In a world dictated by the glam and fam of Digital Products, it is very easy to suffer from tunnel vision and get caught up in the Product Development Cycle – define, build, measure and repeat. Unfortunately there is far more to building, launching and maintaining a successful digital asset than just what happens between Product Management and Feature Development. The best and most successful people managing digital assets treat it from a holistic point of view. They look at the whole product and not just the small (although essential) part of feature development.
To get the whole picture, we need our eyes, ears and fingers on the pulse of all the activities that go on both inside and around the product. Feature development for sure is important, but what are also equally important are marketing, sales, customer support and operations.
Context is King
Yes, we are supposed to go outside the four walls of our flashy interiored, ergonomic chair clad more than just a workplace of an office and get information directly from customers, prospects and members of our target segments. While that is true, the process of going out into the market and directly asking for answers gives us insufficient context to work with.
Context is King! Particularly for instances where there are business cases to be made and a plethora of internal stakeholders to be managed.
The more information you have, the broader the sources from which the information comes – the more contexts you can give to our decision making process. And that is going to dictate the path which your digital product will take
Context is always going to make the difference – whether that context comes from outside the walls, inside the walls, from subjective interpretations or objective data. The more contexts you can give, the more you can tailor the experience to the particular user segments. The more tailored the user experience is, the better the change of user engagement. And what is a digital asset without user engagement?
Know Thy Customers
Knowing the customer and the market isn’t something that can be done just from going out and talking with them — there are many other dynamics that come into play with your customers- their lives, their peers, their aspirations their politics and thousand other things. You can do all the user interviews that you want, but if you don’t also take time to understand the buyer personas, you’ll never sell a single product. There is more to know and understand than the specific use cases and problems that a given user or market segment has — there are adjacent considerations across the board: social pressures, family dynamics, and generation gaps, even digital literacy!
And not all of these are going to come just from direct customer research — you will need to leverage the research and planning that your marketing team has done, the segmentation and funnel design that your sales team has created, and even the detailed breakdowns that are provided by strategy team. You want to know and understand not just the customer and their problems, but the overall universe in which they operate, because everything that happens around us shapes how, when, and whether we’re likely to engage with a product or not, no matter how valuable we might personally consider the product to be.
Focus on Valuable Problems
The ultimate goal for any product is not just to solve customer problems. It is to identify that subset of problems which are valuable enough for the customers to be willing to pay money for the solution. It is not sufficient to simply go out and perform problem discovery with users if there is nobody in the company who is willing to work with not just making the solution but also how to effectively and successfully bring that solution to market.
You can spend all the time in the world crafting the most elegant and easy to use solution for our customers — only to discover that there isn’t actually a way to position it, to sell it, or to market it that actually brings in revenue for your company. While a good product team always keeps the customer in mind, a great team understands how to take that problem and its related solution, wrap it in a full packaging that provides customers with a compelling reason to buy the solution.
Focusing solely or primarily on the development process in your organization can and will blind you to the other equally important considerations that need to be taken into account when running a product. We simply can’t afford to ignore the marketing, sales, support, services, or other parts of the company — but at the same time we absolutely need the customer context to bring all of those discussions into focus about how we’re going to bring valuable solutions into a market that serves our target customers.
How do you guys approach the Digital Products Life-cycle Management at your company, let me know in the comments below!
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