First Things First: Identify the Right Target Customers for Your Product

At CoInspire, we believe key to creating successful products starts with understanding your target customers and aligning your ideas precisely to addressing their needs. The more thoughtful you’re about product-customer alignment, the more likely your product will be used they those customers. Here is how.

Describe Your Target Customers

You can start the process by filling out the following information:

Identify customer types

First, you need to think of the types of customers your product or services is intended to support. They can be identified and named based on a number of ways:

  • how they use a product (e.g., “Buyer”, “Seller”, “Consumer”, “Advertiser”)
  • personality (e.g., “Thrifty Shopper”, “Careless Spender”)
  • skill level (e.g. “Power User”, “Newbie User”)
  • what they do for a living (e.g., “Product Manager”, “Lawyer”, “Student”)
  • social role (e.g. “Husband”, “Wife”, “Children”)

For example, if yours is an eCommerce site, your target users could be “Buyer” and “Seller”; if you’re working on enterprise software, your target users could be “Product Manger” and “Software developer”; if you’re developing a financial planning tool, your target users could be defined by their personality, such as “Thrifty Shopper”, “Careless Spender”.

Who are they

Once you got the user types, for each type of users, you need to describe who they are, including one or more of the following:

  • Role and responsibilities: For example, you can describe the role of a Husband, the responsibilities of a Product Manager.
  • Behaviors and tasks: For example, an eBay Seller typically perform a few tasks — listing an item by taking picture and writing description, waiting for buyers to bid, answering buyer questions, and shipping the item once bought.
  • Personality: For example, an Thrifty Spender is very careful about the cost and benefit tradeoff when buying things, and the purchase decision is always favor of saving money.
  • Technology and tools they use: This provides a context when you think of the technology suited for the target users. For example, a Lawyer is typically less tech savvy and leverages traditional Office tools more so than a Software Developer.

Pain points and needs

You’ll then list their pain points and unmet needs that your product is expected to address. For instance, Continue reading

Customer-Inspired Concept: Secret to Creating Products People Love

Let’s have a discussion around how to develop products customers will use — by creating a product concept and getting customer validation to ensure you’re working on the right idea.

Through many years of providing product strategy and UX consulting to leading tech companies, we’ve seen a very interesting, persistent pattern that leads to many failures of creating successful products:

Didn’t get customer feedback at early stage

Product creators — entrepreneurs, product managers, designers, etc. — come up with ideas for new products and features all the time. Then they jump into implementation, such as UI design, coding, nearly right away, driven by the conviction they’re onto something big. However…

Many months later, after the UI is designed and the coding reaches perfection, they all of sudden remember to do customer validation (e.g., usability testing, launch and learn, A/B testing of live product).

It is at that time they realize for the first time that they’ve been working on the wrong thing all along.

Why can’t they validate the idea before it goes into implementation to make sure they’re woking on the right features, targeting the right users, and envisioning the product experience in the right way?

Or, get misleading feedback on vague early ideas

Some product creators do get early feedback on their ideas. But that doesn’t work either:

Because idea is abstract and vague, and can be interpreted as different things by different people. Therefore, the feedback you get doesn’t accurately gauge whether you’re working on the right thing or not.

That’s why product creators often wonder:

“Why customers said they would use our product but when the product is launched they are not using it?”

Concept is the missing link between Idea and Execution

By jumping directly from an idea to execution, the product team essentially loses the opportunity to make sure they are working on the right thing, as well as figure out necessary details to guide successful execution:

This would lead to either a well-executed product that no one wants, or a poorly executed idea that could have been successful.

Concept is the missing link that translates the idea into tangible product description that can get concrete, meaningful customer feedback and that provides guidance for the execution.

Continue reading

From Feature-Driven to Customer-Inspired Innovation

We all know the importance of developing products based on customer needs, because after all they’re the ones using the products, not us. However, in reality most companies do it the other way around, starting from their perspective — instead of a customer perspective — when coming up with new products.

Before: Feature-Driven Innovation

Many companies start with these questions when thinking about developing a new product or improving an existing one:

“What features do we want to develop? What technology do we have that could make these features happen?”

Then they tell themselves — through a combination of wishful thinking and misinterpreting customer input — that the product thus conceived will be useful for customers.

I call this approach “feature-driven innovation”, because it starts with thinking about features the product team can build, and then forcing the features onto customers. This is a common practice of many companies.

The end result is often disappointing: on the one hand, companies are able to develop products with powerful features with cutting-edge technology. Yet the products don’t meet a real customer need and therefore fail in the market.

Now: Customer-Inspired Innovation

The solution is actually quite simple: start your product with customers in mind, by asking yourself these questions:

“Who are our target customers? What are they like? What are the gaps in their needs, and ultimate how would our product address the gaps?”

This way, you are not tied to the features and technical constraints. Instead, you start with a customer perspective, and then work out a way to address their needs through a product solution.

“Customer-inspired”, not “customer-driven”

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Seven Tips of Creating Effective Web Marketing

In a previous post we talked about high-level strategic principles that marketing should aim at in creating promotions that users pay attention to and would act upon. That is, Web marketing should work with users’ expectation and present a clear user benefit in order to engage users and drive conversion.

In this follow-up post, we’ll talk about specific, actionable content writing and creative design tips that will bring those principles to life and result in great user experience.

All of the tips below are derived from what we saw through many user interviews and reflect user opinions rather than mine.

1. Provide Only Useful Content, with Value Proposition Presented Upfront

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User Experience of Marketing: Align Your Marketing to Customer Needs

User experience of marketing? This is a tricky topic.

Traditionally, marketers never thought of user experience much because they believe marketing is all about pushing something to users, and user experience can and should be sacrificed in the name of selling services and products. On the other hand, user experience professionals or UXers, as we fondly call ourselves, hold disdain towards such marketing practice because we feel marketing, albeit a necessary evil to keep a business profitable, inherently undermines user experience through aggressively promoting business at the cost of seamlessly supporting user needs.

These are all false assumptions: User experience and marketing can and should come together in driving business success, without compromising user experience.

How? By adopting a mind set of aligning marketing to user needs. Here’s a list of to-dos: Continue reading

Getting User and Customer Feedback: How to Understand Customer Experience Holistically?

In previous posts we discussed a bunch of ways of collecting customer feedback. Thing is, none of the approaches mentioned in itself gives us complete understanding of customers. The key always resides in synthesis–analyzing information from all sources to form a complete picture. Let’s see how we can look at the different sources of customer data and develop holistic customer insight. Continue reading

Getting User and Customer Feedback: Remote Interviews or Local Interviews?

Traditionally, customer feedback is collected in a face-to-face manner, be it usability studies, focus groups, or one-one interviews: Users come to on-campus facilities or off-site local 3rd party labs to be interviewed. The advantage of interviewing users locally is obvious: You get to observe their behavior in person, including body language, and you get to discuss with your stakeholders who are sitting in the observation room about additional questions they’d like to ask the participants.

Limitation of In-Person Interviews

Despite the numerous benefits, there’re a few issues associated with interviewing only local users: Continue reading

Validate Your Products: A/B Testing or User Experience Research?

There are two main approaches of validating your products to see if they perform as expected and identify areas for improvements. One is user experience research, which includes usability studies as well as other forms of user interview methods, gathering user feedback through asking user questions, surveys, and direct observation of user behavior.

The other is A/B testing, also called “launch and learn”, through which we randomly present different versions of the launched product to different users and observe the differences in the resulted Web, mobile, and business metrics.

Given that both approaches are talked a lot about, based on what I’ve seen among clients I helped, there’s much confusion around choosing between the two approaches: Do we need to use both methods? Can we just do A/B testing and forget about user research? If we need to do both, then when do we use each method? Continue reading

Getting User and Customer Feedback: Should You Conduct Guerrilla User Research or Not?

Here’s a question that I often encounter when helping companies conduct user research: Designers, product managers, and sometimes front-end developers will come to me and say: We’ll do some guerrilla/DIY user research to validate this design idea.

Just in case you mistake this for Chairman Mao’s Guerrilla Warfare — guerrilla user research refers to informal, small-scale, on-the-fly user research, typically conducted by non-UX-professionals to validate product design.

It’s a big part of the so-called lean UX process, an approach that has gained much popularity with the advent the lean start-up movement. Continue reading

Getting User and Customer Feedback: Usability Study vs. Focus Group vs. Survey — Which Should You Choose?

When it comes to the all-important issue, listening to user/customer feedback, the first thing that comes to mind for many is focus group or survey. The tendency is so persistent that even when I conducted usability studies, the stakeholders, typically product managers and business owners, kept referring to the exercise as “focus group” or “survey”!

On the other hand, designers and programmers trust usability testing much more and don’t see or understand value of focus groups and surveys.

So, what are the differences between the three and when should we apply each technique? Continue reading

Market Research vs. User Research — Which Should I Use to Understand Customers?

We all want to collect customer feedback, right? Then you might have heard of market research and user research, methods that allow you to systematically gather and analyze customer feedback. But then again, you might be wondering, what’s the difference between the two?

For most of you, I guess, you couldn’t care less about the nomenclature as long as you get the customer insight you want. However, in the corporate world, these two functions do belong to separate departments and, as such, you do need to know which one you should turn to if you seek their help. Even if you hire independent consultants or do it by yourself, a basic understanding of the two approaches would help you get high quality customer feedback.

Market Research — Focusing on Monetization

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Getting User and Customer Feedback: How Many Users Should We Talk to?

Most of us working on product development know the importance of getting user feedback, but how can we effectively drive actions based on user feedback? That’s the question.

One of the key questions I heard people asking is: How many users should we talk to?

The answer is, of course, it depends.

To Improve Usability, Interview as Few as Five Users Would Do

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How to Get Users to Start Using Product? An Aggressive, Yet Effective Way

Wow, that’s an interesting way to get the products in front of you!

Ok, I was using AVG AntiVirus FREE version to do a routine scan of my computer, and yes, no virus was found! And then, it asked me whether I wanted to analyze my computer’s performance. I thought, why not? So clicked “yes” and then saw the screen below after a few minutes.

AVG good Adoptability

Upon seeing this, if you were me, what would you do? Continue reading

How Did Bad User Experience Ruin a Once Promising Start-Up?

Ever wonder the role of user experience in relation to business results? Read what the failed founder of Wasabi — the key competitor and the first mover relative to — said about why Mint killed Wasabi:

I particularly like what the founder of Wasabi said:

“Focus on what really matters: making users happy with your product as quickly as you can, and helping them as much as you can after that. If you do those better than anyone else out there you’ll win.”

From Customer Journey to Business Opportunities

Ever wonder how to identify business areas you should improve based on customers’/users’ true needs rather than spend money on something that doesn’t matter to them? Looking at their end-to-end journey — across all touch points with your product/business — is a great way to start!

By Frank Guo