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How do you drive culture change with market research?

I'm hoping to influence Product and Design to talk to users more and build a clear picture of our user. The team will often refer to themselves as "the consumer" when they're not in our target demographic?
10 Answers
Mary Sheehan
Mary Sheehan
Adobe Head of Lightroom Product MarketingSeptember 13

Quick answer: Data. Bring them snippets of real customer conversations or data points that they haven't seen from customer interviews, surveys, CSAT, NPS, customer service feedback - you name it. This will show the value of talking to customers, and will leave them wanting more. 

To be even more influential, if your product or design team isn’t listening - make sure your exec team is. Get an executive sponsor who wants to champion the “voice of the customer” - and leverage their position to promote the customer insights you’re finding. 

It’s really dangerous when a product / eng team is building something “for themselves” - they will miss critical insights that could make or break the future of your product and company. It’s the PMMs job to show them the light!

1904 Views
Agustina Sacerdote
Agustina Sacerdote
Square Global Head of PMM and Content Marketing, TIDALMarch 24

To me, it's about creating a customer-centric culture, not just a "market research" culture. "Market research" is a bit of a stigmatized term - most of it is considered not valuable, not actionable, and an expensive "nice-to-have". I'd encourage you to re-orient around building a habit of listening and talking to customers - often. What I try to do, very tactically is: 

1/ help make the case for "discovery" in roadmaps as an official line item. Make sure formal product development time accounts for talking to relevant audiences before anything is built or designed. 

2/ i invite product, design, and eng to my customer calls. you'd be surprised on how many will take you up on these offers if you actually set them up. 

3/ I specifically create examples in our GTM plans for how a feature or product would be marketed to different targets. you have to be explicit and bring it to life for people that don't live and breathe this stuff every day. 

2315 Views
Eileen Buenviaje Reyes
Eileen Buenviaje Reyes
1Password VP, Product MarketingFebruary 11

Market research is the most powerful tool for influencing product. I recommend applying your marketing skills to your internal stakeholders in the same way you use them for your externally-facing initiatives. If you have some great market insights in hand, consider these steps:

1. Understand your internal target audience: Why does product and design consider themselves as the consumer? Where are the largest differences between our internal teams and the actual customer? How do internal teams best consume information?
2. Create a messaging strategy for your insights: What are the key takeaways you want product and design to hear from customers? How can you make it crisp, clear and compelling?
3. Consider programs to bring it to life: Can you bring customers directly in front of product and design (e.g. to focus groups, on field research, etc.)? What formats (video clips, quotes, well-crafted presentations, etc.) can best communicate the customer voice?

While the tips above are great for socializing single studies and getting the culture change started, true culture change requires more systemic shifts. In the absence of company-wide initiatives, you can tap into or create regular, recurring touchpoints with customers so they can more naturally flow into the product and design process. At Dropbox, we regularly gather customer insights from the agents that field our huge volume of web chats. We also have a weekly cadence of in-person customer conversations where product teams can sign up and ask questions directly on just about anything. Like most things, the journey to being more customer-centric starts with a single step. I hope one of these ideas helps!

7784 Views
Nikhil Balaraman
Nikhil Balaraman
Roofstock Senior Director Product MarketingMarch 21

It is important for all functions across the company to build empathy for users. Regardless of your segment, small advisory boards are helpful for this, and can be set up to feature 10-20 key customers who meet quarterly (or more or less often) to review roadmaps and provide feedback on either new initiatives or existing products. The key here is getting leadership buy-in across the exec team, as they will likely be the main headlines to actually get key customers to attend these sessions.

Depending on the level of budget you have, getting teams together to go onsite with customers and actually see customers in their natural environment was something I did early in my career and our cross-functional team which included sales, partnerships, product, engineering, and operations loved seeing and meeting our customers in their offices to really understand how our products were being used in the field.

480 Views
Daniel Waas
Daniel Waas
AppFolio Vice President Product MarketingApril 6

I'd say lead the way. Use a traditional PMM responsibility like refreshing your buyer personas as a reason to kick off a joint research project and pull in your partners from the product and design team. Set up customer interviews. Get outdoors and do a workshop. Have some fun with it. Bribe them with candy and fizzy drinks :o)

If you can't get buy-in for that, go talk to customers yourself and present a read-out of what you learned. 

Get with the sales and client services team and use them as a proxy for the customers if there is too much red tape around direct customer interaction. 

Combat the red tape.

If you cannot find success, find a different employer.

1032 Views
Jackie Palmer
Jackie Palmer
Pendo.io VP Product MarketingApril 4

One of the best things you can do as a product marketer is provide market research value back to your PM team and your execs. You should be following the analysts that cover your market and reading every report they publish. Ideally you are summarizing those articles for your PM team, highlighting key stats, predictions, trends, and competitive insights you find. Your PMs usually can't read the reports themselves as they won't have logins but you can produce summaries. Gartner has even started to create sharable summaries for their reports recently that you can share directly with your broader team. I like to pick out a few key nuggets from reports by our major analysts and share them with PM management and the C suite. You may not change culture immediately but a steady stream of valuable insights is never a bad thing!

479 Views
Marie Francis
Marie Francis
Workday Senior Product Marketing ManagerDecember 17

While I agree with Mary's answer ("data") and the other great points that have been added here, I would caution against taking the exact same approach you would to influencing product as you would to influencing culture. If data were sufficient to change culture, the world would look dramatically different. 

Culture is theoretically owned in people, HR, operations, and exec leadership. It's an intangible and can be attached to personality. That's a different audience and perspective than a group of product managers and engineers. Put your marketing hat on and adjust your approach accordingly. Lead with data/logos, appeal to and be sensitive of pathos, and make a case for kairos. 

678 Views
Gregg Miller
Gregg Miller
PandaDoc VP of Product Marketing & BrandNovember 19

One thing I'd add to Mary's response is what I think is the hardest part of your question: identifying the questions that matter most to the business. Getting and using data is critical, but it will fall on deaf ears and undermine your credibility if you aren't getting the right data at the right time for the right decision-makers.

How do you identify what data to go get? Look for one of the following:

  • Internal disagreements: Are members of the Product team regularly having a philosophical argument that impacts the direction of the roadmap? For example, does one camp think users care more about feature X and others think it's about feature Y? Research and data can answer this and unlock clearer strategic decision-making.
  • Recurring internal questions: These are harder to spot, but if you listen closely, you'll hear certain questions come up over and over again; sometimes they're implicit. For example, executives might regularly ask "is this churn rate good or bad? How do we know vs. competitors?" The recurring answer might be "we don't know" or "that information isn't publicly available." But research can go create that data!
  • Long-standing assumptions: All organizations have certain assumptions built-in to their view of the market, customer behavior, or something else. They're usually made on strong intuition or anecdotal evidence. It's dangerous, though, when those assumptions are so ingrained that they're taken to be fact when they might be completely wrong. These are super fun to explore with research because respectfully shifting the internal conversation with data that shows something contrary to prior assumptions is an extremely powerful moment for your teams and helps YOU be a product/market fit rock star.

There are plenty of other ways to identify where/when to turn to research to solve problems, but the above are a great place to start -- particularly if you first need to establish a market research culture internally.

786 Views
Dave Daniels
Dave Daniels
BrainKraft FounderMarch 21

I agree with Mary. Data. How you package that data, though, really matters. Some people are swayed by facts, some are swayed by process/method, and some are swayed by stories. Know your audience and package your facts accordingly. 

419 Views
Abdul Rastagar
Abdul Rastagar
GTM Leader | Marketing Author | Career CoachMay 7

This is concerning to hear. Unless you have the next Henry Ford on your design team, this mentality will ultimately lead to a poor product-market fit.

That’s not saying that your design team should not have a voice at all – they may have a solid product vision and if they are market experts, then they will have an equally strong understanding of the market’s needs. But that understanding doesn’t just randomly come to them. It is carefully honed by having a close pulse on the customer. For instance, there is one particular product leader at my current company who understands our customers better than anyone – but he develops that understanding through persistent and continuous customer conversations. He has an ear to the ground and is able to draw inferences by continually tapping broadly into our customer base. As a result, he sees a trend before anyone else realizes it’s a trend.

To answer your question more directly, your team needs to stop referring to themselves as “the consumer” right away. There’s a fantastic book called Tuned In that I would recommend your team reads, with the punch line of “Your opinion, while interesting, is irrelevant.” At the end of the day, your customers’ opinions matter because they are the ones paying your paycheck.

I can think of a few things to overcome this: 

1. Data eats opinions for breakfast. Come armed with market research.
2. Put together a customer advisory council of target personas who participate in a quarterly conference call. Make sure you are the one framing and leading the conversation rather than your design team, though their input to the questions will be important.
3. Build a persona profile. Observe your customers, understand their buying motivations and patterns, their everyday challenges that compel them to look for your solution. Then compile a data-driven customer profile portfolio.
4. Nothing beats real-world experience. Get your design team out to mingle with the customer in their natural settings, so they can observe them first hand. Admittedly, this one is a bit harder now in the epidemic environment.

The point of all of these is to drive the true voice of the customer into the organization rather than relying on someone’s personal opinions as a proxy.

1018 Views
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