25 Questions That Reveal What Your Customers Are Really Buying
Features vs. benefits. Which are more important? As a product manager, you need to focus on both. Because you are responsible for making sure that the right functionality gets built and that your product delivers real value to customers. But it is easy to get so caught up in what your product can do that you lose sight of why those capabilities matter to customers.
If you are building software or online experiences, you need to know what it is you are really selling (and what customers are really buying) beyond the bits of code.
I recently wrote about how current events have led me to rethink what product teams get paid for. I believe it is not the "how" — the actual product and technology. It is the "why" and the "what" — the problem that customers want to solve and the value they get from every interaction with your company.
Understanding why people choose your product and what they really care about is more vital than ever during these uncertain times. Take Aha! for example — while it is true that our customers purchase our software, I believe what they are really buying is hope.
They are buying the promise of building lovable products and creating a better future for their own customers. And they are buying our expert team. So we strive for every interaction to pay off on that promise, from our responsiveness to our frequent go-to-market cadence.
No matter what it is you are building, you need to think more deeply and holistically about what it is customers are actually buying.
This requires asking the other groups in your organization the right questions and listening closely to their answers. Here are some questions product managers can ask cross-functional teammates to help broaden your thinking:
As experts in reaching your target audience and communicating the unique benefits of your product, your marketing colleagues are an invaluable resource for learning more about your customer base. Inquiring about how people discover your product and how they move through each step of the buyer's journey will give you essential information about who your customers are and what they truly need.
Find out more about your customers by asking:
How do potential buyers typically learn about our product?
What channels are most effective for engaging with the target audience?
How does the marketing team communicate the benefits of the product?
What types of messages get the best response?
What collateral pushes someone from a prospect into a loyal and happy customer?
In most companies, the sales team is responsible for helping your target customers become buyers. Aha! has never had salespeople and I know that our approach is unique, but I have worked with plenty of sales teams in the past. If you work at a company with a sales team, you will want to gain insight into lead tracking, customer meetings, and opportunity tracking.
Ask the sales team the following questions:
How do you find leads and qualify prospects?
What are the main points you emphasize during a product pitch?
How do you differentiate the product from what competitors are offering?
How do you entice new prospects?
What do folks say they like and dislike about the product?
What is the most common reason you say “no” to a customer and why?
How do you turn one-time buyers into repeat customers?
No one is closer to your customers than this group. They field support tickets, speak directly to users, and troubleshoot any problems that arise. Asking the support team what people are saying about the product and the company will help you better understand what is working and what is not — and how you can better deliver value going forward.
Learn about how your customers interact with your product and company with these questions:
What types of feedback do you receive about the product?
What questions or requests do you hear again and again?
How useful do our users find our help documentation?
What other tools and systems do our customers already use? How well does our product integrate with them?
What integrations do our users request most often?
How do our internal supporting systems (such as billing and analytics) lead to customer happiness or frustration?
What do customers say about their interactions with the support team?
Many product managers build products for internal users. If this is you, the IT group is a great resource to better understand the value you are delivering. That is because IT often builds and supports technology the company needs — leading to innovative new approaches to operating the business. There is a lot to be learned from the IT group on how to improve what you deliver, especially if you are focused on technology for your colleagues.
Ask these questions to better understand how technology is impacting your internal customers:
How does our internal IT infrastructure drive productivity and power innovation?
How can the features we build better address pain points?
How often does the engineering team iterate upon the tools we build?
How transparent and interactive is the technology we provide?
Where do we exceed expectations and where do we lag?
How does delivery time vary and why?
As a product manager, you are at the center of it all — it is up to you to uncover what customers truly want.
Once you are able to empathize with the struggles your customers face, you can begin to think more holistically about the best way to solve their problems over the long term. Then you can share what you learn with your cross-functional teammates. This will encourage the rest of the organization to consider the deeper truth of what your users truly value — beyond the individual features or bits of code.
How do you determine what customers are really buying?
The road to building better products starts here.