When I moved into a product manager role from over 10 years in marketing, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew that I would be part of a team which built software products for companies looking to hire candidates. I was told that being on a revenue generating team would be a great place to be (especially when the economy was down) versus in marketing which is an expense generating team. When I transitioned to the product role within the same company, I was a little unsure, but wanted to try something new. My new boss wanted to utilize my marketing skills, and I’d also have the opportunity to learn and grow about building software. It sounded like a great match, and I was ready for the challenge.
I started learning about our current B2B product and saw a long list of all of the new features that clients were asking for through their sales representative or customer care. I realized we had a lot of work to do to make the product better.
Why You Need User Feedback
My manager was meeting with clients regularly and bringing us the requests for what more needed to be built. However, as a team of product and technology team members, we didn’t have a good process to decide on prioritization. I started meeting with clients when they came into the office and presenting on our product’s capabilities. In one calendar year, I presented to over 100 companies either in person or on the phone. I learned about their challenges and what areas of the product we needed to invest in further to make our product better. It was a huge leap in education for me about how and why talking to users of our product was helping accelerate our product’s vision and development.
Because of my marketing background and my knack for planning, I planned our first user event where we’d host a bunch of customers for a few days and learn more. The goal behind hosting an onsite event with users of our products was multi-pronged. These are the benefits to hosting and why you’ll feel like you won a stack of gold afterwards.
Three Benefits to Hosting User Events:
1. Immediate Feedback from Multiple Voices
When you are considering the features and functionality of a product, it’s best to get feedback on a regular basis. When you have a user event, you have an opportunity to present your plans to many people and get lots of feedback in a short period of time from multiple perspectives. You may learn that a new feature that you had lower on your list is actually super important to your users or vice versa. The immediate feedback can help validate and confirm your roadmap or help you pivot and try a new path that will lead you to success as a product manager.
You must get multiple perspectives from multiple clients when deciding on your plans and roadmap. If you rely too heavy on one voice, you are putting yourself into a corner and it will be difficult to get out.
2. Development Team Hears Directly From Users
When you host these user events, you must have your development team join. They should be meeting with your customers to hear directly about their struggles and challenges. When engineers go back to their desk to develop, they’ll have that much more information as to why and who they are building the product for. It will accelerate their productivity and hopefully make them more excited and passionate about their role in the process.
3. Build Relationships
As humans, we are always looking to find people to connect with and having in-person opportunities for your team to build relationships with customers will drive productivity and fuel their minds. Bringing clients into your office allows you to host them and make them feel welcome. This gives your brand more credibility and you are part of building the trust needed to sustain the relationship long term.
This year, I planned and hosted the sixth annual event for my team. Every year we get smarter with how to prepare and set expectations to make the user event successful. All team members should be invited — product managers, engineers, designers, researchers, analysts, marketing, etc. Everyone who is behind building and launching new products and features should be present and interact with the users who are your target customer.
Go For the Gold
Your users will know that they are part of the development process by contributing their feedback so you can build better products for them. You can then ask them for further feedback as you make progress on the items that they requested or the challenges that your new feature will solve for them.
I view these events as “gold” because all team members and clients walk away with so much knowledge and excitement for the direction that you are headed. You’ll feel like you won a stack of gold.