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What new social media mobile apps are available in 2022?
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Use new social media apps as marketing funnels
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Try out Twitter Spaces or Clubhouse on iPhone
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Discovery is an important responsibility for a product team. It's the sum of all activities you engage in to figure out what to build. This encompasses everything from collecting feedback, prototyping, creating personas, to more strategic work. But for now, we're zeroing in on one specific aspect - interviewing customers. It's through these interactions that we generate the insights to inform our product strategy and shape what we build. Let's dive in.
Start with customer problems
It can be tempting to jump straight into interviews and start asking customers about potential solutions or eliciting new ideas (e.g "What would you think if we built this feature?", “What should we build next”).
While it may seem intuitive, it's crucial to redirect focus towards exploring product opportunities - the actual pain points and needs that customers have. When a customer proposes a feature or an idea, it usually points to an underlying need. Investigate this need, as there may be multiple solutions that could address it effectively.
While solutions are certainly important, developing them without a thorough understanding of the needs and pain points they address can result in a narrow focus. You risk optimizing your product without reaching breakthrough innovation, or working through a long backlog of feature requests without any real product strategy.
This highlights the importance of customer interviews. They are an effective means of uncovering the hidden opportunities you might not be aware of from other sources such as product analytics or other quantitative data. To extract these insights, however, requires asking the right questions. Let's explore this further.
Setting goals for customer interviews
Establishing learning goals before embarking on customer interviews is critical. These learning goals, when closely tied to your questions, can provide direction and focus for your discovery interviews.
Learning goals can be broad, like enhancing your understanding of your customer base, or narrow, such as pinpointing why customers are churning from your product. The vital point here is to set these learning goals prior to conducting the interview. This preparation helps maintain focus during the interview, ensures alignment with stakeholders, and can guide the conversation effectively.
While it's crucial to keep your learning goals in mind, remember that customer interviews can be dynamic, and you should still be flexible. For example, while exploring the onboarding process, a customer might veer off track and express their passion for a particular feature they are using, or their struggle to onboard team members to the product. Don't ignore this. Rather than steering them back strictly to questions on an interview guide, you should be open to exploring these opportunities. Even if it is not relevant to the learning goal, you should be flexible enough to pivot, explore and be led by what customers are passionate about.
Asking the right questions in customer interviews
Crafting the right product discovery interview questions is a balancing act. You want to tap into the customer's real behaviour, and eliminate bias where possible. One common pitfall is to encourage customers to describe in general terms how they approach a task or set of actions. This can lead to bias, and doesn’t always lead to an accurate picture of customer behaviour.
A way to avoid this is to get customers to share stories and examples. Ask questions like, "Can you describe a time when..." or "Tell me about the last time you...". Being specific like this also allows you to follow up with additional questions that relate to real customer behaviour, rather than a generalised understanding of how customers view themselves.
Some potential discovery questions:
Describe a specific example or situation where our product made your life easier?
Walk me through the last time you used our product?
Tell me about the last time you used our product?
Can you recall a moment when you wished our product could do something it currently doesn't?
How often have you used the product over the last month?
What is the main goal you're trying to achieve when you use our product?
Are there features or functions that you rarely or never use? If so, why?
Can you describe a time when our product surprised you, either positively or negatively?
Tell me about a situation where you had to use a workaround to achieve something with our product.
Talking to the right customer
Customers differ in their needs and expectations. This is an important principle to remember when conducting customer interviews, and crafting the right questions. This is where customer personas come in. Personas represent different segments of your customer base and allow you to fine-tune your interview questions accordingly. This can lead to more relevant insights that are segmented based on target personas.
Before an interview, knowing which persona you're dealing with can help you prepare and craft the right questions.
But what if you haven't created personas yet? Don’t worry. Customer interviews can also help you form them. As you interview customers, and understand their needs and pain points, you can start to categorize customers into different personas. This process, in turn, enhances your understanding of customers, your product can improve the outcomes of product discovery.
The strategic position of your product
Consistent, continuous interviewing is important. As your product, customer behavior, and market conditions evolve, so should your understanding of your customers. This is why regular, ongoing customer interviews are more beneficial than one off efforts over a concentrated period of time.
Customer behavior can change frequently. This is particularly true for software products, as there is an expectation that products iterate and improve over time. These changes impact your product's position in the market, and highlight the importance of regular customer interviewing. Interviewing regularly also gives you a reference point to understand how customer behaviour has changed over time and if you are on the path to product market fit.
A product team that's continuously building and releasing, frequently needs to make important decisions. Often on a weekly basis. So having the voice of the customer ‘heard’ in these decisions is crucial. Having fresh, up-to-date insights from customers ensures that these decisions are well-informed and customer-centric. Interviewing continuously also impacts how you craft your product discovery questions. As priorities shift over time, so should your questions. Iteratively adapting your questions helps keep your focus on addressing the most pressing decisions at any given time.
Sharing your work
The insights gained from product discovery, including customer interviews, are not just valuable to your product team; they can be valuable for your entire organization. Sharing these insights can empower different teams within the company, from marketing to sales, with a deeper understanding of customers.
Share key findings from product discovery, along with the initial learning goals, with key stakeholders. This helps give a better picture of product development and the role customer insights played in shaping it. Include key facts and findings, customer pain points, and new learnings from customer interviews. Make sure to clarify why these interviews were crucial and how they have guided product development.
Sharing discovery work can be incredibly useful in onboarding new team members, by revisiting insights from earlier research. By consistently communicating insights, you can build a culture of customer-centricity beyond the product team, and across the wider organisation.