After successfully running your first client meeting, the next step is to understand your customer lifecycle. In this blog, we discuss the importance of aligning your product with customer needs by understanding the customer lifecycle.
As product owners always remember that you are trying to solve your customer’s problem with your product. However, your product is just a part of your customer’s life. They will always have an alternative solution to lean into. Thus, there is a need to explore your customers as they are the ones who will choose your product over any other alternatives. To do this, first, identify your potential customers and second, ask questions.
While the first meeting is to build trust, the second meeting is about getting a clearer perspective on product, brand, and target customers. Product managers should ask relevant questions about the customer so that they can evaluate the market needs. Some major questions relating to the customer lifecycle need to be answered, like how you fit the product to your customer’s life? What triggers the user to use your products? Why would they use the product? By getting answers to these questions, product managers can evaluate and validate the market needs.
The more you understand your customers and ask questions to validate your assumptions, the more useful the product you develop will be. Even at Leapfrog, we have a few examples where product owners directly started building the product without analyzing their target audience. We advocated the importance of this step, however, they were adamant. Ultimately, the product was launched, but it didn’t garner any market share. To avoid such cases, product managers need to know the behaviors of their customers.
How do you analyze your customers?
Product managers should start by asking questions to their clients. However, clients may not have all the answers in the first meeting, and sometimes, they are entirely unaware of this step. It is also likely for them to not listen to you. After all, they need to build the product. But as product managers, you have to convince them to be part of the analysis stage. We want our clients to succeed, and to do this they need to understand the customer lifecycle. Thus, you must convince them to carry out the step.
Then, ask questions about your customers. Without understanding the customer lifecycle, it is risky to initiate development. You might end up building something that your customers don’t even require. Both product owners and product managers need to get a bigger picture and make sure you are solving for the user. You have to design a customer-centric product to solve their issue and succeed at building a great product.
However, not everything is well thought out in the beginning. We only communicate the baseline like this is our hypothesis about the customer lifecycle, our team, our story brand, and how can we quickly iterate on this plan? For adamant clients who want to skip this stage, you still need to advocate for customer validation. If they persist, it’s time to bid the farewells.
You can also test your compatibility with your clients about how open they are with our idea. After all, we are partners, not just dev shops. As a company, we have gone through this step a dozen times with different clients and have garnered experience over the years. So, we know this is the right way to lead. We want our clients to leverage our expertise and inherit it for their benefit.
Other problems to figure out in this stage:
- Identify the decision-maker in the client’s team.
Clients will likely have a team. In such cases, you would want to clarify who makes the final decision. There are going to be many cases where you want to prioritize features based on the pros and cons. You, as the product manager, need to know who makes the final call. This will save time and also help understand who is doing what. Similarly, roles and decision making authority in our team should be communicated with the clients as well.
- Understand your client’s brand
Take the initiative to know more about the brand that your clients perceive in their mind. Validate the brand perceived with the brand customer will resonate with. For example, if a healthcare brand is targeting athletes, colors, look, feel, copywriting, all these matters and is defined by the customer lifecycle.
- Product vision
We are leaning more into the product at this phase. The product may change, but vision may not. You need to ask relevant questions to understand the product, customer, and company vision. Find the gaps between the three and take the initiative on how you can reduce the difference.
- Set clear expectations on their timeline
Most clients will have limited funds and have different goals. While they choose to work with you, some might want a fully functioning product to get into the market; others might want a prototype to solidify the next round of funding. There can also be cases when clients want to launch a product at a big conference in which their target audience will be interested. So, it is better to settle expectations and check if the timeline is feasible. You want to have an explicit schedule for when they want the product and which version they want you to work on.
Therefore, it is always helpful to have a precise playbook or checklist to know what phases of discovery your clients are in. Some may have years of experience, and some have an idea of a product. But whatever phase they are in, customer validation is a must. If they have already done it, evaluate it. Ask questions related to the customer lifecycle. This may not be easy, but you have to find the answers for your product to succeed in the market.
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