Products aren’t made…
It doesn’t matter if you think you have a “brilliant” idea – what matters is if the customer thinks so, too, and is willing to pay for it.
You see, customers don’t buy anything they don’t want.
So the question is, how do you figure out what customers want and give it to them?
We’re going to show you how product discovery works, why it matters, and some tips for pumping out products your customers are virtually guaranteed to buy.
Let’s start with a brief explanation.
What Is Product Discovery?
Product discovery is a process of rooting into the mind and emotions of your target market to understand exactly who they are, what they care about, and all of the problems they wished they could solve.
Those problems will lead you to discover the solutions they require and the products that must be created to deliver them.
Why Does Product Discovery Matter?
Because creating products that don’t serve customers ruin businesses.
And so do products that make customers say “meh.”
Businesses don’t survive that long with apathetic customers settling for 10th best in a competitive market.
What you should be aiming for is, “This is what I’ve been waiting for!”
And the only way to get that kind of reaction is by identifying your markets’ genuine needs.
Too often, products are built on assumptions made by your team and company – instead of your customers’ preferences.
Products should be evidence-based and informed by listening to customer desires, which is the process behind product discovery.
How Does Product Discovery Work?
The “what” of product discovery is straightforward, but the “how” is a little trickier to grasp.
The first step is challenging your assumptions as we mentioned in the last section.
If your executive team pushes product initiatives forward, then you have to challenge the assumptions they’re making about customers’ likes and dislikes. If your product team suggests features based on past experiences, they need to be closely examined.
Regardless of where product ideas come from, they must be weighed against fresh customer insights and reliable data.
What you think you “know” about your customers should be rephrased as what you “hypothesize” about your customers. And then move to the next step:
Conduct empirical research.
There are 2 types of data you can collect:
Qualitative data is subject and is all about how your customers and prospects feel about your brand and products.
Customer surveys such as Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) help you understand the way customers currently view you and your solutions. It helps you empathize with your customers and see their journey through their eyes – allowing you to develop better customer experiences and products.
Quantitative data is all about the numbers.
Did customers open the onboarding emails after they subscribed to your app? Did you get more sales from customers who bought products in the last 6 months or the last 12 months? How many customer complaints have you received after rolling out a new feature?
This kind of data and much more like it will give you direct insights into customer behavior, and when cross-checked with qualitative data, will begin to form a clear picture of who your customer is and exactly what they want.
Again, every assumption must be challenged and compared to real data.
Once armed with this data, you can create “living” documents that are updated as you learn more about your customers.
The first document we recommend creating is a customer persona. This is a list of demographics, psychographics, and verified behavior of your customers.
Another worthwhile document to have is the customer journey map. It documents the path prospects follow to become customers. It usually starts with some kind of first contact and ends in a renewal of service or another purchase.
And then there’s the empathy map.
It helps you to visualize the behaviors and attitudes of the user in a way UX teams can follow and reference when thinking about how and why a user interacts with their products.
And that’s 3 documents you should create.
There are plenty more you may wish to produce as you go through the product discovery process.
In the next section, we’ll give you a bit more guidance on making product discovery work for you.
5 Tips for Effective Product Discovery
The product discovery process is messy, sometimes confusing, and different for every business and market.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few fundamentals you can use to make it easier and more effective.
Below are a few tips we recommend following for better product discovery.
Begin by Empathizing With Your Audience
Empathy should always be the starting point in product discovery. It forces you to look through your customers’ eyes and see the world as they do.
The goal is to eliminate projection, assumption, and “intuition” and replace them with accurate observation and genuine understanding.
The key is to get specific.
Imagine just one customer. Describe everything you know about that one customer.
What’s their perspective?
What are their hopes and dreams, needs and desires?
What are the fears and pains tormenting them?
Fill this one customer with all the attributes and characteristics you’ve discovered about your real customers.
This gives you a robust image you can use to pinpoint the problem they need to be solved, the solution they require, and the right way to package it into a product they would buy.
Constantly Uncover Customer Problems
Product discovery isn’t linear, neat, or tidy.
The only way to get the data you’re looking for is to embrace the mayhem. This is especially true when it comes to discovering your customers’ problems.
You have to remain hyper-curious about all the challenges your customers want to overcome because if you don’t, your competitors will.
Keep surveying your customers.
Keep conducting customer interviews.
Keep monitoring social media.
Keep collecting reviews.
Keep listening to customer complaints.
There is always more to learn, and the day you stop is the day new products won’t be discovered.
We already mentioned empathy and customer journey maps, but you can map virtually anything to help you visualize each step and how they fit together.
- Map a customers typical day.
- Map a specific experience.
- Map the customer’s journey to discovering your product and using it.
- Map out your own processes running behind the scenes that support your customer’s journey.
- And so on.
Drawing visual maps help you think.
It externalizes complex and abstract mental concepts and makes them concrete, easily understood, and more “real.”
The added benefit is that once it’s out of your head, you’re not spending time thinking of the map while maintaining it in your mind – you can just think about the map you’re looking at, freeing up critical mental energy.
We encourage everyone on your team to draw maps of processes, strategies, concepts, and ideas. At the very least, managers and decision-makers should be doing this.
Don’t Settle for the First Solution You Devise
Coming up with an idea to solve your customer’s problem is easy…
The first time.
But that initial idea is probably not the right one to make into a product. It’s really easy and feels really good to move forward on the first idea presented (especially if it’s yours), but you have to verify that it matches more than one dimension of what the customer wants.
We recommend mapping your solution idea to the opportunities you find by analyzing the market and your customers. This acts as a reminder of the customer’s actual needs and mitigates the risk of teams running with an idea and forgetting about the preferences of the people they’re building the solution for in the first place.
And map many solutions.
Generate tons of ideas.
Mash them together and pull them apart.
That’s how you find the idea that sticks out as the true solution and the viable product for your customers.
Break Your Team out of Their Silos
Everyone on your team specializes in something:
And they’re expected to perform the function of their role without assuming the tasks or responsibilities of anyone else’s role – a buzzing hive of perfectly divided labor.
But while good worker bees are essential for the product to be made, you’ll need all hands on deck when figuring out which product to make.
That’s why we encourage teams to pull everyone out of their silos and come together during product discovery to leverage each other’s perspectives and unique knowledge.
It’s also helpful to get everyone’s opinion on what product to move forward with building.
This type of heavy collaboration isn’t easy.
There will be plenty of disagreements and arguments, but if you can work past them, you’ll tend to develop better products that your entire organization believes in – inspiring them to work even harder to make the product as perfect for the customer as they can.
How to Make Team Collaboration More Cooperative (And Less Contentious)
Effective collaboration is all about improved communication.
You may communicate just fine now…
But when the stakes are high, the tasks are piling up, and the deadline is looming, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to miscommunicate crucial information.
The most common types of miscommunication are mishearing and misreading.
Despite using language for at least 60,000 years, humans still struggle with understanding strings of words.
Images on the other hand…
Are much harder to misinterpret.
Humans understand images and videos faster than text, and it’s the preferred medium of communication amongst internet users and employees.
Zight (formerly CloudApp) provides visuals through screen recordings and image snippets to clarify communications.
At Zight (formerly CloudApp), we believe fast and easy collaboration is a must-have for productive product discovery.
Our software allows any team member or department to host quick meetings through a webcam, even with everyone out of the office.
Technical processes or difficult tasks can be made into GIFs for easy follow-along.
And walls of text giving feedback can be replaced with annotated screenshots.
We’ve been ranked by G2 Crowd as one of the top sales enablement tools and we can help you develop discover better products with better communication.
Find out why Zight (formerly CloudApp) is an essential tool for product discovery today.