A fundamental product management principle that I live by is Customer obsession! To me, everything starts with the customer and the painful problems they have that they expect my product to solve. I have always coached the product teams I have led using this mantra.
No one in the office will ever open their wallets, pull out a credit card and buy our product*. The people who will do that live outside this office. So spend time with them to deeply understand their problems so that they will buy!.
What we have inside the office are opinions (often strong) or solutions proposed by customers. These are nothing but hypotheses which need to be validated by product managers by engaging with customers who have these problems. You as a product manager, need to ask the “Why” to understand the problem and if these are indeed painful problems for the customer that they are worth solving to deliver customer value and also a positive impact to our business.
The only way that I know of to do this effectively be via constant interviews/visits with your customers or prospects. There is never a state where you know enough about your customers because their needs change, new technologies arrive solving problems in new unique ways and in some cases creating new sets of problems or your competitors make moves. To stay abreast of all these changes, you need to continuously engage with your customers at least on a bi-weekly basis. A good start would be to talk to at least 1 customer/prospect a week.
I don’t buy the excuse of lack of time. Not having time is a prioritization problem. If product managers are expected to be the voice of the customer, there is nothing more important than being in constant touch with your customers.
If you are not doing this or if you are outsourcing this completely to sales, professional services or customer support teams, then you are going to have difficulty in making your customers open their wallets and pull out their credit cards and buy your products. These teams can definitely be great channels for customer/industry intel, but you need to have a direct channel of your own to customers/prospects.
Eventually every business needs their customers to open their wallets and pull out their credit cards!
Thoughts? If you like this, please share it with your network of product managers.
*- Agreed there are some exceptions if your company makes hardware like Peloton or Hydrow or electronic gadgets.