Whatever stage of business you’re in, hopefully you get how important it is to be continuously collecting and evaluating customer feedback. Whether you’re building out your first MVP, about to push out an update for your app, or working on product roadmapping, the feedback from your customers is invaluable. After all, this is all for them - no one knows better what they want and need than they do.
Typically, your product development process goes like this. You have what you think is a great idea. You turn this idea into a minimum viable product, so that you can present it to a group of beta testers. You collect their feedback. You find out what they love, what they hate, and what they ultimately expect and want out of your product. They validate (or invalidate) your idea and give you the feedback you need to move forward (or not) with creating a final version of your product. This is of course an extremely simplified version of this entire process, but you get the general idea.
What happens when you have no minimum viable product, and no group of beta testers or customers? When you’re product roadmapping, this can often be the case. You’re trying to look down the road and figure out what people will want from you in the future - but you don’t have anything for them to actually try. And, there’s no “them”.
Getting customer feedback without actual customers
Here is what you’re going to do. If you have an existing customer base, you’re going to start there. From your existing group of people, you want to segment out the people you think would be ideal customers for your new features or latest new product.
If you’re starting from scratch and have no customer base whatsoever, that’s okay too. You need to find a group of people that mirror who you think your ideal customer is. What group of people will need your solution the most?
The crucial element of this part is getting crystal clear on who your ideal customer is. Once you’ve got that clarified, you can then find those people in your existing customer base or from the general population.
Once you’ve found a group of qualified prospective customers, it’s time to interview them to get some qualitative data.
Qualitative data is the information that can’t be measured
Once you’ve amassed a large customer base, this process isn’t going to work - but at the very beginning, this is how you can collect qualitative data from prospective customers that will lead you down the right path during your product development and roadmapping process.
Schedule phone interviews with as many likely customers as you can - no fewer than 12. The point of this interview is to get the information you need to measure your own assumptions against their actual responses.
Depending on your industry, you will need to modify the line of questioning.
If you’re a B2B business, here are some insightful questions:
- What are your professional and personal short-term and long-term goals?
- Tell me about your current role - what exactly do you do on a daily basis?
- What specific frustrations are you dealing with on a regular basis? What gets in your way of being productive?
- What might make reaching your personal and professional objectives easier?
Once you’ve gotten detailed answers to these questions, simply present your product idea to them. Ask them if your product will help them reach their goals, or solve one of their major problems.
It seems pretty straightforward and simple, but you will be shocked at how many people don’t attempt this - you’ll be even more surprised by the valuable insight you collect.