As a former product marketer, I understand the delicate balance of gathering valuable market research, managing a backlog of enhancement requests coming from multiple departments including support, marketing, sales and more and staying true to the mandate of the product.
People are more connected, and the ease with which people can share their feedback grows, in turn increasing the noise. So how can you, product managers and marketers turn the noise into a positive force in delivering excellent products that delight your customers and meet your business goals?
It's simple, your community doesn’t have to be exclusively focused on new product enhancement ideas. It can be used to focalize and help the product management organization make better decisions on existing items.
You can turn to the community to:
- Vet existing ideas with the group - Even the best backlogs suffer from having one too many things that need to be included in the same release. If you are stuck with a few bug fixes that require the same resources, you can put them up for a vote for prioritization. Ultimately, it can help focus an internal conversation when you have qualitative feedback to backup your decision process.
- Find different perspectives to solve a specific problem - Sometimes enhancement requests come from a complex problem that doesn’t have an obvious fix. Bringing the problem to the community can help generate a productive feedback session for possible solutions. Of course, to make it as useful as possible, being very clear on the issue and the already considered options can help guide the feedback process. Be cognizant that you might have to segment who and how to gather that feedback. Not everyone will have good ideas and it’s vital that you clearly communicate that accepting suggestions does not necessarily equate commitment to doing it their way or within a specific timeline. Saying no is ok.
- Identify product champions, thought leaders and visionaries - Your community is a treasure trove of people that use your product day in and day out. In that you can uncover great product champions that have a deep emotional bond with your product, that can give you direct feedback on upcoming changes. There are also thought leaders and visionaries that can give you unique insights on the current and upcoming challenges you would have an opportunity to address.
- Recruit for the customer advisory board - Sometimes new products or enhancements involve significant resources and risk. Use your community to recruit for your customer advisory boards (CABs). Their mandate is to meet periodically to offer advice on the product and company direction. Use your community platform to organize these meetings designed to validate that your product direction.
As a product manager, your community of customers can be a great place to get real time feedback from the people that matter. That feedback can help you focus your roadmap and identify new opportunities ahead. That very gesture of transparency on what's already in consideration is a great way to jumpstart your ideation corner.