Most product people believe that having a deep knowledge of your customers and their behaviors is important. By creating a continuous flow of customer feedback we can build better products.
Continuous customer engagement is essential and may sound simple, but it may not always be easy. As PMs, most of us are caught up in our day-to-day work of managing product backlogs, preparing presentations or slide decks, coordinating with Sales or Finance, reviewing product metrics, building product strategy, attending endless meetings… the list goes on and on. While we know the importance of engaging with customers, unless we set a goal or block our calendar for this, it may never happen. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be one-to-one engagement all the time. You can find different ways of connecting with your customers asynchronously, which can also be immensely valuable and will in turn help you make better product decisions.
The way in which you engage with your customers depends on your product goals. Are you trying to drive Awareness, Adoption or Retention? The answer to this question depends on the maturity stage of your product. For a new player in the market, the goal might be to drive awareness. Once you’ve acquired a significant numbers of users, adoption is your product goal. You have to make sure customers adopt the product and keep coming back to it. For mature products, the goal would be to retain customers and make sure they continue to find value.
Once you have a clear product goal, you can determine the nature of customer engagement and activities, which can range from hosting webinars to conducting user interviews to running customer advisory boards.
Here are some techniques that I have used as a product manager at different times in the product lifecycle.
For a product trying to acquire new users and build awareness, in-person meetups or webinars can be great. These sessions could be informational where you’d be teaching customers how to use the product and discussing specific product features, or they could be generic where you’d discuss industry trends. You could invite expert users to present a webinar. You could also partner with your Marketing or Product Support team to produce these. The sessions can enrich the connections you make with your customers and provide them with content that they’d value. While webinars can help in driving awareness about your product, they could also help in the retention and engagement of your existing users.
User research interviews
Conducting customer research interviews can be an effective strategy especially when you are engaging in product discovery. It can help you understand the problems that your customers are facing and also help build empathy in your development team.
Although you might have a dedicated team for product support, it’s useful to spend time on product forums or blogs. Read through customer questions, provide answers, workarounds or other insights that you might have. You could also engage with customers through social channels like LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.
Writing can be a great way to connect with customers. You can write a blog post, a product release announcement or a tutorial. You could even start a tips-and-tricks series teaching your customers new ways to solve problems. This is a great way to hone your writing skills, while connecting with customers. If you are not good at writing, you can partner with a colleague or friend and you’ll get better with time. At some companies like Amazon, product managers write an internal press release when a new project starts and good writing skills are essential to do this effectively.
Advisory Boards or Customer Councils
For mature products, it can be valuable to set up Customer Advisory Boards. This is a group of customers who are high-level executives at their companies and can therefore share in-depth market insights. You will generally meet as a group, once or twice a year and the goal is to gather market intelligence, explore future looking topics, and validate the product’s strategy. This can be a high investment, but this group of customers is influential and they will also act as your product’s champions, which can be very beneficial in the long run.
Other great avenues for customer connection are industry-specific events and conferences where there are opportunities to present your work, talk about your product and conduct customer research. These kinds of events will help to build one-on-one connection with your customers.
These are some of the ways in which product managers can effectively engage with their customers. A lot this can be done in partnership with Marketing, Sales and Support. Develop a strategy for engagement based on your product goals. Remember that continuously engaging with customers can help you build better products and provide the best customer experience.
Article originally published to Medium
Written by Aradhana Vaidya