The first goal is to keep learning

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My first goal as a college senior was to have the kind of job where I would never have to wear a tie. Achievement unlocked. But that didn’t really get to the core of the issue. I was really trying to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. A person who helps customers every day was the answer.  Continue reading “The first goal is to keep learning”

What’s the point of trying a beta product?

Beta Customers are the Best Test Customers You Have

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In Steve Blank’s excellent blog post on Startup First Principles, he describes a startup as “an organization built to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.” A key driver in building a repeatable and scalable business model is to find the kind of (friendly and unfriendly) customers who are not only willing and able to try partially completed software but also capable of providing relevant, actionable feedback. These beta customers might not be your ultimate customers – or they might be exactly the customers you’re looking for – and finding them and getting them to try beta products is a key requirement to give you the information you need to make business decisions.

When thinking about beta customers – especially early in the cycle of creating ideas and getting feedback on those ideas – Continue reading “What’s the point of trying a beta product?”

Why experiencing a product is better than explaining it

See this presentation – 5 Ways to Help Your Customers – on @haikudeck

You know the feeling – trying to explain something to someone who is not picking up what you’re putting down. So what should you do?

Explain, or Listen?

As a product marketer, you might often feel this emotion when you are trying to explain a new feature or functionality in your product, or generally when you’re trying to explain to someone how to follow a process or complete a procedure. When you feel this way, it might be a sign that we’re doing this wrong.

“Our fatigue is often caused not by work, but by worry, frustration and resentment.” -Dale Carnegie

It’s much easier to learn how to do something by trying it yourself, rather than having it exained to you.
Continue reading “Why experiencing a product is better than explaining it”

People Engage with Applications, Not Users

Seth Godin asks a wonderful question: “Do you have a people strategy?” It’s a quick read dedicated to reminding us that people, not users, engage with applications and services to make their lives better. If you can make people’s lives better with your application or service, they’ll come back. If you create a new need where there was no perceived need before, you might have created a billion dollar opportunity.

So why is it that so many of our product cycles are devoted to “users” who can learn new “features” that will allow them to “achieve their goals” instead of understanding better what people need by listening to them?

Every Designer’s Fear of the Customer

When you talk to a really good designer, one of their great fears is that a simple, elegant design might be ruined by incessant demands from customers who want lots of capabilities that they will never use (and in fact, don’t really need.) A good example is this concept video by designer Philip Pauley of his “helicopter-boat-plane”: it sounds cool, but the market demand seems to be … underdeveloped as of yet.

Even if the customer is not always right …

Customers (or prospective customers) give you valuable signals when they ask you for things that they want. I agree with the idea that the customer is not always right, but they always feel that they are right. So the more of their helicopter boat plane ideas that you can build (quickly, without a lot of extra frills), the more you will be able to test to see if the idea of one customer actually fosters a habit that other customers might follow.

You can get closer to the customer’s actual (or perceived) need by asking them for only one change: “If you could choose anything to change about this product to make it better for you to use more often, what’s the one thing you would pick to change?”

Gain credibility by delivering some of the things they ask for.

As a team, if you make a list of these “one thing items,” periodically deliver some of them, and highlight the customer who asked you for this change, you will win brand advocates, customer evangelists, and generally understand who your “hero users” are. This will not necessarily translate into market success or market validation. But it will give you much more room and capability to try to build an everyday product that real people use, instead of crafting an application that is utilized by users.

3 Reasons Customer Service and Twitter go together

How many times have you thought when experiencing a negative service experience: “if only I knew who to talk to, I would give them a piece of my mind … right now!”  Mobile and social tools now make that possible, and even a little bit too easy.  Despite the risk that you might say something faster than you have time to edit it, I think that Twitter is an excellent tool for Customer Service.  There are three basic reasons why it excels here:

Reason #1: Twitter gives the organization immediate feedback

Too often, a customer will have a problem, shrug it off as something that will never get attention, and never bring it to the notice of the company or service.  Twitter gives the organization immediate feedback.  Whether you’re great or whether you haven’t exactly wowed someone, it’s a lot easier to respond if you at least know that there is a problem.

Reason #2: The Organization or Company has some frame of reference already established for the customer

When you get a random phone call, how easy is it to know who’s calling, understand a bit of their personality and motivation, and have the opportunity to think about what you’re going to say to them?  Sounds kind of hard.  Twitter gives that to you in a nice neat package and shows you whether the caller is popular, well-connected, or not and what kind of persona they portray on their social media pages.

Reason #3: 140 characters makes everyone get to the point.  Fast.

It’s very easy to scan a 140 character message and to quickly understand the situation.  Of course, there’s always the problem that the caller is not quite specific enough for you to be able to solve the problem.  But most of the time, having a constraint is good — it forces the customer to quickly state the problem, and you to answer it succinctly.

Twitter is great for Customer Service.  Giving another channel to the customer, getting and giving instant feedback, having an idea of who they are and why they’re calling, and having to do that concisely makes the Customer Service process move better and faster.

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