Here’s Chapter’s 1-3 of Storming the Castle. Chapter 3 is Zen and the Art of Product Management (text only is below). Enjoy! Feedback is most welcome.
We’re this far into our GTM planning to take our most prized market castle. We’ve conceptualized a product, ran it past our customers with our VOC team and we’ve done some choice modeling to optimize the offer. We’re also developing our product right now and about to do some formalized product testing. But before we do that, its time for another engagement with our customers. Its time for some Zen and the Art of Product Management.
Motorcycle Maintenance and Product Management?
Have nothing to do with one another. But have you ever read the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? According to Wikipedia, “the book sold over 4 million copies in twenty-seven languages and was described by the press as ‘the most widely read philosophy book, ever.’ It was originally rejected by 121 publishers, more than any other bestselling book, according to the Guinness Book of Records. Interesting factoid and that’s the only reason I include it here. But its not what I want to talk about.
Pirsig’s book (and if you haven’t read it, I’d recommend you do so) is about the metaphysics of quality. How to experience it and how to achieve it. And this step in you’re GTM strategy is about the same thing! How to leverage your customers’ input to drive your product development efforts to a higher state of quality so that you field not just a product that is “good enough” but a product that is good enough to make your organization the Category Leader.
There’s been a lot of talk in the market as of late related to developing products that are simply “good enough.” And I’ve seen many a product development team begin taking this “good enough” approach to getting their products into market. And that’s great if you’re going use it simply as a stake in the ground for fast delivery — to gain first mover advangtage.
However, without the appropriate customer engagement, developing “good enough” products actually lowers the quality bar. Product Development teams tend to get into this “good enough” mentality and that’s all that ever gets delivered. If you’re not careful, customers will bypass considering your solutions because once low quality is associated with your brand, it rarely goes away.
So this second customer touch, is all about Q-U-A-L-I-T-Y! Again you should get your VOC team involved in either a real time or online engagement only this time the engagement should be heavily influenced by the product development team. They should, in consultation with the VOC team, construct a Customer Input plan. This input plan is based on Alpha and early Beta testing of your product. It should also include detailed questioning of the product dev team related to the usability, functional capabilities and gestalt of the product. There should also be space in the plan for customers to give you unsolicited and open ended feedback. By doing so, you give your customers another opportunity to co-innovate with you to take the solution to other profitable areas that you might not have thought about.
You’ll want a decent sized pool of testers of you’re product and you’re going to want to engage with a different type of customer. In this instance, you’ll want to weight you’re engagement with users, not Line of Business or Economic Buyers of you’re solutions, which is who we wanted to talk to in the first engagement.
If you’re not ready for testing, its still a good idea to get engaged with customers at this point — even if its just with high fidelity prototypes so that they can direct you on the user experience and functional flow of your solution.
Why Care About Customer-Centric Quality?
Simply put, it doesn’t cost an organization a lot to create quality products and services but it sure as hell costs a lot when your products are NOT up to quality standards (Can you say “Toyota?”) Every time work is redone, the cost of quality increases – whether its reworking the product or service, re-testing it or re-marketing it, the organization’s manufacturing and GTM costs skyrocket. Early engagement with customers contributes to the prevention of poor quality solutions. By getting in front of them early and often with product review and testing, Customer Centric Quality Planning becomes intrinsic to your product development process. Now I’m not saying that if Toyota used the Storming the Castle GTM strategy they would’ve avoided the quality problems they are experiencing right now, but who knows? Something to think about.