Did you involve your customer in product development?

product-development

 

A single conversation with Mikhil Innani (of CouponDunia.com and Pharmeasy.in fame) brought about disruption in the way I have been working with start-ups, especially post investment. The lunch conversation revolved around how a start-up founder (CTO, CEO, COO – all of them) would drive the decision for the next iteration of the product.

When I heard the concept it felt so simple, so easy. Something that every startup should be doing. Yet, I hadn’t heard this from anyone until the day I heard it from Mikhil – involve their top users into the conversation around and about the product and let the learnings from those conversations drive the product!

Sounds simple? It is!

One of the activities that Mikhil did as a CTO, was have a list of the top 20% users of the product and then each day, he would make it a point to visit – physically visit – 2-3 of them and understand:

  1. Why did they use this product?
  2. What were they doing before this product was introduced to them
  3. What do they do before, during and after they interact with the product?
  4. What are features that they use most frequently?
  5. What are the features of the product that they have not used, weren’t aware of or flat-out didn’t care about?

This would spark a conversation that would help the co-founder understand how their product is utilized by their power users. What are the activities that these users were doing before and after the interaction with the product that could be incorporated into the product itself –  making it more relevant and engaging for the user.

This simple concept drove Pharmeasy’s decision to get into diagnostics as, their power users were patients who required regular delivery of medicines (diabetics, cancer patients, etc.) and also had to get testing done on a regular basis to show their doctors. Such innovative thinking not only grew Pharmeasy customer base rapidly – it led to higher engagement, lower CAC and an increasing LTV for the company.

I find the concept behind this method brilliant for the reasons above, but as a marketing & sales professional, engaging your top 20% into the decision-making of the next features of the product leads to two other important benefits:

 Keep the top users sticky

It is a very well-known fact that the top bracket of your customers and repeat orders from the them drive a large part of the profits of a venture. There is also, psychological bonding with a brand or company that gives you the importance of being their top priority. These simple house visits do that brilliantly!

Let the decision making be democratic

The decisions about features which features should be added, removed or modified is often a hot debate between the CEO, that saw something he/she loved at a competing company; the CTO who is passionate to build something disruptive that showcases his/her talent and the investors (me included) who use and recommend iterations based on their own utilization of the app.

However, the person who interacts with the app on a daily basis is not involved in the conversation at all and eventually decision-making is akin to throwing darts at a board. Whatever sticks is what will be added to the app as a feature. When such features fail to take off, it is blamed on the lack of marketing muscle put behind it or that customers don’t understand the features, hence explanatory videos be made or a change in UI/UX is needed – but these are all guesstimates and without real feedback, these are as good as flipping a coin.

When user feedback drives decision making, the founders (and funders) would realize that users may be pointing out other problems that are more important to solve than the ones that they had identified. Working on the top 20% of the problems faced by their top 20% customers will reduce tech, marketing and re-branding spends for most startups!

Therefore, I am making it a point to get Artha’s startup founders to identify, engage with and learn from their users –in fact, I will be asking our startup founders (our customers) how we can be a better platform for them!

Let the learning begin!