Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Getting Close Your Market using Social Media

Remember 'old school' product management? We got enhancement feedback from customer service, competitive intelligence once in a while from sales/research? It was rated, reviewed, prioritized, and integrated in the roadmap - maybe every 6 months or so. Perhaps you wrote customer surveys to gauge our products, and waited for a few months for feedback? Remember that? You'd have structured survey data..."Good presentation of reporting data" "Fair User Interface" Easy to recommend changes.

That's changing - and if you are in product management, it's probably going to be pretty chaotic at first. Here's where I think product management needs to listen to customers -and prospects.

1. Be like Dell - Go Direct. You may look to marketing or PR to monitor your products, but often MarCom is looking at how the brand is perceived, not necessarily the product. What you won't get is 'the industry is buzzing about integrating mobile and social media campaigns.' What you won't get is 'Rumor is...your competitor is planning an integration with [leading edge company Y]. The influencers are blogging about the next big it in your roadmap? The challenge for product management? Set aside time at least weekly for a social monitor check to find the top social media stories in your space, and track the 'big influencers' in your industry. While this doesn't need to dominate your roadmap, it certainly needs to inform it.

2. Create Feedback Loops. In other words, learn how to make friends with others that use, could use, or are using competitor products in your industry. Features are not about writing requirements - they are about meeting market need. Using social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, & Facebook, start meeting (albeit, virtually) and commenting on people in your industry.

3. Test you
r Assumptions. Think your product has the best reporting- bar non? Use quick (We are talking 5-10 questions, at most) surveys to test your assumptions about your product, and others in your industry, or pose a question via LinkedIn or Twitter. What social media has shown us is that people really do help others. Instead of quarterly (or worse - yearly) surveys, try a few questions every month. This will ensure your roadmap continues to be close to market needs, and not what the market needed 14 months ago.

4. Listen in. Make it part of your monthly list to listen to customer calls and prospects. At one organization, they gave me a 'listen line' to monitor a consumer call center to see if I could translate a good call center rep to an online experience. We did and got better revenue as a result. Sometimes getting to the raw data, and befriending the sales and the support team will have invaluable results -and can validate your assumptions about the market.

5. Get Consensus. Know what I love? It allows you to ensure that the ideas you've uncovered, tested the market with, and gathered intelligence on are actually what the rest of your organization think too! Peers can vote on features to see which rises to the top -or submit additional features you might have not yet uncovered. It's a great way to know if you - and the rest of the organization - are on the same page. You can also open it ups to a few of your key influencers, and see if they have other ideas as well!

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