes to convince executives; write product specs; create designs; and test, launch, market, and support new features or improvements. The effort of early product discovery far outweighs the impact of roadmapping projects that should never have made it to your roadmap in the first place.
2. You better understand customer needs
Before you can design a good solution, you need to understand the problems you’re trying to solve and the pains your customers are currently experiencing. While you could theoretically be your own guinea pig and use your own products to get this information, the reality is that—as a product manager—you’re so close to them that you can’t see them through the eyes of all your different types of customers.
Involving your target customers early, and looking at feedback and product usage, reveal signs that can point the product team to the areas of your product that warrant further discovery. This gets you focused in the right places—and fast.
3. You’re able to validate your assumptions
There’s a lot of guesswork that can go on in a product team. And as humans, it’s natural for product managers to have their own assumptions. That’s why it’s important to validate them with real customers: the people who are ultimately paying for what you produce. Staying close to customers in a continuous discovery loop is a brilliant way to make sure you’re not running away with your own ideas, and that you’re adding value with every release.
In summary, talking to customers before you build software creates products that are more valuable, useful, and successful. By getting feedback and insights from your target users, you can make informed decisions about what to put on your roadmap and ultimately de-risk the investments you are making on behalf of the business.
In the next post, we will look more closely at the techniques you can use to keep customers close and run effective, continuous product discovery. And in the meantime, check out our Product-led Hub for more insights on how to build product-led teams—and build the right things.