by Matt Volpi
No matter how hard we try, the product development process drags us away from customers and into a more theoretical bubble. One can easily begin focusing on lists of features and generalities and not how a specific customer is going to interact with and benefit from your solution.
But each customer is unique and their journey will hopefully be positive and the basis for a case study; a tool for communicating your product’s benefits to even more potential customers. Keeping these case studies-to-be in mind is a great way to make sure you remain customer-centric, even when you are cooped up in a meeting room with a white board and a bunch of engineers.
Since every good case study has a narrative, let’s map that to the definition, design and implementation process:
Every case study starts with the problem the customer is trying to solve. While these problems may fall into several broad categories, each customer has a very specific problem. Since you are trying to ensure that this unique customer problem is addressed, make it something specific and – ideally – based on actual data from your sales organization or a customer interview you have conducted yourself.
For example, it is easy to say:
“Our product will help sales people make sure they are contacting their prospects on a regular basis through various channels because customers wants to know what is working and be able to measure it.”
But this is a very vague goal and you could meet it in a variety of ways. Instead, you need to get specific:
“Company X has 17 sales people in the field and a four-person inside sales organization supporting them. Field personnel communicate with their prospects by calling them or sending them emails. Inside sales follows up on lead generation activities by emailing and calling prospects to try and schedule demos for their field team. A three-person marketing team is generating content, running webinars, performing SEO and utilizing social media and email marketing. The company wants to know, in aggregate, how often each prospect is being reached via each channel, and on each successful transaction how many times they were contacted via each channel and have a visual timeline from first contact to order.”
Of course, a company’s specific problems are often even more nuanced, but this amount of specificity creates a real scenario to work against.
How did Company X find out about your awesome solution for measuring prospect communication? You might dismiss this as the realm of marketing or sales, but as the owner of the solution it is your problem too.
What the product actually includes can heavily influence how it is discovered. For example, does your product generate statistics that your company can aggregate and share over social media in quick sound bites, such as “the average enterprise software deal doesn’t close until the sixth time a prospect is touched”? Do you have out-of-the-box integration with CRM tools to enable joint marketing efforts?
What made Company X select your product? Was it a specific feature, the price point, something that a competitor lacked, the absence of risk by making it a monthly SaaS versus an annual license? It won’t be the same for every customer, so think about what is going to speak to a customer with this profile and it might influence how you implement or package it.
Someone had to pay for your product, and it is not always the end-user. Figuring out who this is can drive you to shape your product to be sure it is meeting the actual buyer’s ROI and not just satisfying the end user. It could be as simple as a weekly or monthly report that shows the increase in conversions since the solution was implemented, but keeping the funding source’s motivations in mind is key to winning repeat business.
It is also critical to understand how your customer wants to pay for it (rent vs. buy, seat license vs. enterprise license, etc.) and to make sure that is one of the options.
What did Company X have to do to get your system up and running? What challenges did they have to overcome? Go through the entire scenario from configuration and integration to training and support. This exercise can keep some of those unwanted a-ha moments from happening after you have already shipped your product.
Since you have already created a very well-defined problem scenario, you should be able to create a product that is addressing that problem in a measurable and significant way. You want to be able to write something like:
“Company X can now select any prospect/customer and see a time-stamped sequence of communications from anyone at the company. They can also see visual reports that indicate which combinations of communication channels and frequency are most effective by customer type. There are also reports that show each staff member’s individual activities in aggregate and per prospect/customer.”
This narrative can inform your QA efforts and ensure that test scripts are more customer-focused.
Rinse and Repeat
Now that you know everything about Company X’s story, you need to start thinking about Company Y. They’re a different company with a different problem that your product also needs to address, perhaps they have channel partners that need to be accounted for or a CEO who doesn’t think they should be spending money on outbound marketing or they use a specific CRM solution that requires integration.
Keeping a few of these specific case studies in mind throughout the process is key to leveraging the value of the exercise and keeping the entire team aware of the subtle yet critical differences your product will face in the market. While you don’t want to build a solution that is tailor-made for Company X, you have to make sure it is meeting their needs and actually works for real-world customers and not just “the Customer.”
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About the author
Matt helps start-ups and established companies with product strategy, marketing execution and market research, with a focus on innovative solutions development and sales enablement. He has 20 years experience in product management and marketing at Internet and mobile tech companies. You can reach him at http://tovana.com or on Twitter as @mattvolpi