I worked in vendor marketing roles (product marketing, product management, campaigns, etc.) for the first half of my career, before becoming a market researcher. When I started doing technology market research and spending my days talking to corporate IT without any sales motivations, the conversations changed and I learned a few things that really surprised me and I wanted to share them with you.
- Customers do not spend anywhere near as much time thinking about your product as you do. Even customers that use the product on a daily basis spend most of their time thinking about other things – from people issues to process issues to the other 14 tools they use every day. They really appreciate it when you make your product and messages simple so they can get on to the other parts of their job.
- Customers really WANT to give feedback – happy or cranky, mature or brand new. They want to talk about their experiences. Some are very busy and don’t have time, but in general customers love being asked to join customer advisory boards or participate in research projects. There are a few caveats of course:
- They don’t want to jump through a bunch of hoops to get permission – but that’s easy to solve by offering them anonymity for participation.
- They want their feedback to go somewhere and yield real results.
- They want to talk about the products they own not just the new stuff you want to sell them.
- Customers HATE IT when you change the names of the products, or product features, they know. It took them a lot of effort to learn your product, and they don’t like having to relearn everything, or struggle to talk about a product they love because they don’t know the lingo anymore. And just to be clear, this is not a “minor annoyance.” It’s a HUGE negative.
- Corporate IT is surprisingly consistent across companies and markets. There are differences of course, but there are also a LOT of similarities. <UPDATE: THIS POINT GENERATED A COUPLE OF QUESTIONS ABOUT WHAT IS DIFFERENT ABOUT CORPORATE IT, INSPIRING THIS POST.>
- Geography: America, Europe, APAC all talk about the same pain, and same benefits of products. There are definitely differences in the way they buy products (channel vs. direct especially) and each region has different competitive dynamics and maturity of processes and technology, but for message testing or evaluating opportunities you don’t need to go far to get a view of the pains experiences by IT around the globe.
- Vertical Industry: If an application is mission-critical, it makes very little difference if it’s financial services or manufacturing. The needs are very similar. Government, education, and non-profit organizations buy differently, but again, the pain is the same.
The discovery that surprised me the most? Realizing that customers actually WANT to give feedback and are willing to take the time to do it. As long as they know their feedback is impacting the company and its products, customers are more than willing to share it.