Four strategies for successfully harnessing customer insights to build a better product.
When you crowdfund a product, you invite anyone and everyone to give you their unbridled opinions and ideas. You invite them to tell you what they love, what they hate, what you should change, remove, and add to the product. Essentially, you open up the feedback floodgates.
This sudden influx of opinions might be a little overwhelming.
After all, you just buttoned everything up, right? You fine-tuned your prototype. You articulated your messaging (draft after draft). You filmed a killer promo video. And now, as soon as you exhale, you get hit with a wave of feedback and feature requests. But don’t worry — it’s not as scary as it sounds. Feedback is your lifeblood. It will help you build something that your future users will love. You just need to learn how to harness the feedback, and not be crushed by it.
Below are 4 strategies we’ve implemented at Canary for successfully gathering and incorporating feedback into our product development process.
1) Know the core of your product (and protect it)
Before you can begin reacting and responding to feedback, you must really understand the core of your product. You need to identify what the essential ingredients are. What things will you bet on? What feature(s) will you protect? Ask yourself: If we start stripping features away (or adding them), at what point does our product cease to deliver the value that we promised? Know what that breaking point is so that if you do iterate, you will not inadvertently find yourself building a swiss army knife when you set out to build a spoon.
Some feedback you receive might run contrary to your vision. Listen. Consider. Allow your assumptions to be challenged. But stay true to your vision. Don’t rashly pivot away from what it is you set out to build. Ultimately your vision must remain aligned with what your users need. Identifying what the core of your product is will help you as you begin considering how to integrate the massive influx of customer feedback you will receive.
2) Divide feedback into categories
It’s important to understand the context of the feedback as it comes in. In a broad sense, feedback can be grouped into two main buckets: experiential and cerebral.
We define experiential feedback as any feedback that comes from someone who is actively interacting with our product. A beta tester who has been using your product for a week or a month can give you very significant experiential feedback. Simply handing someone your phone and asking them to play with your app for a few minutes — even if it’s still in progress — will also give you some quick experiential feedback. The key is that an individual needs to experience your product in a physical way to give this type of feedback. Whether that experience lasts for 2 minutes or 2 weeks, it can provide actionable insights that will help you identify user pain points and guide where to focus your efforts.
Equally important (but fundamentally unique), is cerebral feedback. This comes from someone who has yet to interact with your product physically. Their experience with your product (so far) has taken place solely in their minds. But wait! Don’t make the mistake of thinking this type of feedback is any less valid. It’s just different. As a matter of fact, cerebral feedback can yield critical insights — especially early on. How do people react to your story and messaging? What resonates? Which features generate the most interest? Which features prompt questions or require more clarity?
As you divide feedback into categories (even just having the mental framework to recognize the different implications of each) it puts you in a better position to listen and react appropriately.
3) Recognize patterns
Tweets, emails, comments, conversations — there will always be many channels through which feedback comes to you. After categorizing, you need to look for patterns and themes. Identify areas that will have the highest impact, rather than being swayed by every solitary suggestion.
Within the experiential feedback are there particular points where users are consistently confused or frustrated? Are there feature requests that keep popping up? Are there features that aren’t being used?
Among the cerebral feedback, what are customers most excited about? Recognizing this will help you know which part of your messaging is worth emphasizing. Are there common concerns? If so, perhaps you aren’t explaining something clearly or maybe you need to go back and rethink some of your assumptions.
By identifying patterns you can channel your efforts in a strategic way.
4) Ask, don’t guess
The best thing about crowdfunding is the community. After completing your campaign, you now have a community of people who care about and are invested in your product. They want it to succeed. Use them. Learn from them. Don’t just sit back and wait for feedback to come to you — be proactive and solicit feedback that will help you make a product they will love.
We employ a number of methods for this. We run segmented surveys to better understand our customers’ needs, use cases, and expectations. There are a lot of tools out there for conducting surveys, but our favorite is a beautiful little service called Typeform (What can I say — we like nicely designed things!). We also do in-person interviews — where we actually sit down face-to-face with customers in their homes. Interviews are a great way to better understand the context in which your product will live, and to see the world through the eyes of those who will be using it. If you’re new to conducting customer interviews, I recommend watching this great presentation by Michael Margolis where he shares some helpful interview tips.
Feedback can seem daunting at first — and sometimes it might even be hard to hear — but embrace it! Be empathetic. Listen sincerely. After all, the success of your product hinges on your ability to meet the needs (and wants) of the people you are building it for.
(Editors Note: This article was previously published on the Canary site and was re-published with the permission of the company. Canary launched a very successful crowdfunding campaign in 2013 where they raised almost $2 million on Indiegogo. The company subsequently raised additional funding from Venture Capitalists.)