Product Management | Why and how maintaining pool of qualified customers is your best strategy
World of Digits / Explore
World of Digits / Explore
“Learning” is the main objective of these companies that seek a place at the top among the best. Learning faster than others is the condition to exist in a hyper-competitive world like ours. To achieve this, some companies rely on their communities of loyal customers. Close to the company, regular consumers, satisfied or dissatisfied, the company recruit these customers to share their opinions. Before the launch of a new marketing campaign, a new product or business model, many companies turn to their communities for validation initiatives to be sure they are ready before launching commercially to the bulk of their customers.
We’ll look at the benefits of involving customers in product management, validation initiatives and some key steps to developing a community of qualified customers.
“I am Lucas, Digital Project Manager at WOD for almost 3 years. I had the chance to accompany a major player in the Belgian telephony sector in the context of the launch of a new TV interface. Within the test team, I coordinated the product validation phases, on a small scale, of their new TV solution. I am delighted to be able to give you feedback and to give you an insight into the benefits and approach of implementing an initiative like this.”
The first function of a customer community is to bring up problems that in product management, the development and test teams would not have been able to discover or reproduce during their duties. The objective is to stress the product by putting it in front of different configurations and uses, often difficult to reproduce in a test environment. A telecom company launching a new set-top box will find it difficult to reproduce all the different connection configurations. Hence the interest in drawing on a community of varied customers with different configurations.
Only when the product is in the hands of a representative quantity of customers can a company really interpret the future viability of the product on the market. The sooner the product is on the market, the sooner the company will be able to reassure itself and iterate, if necessary, towards a more adapted version of the product. In this context, having a community of qualified customers becomes useful. Even on a small scale, the validation of a product becomes relevant to guarantee successful product management.
The product itself is not the only component that you need to stress during a product validation initiative. These initiatives also provide an opportunity for support teams (installers, customer service, finance) to train and hone their new business processes developed to support the new product in the marketplace. These include, for example, processes for escalating operational issues from customer service to technical teams, backup solutions to be triggered in the event of major incidents or even accompanying communications surrounding the product’s release. Anything new the company develops for the product is entitled to be tested on a small scale as part of a validation initiative. Again, having a community of customers at your disposal makes the product management easier in terms of speed of execution, participation rate, and quality of feedback.
You need to prepare several elements to get the most out of a customer community as part of product management and validation initiative.
The list below includes the essential elements:
Targeting is an essential part of selecting candidates for this community. In other words, the better you target the participants, the better the feedback they provide can be perceived as relevant, and less feedback is needed to ensure completeness. Simply put, it is better to have 10 participants who are highly representative of your customer base than 100 participants who are not. It is the targeting and motivation of participants that will ensure the success of a validation initiative.
The targeting of participants can depend on several elements: current users of the product or expected users of the product in the case of the marketing of a new product whose target is still unclear.
You can do targeting on a multitude of criteria, socio-demographic criteria, usage criteria, or purely technical criteria.
The first step is to align a common definition of success in the context of a validation initiative. In short, how and when will the company know that the product is correctly meeting the market’s expectations. The idea is to set qualitative and quantitative goals upfront in your product management. These objectives will serve as a roadmap and focus the discussions on objective values.
In concrete terms, it is a matter of understanding what we want to validate (the different functionalities of the product, for example) and associating a success criterion to each of these items. Among the relevant metrics, we find for example the satisfaction rate, the degree of use, or the importance rate of the product. To do this well, it is important to align these objectives with the key business objectives and results.
After having determined a test plan and objective success criteria, you must divide the test plan into different phases. To do so, you divide these different phases according to the degree of criticality allocated to each of the items that make up the test plan. In other words, the functionalities that are critical to the success of the product are validated first, as opposed to the second or third important functionalities that you can validate later.
To minimize risks, the next sub-step consists of dividing the pool of participants into different homogeneous waves. These different waves will be then run successively throughout the validation initiative.
Finally, the prioritized test plan is integrated with the schedule of the different waves to form a relevant roadmap.
Keeping a community of customers motivated throughout a validation initiative is important to ensure the proper validation of the product during its development. Keep in mind that this may last several months. The product in the validation phase may be unstable, its use degraded and frustrating for the user. It is therefore essential to compensate the participants. Several options exist to compensate participants for their losses and keep them motivated.
– Refund part or all the subscription fees.
– Offer additional services beyond those already available to the participant.
– Offer gifts or other benefits (movie tickets, theater tickets).
In short, in product management, capitalizing on a community of qualified customers is a good strategy to quickly validate internal initiatives and reduce time to market. Combining a rigorous product validation approach with a community of qualified customers is the way to develop products that are more adapted to the market and reduce the occurrence of post-production problems.
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