Working from the wrong insights leads your teams to solve for the wrong problems. And worse – it could cost your company a fortune.

Take for example, the data virtualization company Primary Data. They never achieved inroads into the market because they failed to solve for the right problems: their customers’ needs. Without that critical insight, they burned through $100 million in funding – developing a software-based business model, then pivoting to a hardware-based model, and then back to a software-based model again. The company ceased operations in January 2018.

There’s a straightforward way to avoid the same trap that doomed Primary Data.

Your customer’s pain points

Many well-meaning organizations think they’re doing customer research when, in fact, they’re actually doing product research. The distinction is critical to a product’s success – here’s why.

 Your approach to customer research shouldn’t frame the conversation around a solution, a product or a feature. If you’re trying to understand customers by asking about features, that analysis leads you down the wrong path. And ultimately you’ll fail to have the impact you hoped for, because you’ll never get to the underlying drivers of behavior and value for the customer. It’s the wrong conversation.

If you ask any group of customers what they think about a feature, they’ll give you an answer. But what they don’t volunteer is a pain point, a hope or a dream – you know, a concrete way to make a difference in their life. That’s what you want out of your research. Something that’s relevant to your customers. Something that adds value in their eyes. That’s the right conversation to have.

We must understand the customer challenges before we can even consider solving them. So if you can identify customer needs and pain points at the beginning of the process, and which ones are most important, the path becomes much clearer for the entire organization – which leads to better products, better adoption and, ultimately, customer satisfaction. And isn’t that what it’s really all about?  

Unexpected opportunities

Getting alignment around your customers’ challenges and values also provides greater insight into the motivations and considerations behind their preferences and behaviors – something product and feature research just can’t do. This type of research also leads to surprising and unexpected answers. It uncovers hidden opportunities to solve customer problems and generate value that your organization might never have considered – leading to greater value in a customer’s eyes. These hidden opportunities sometimes become a point of differentiation that makes your product stand out in the marketplace. Don’t miss your chance to bring a difference-making idea to the table.


Achieve innovation in iteration

We all need to be agile. But it’s simply not enough to push the process forward. It’s not enough to just move from iteration to iteration. Between each iteration lives a fertile gap where innovation grows – that is, if you have the right type of information. Make sure you’re getting both iteration and innovation. How?

 Customer research designed to surface needs and pain points versus features and functionality provides insights that lead directly to innovation. A rich foundation of information about customer need, value, and behavior drivers feeds innovative solution ideation. And that’s why innovation leaders invest as much in customer research as they do in market and competitive research. They know they can use that treasure trove of knowledge to create and enhance features customers really want.

 So when it comes time to evaluate your backlog, product managers can prioritize items they know are going to innovate. Look, no one sets up a backlog to fail. But honestly, there are times in every product manager’s life when the items in the backlog are set up based on intuition and technical expediency. And they inadvertently allocate time and resources to the wrong issues. They’re just not confident about some of what’s in there. When’s the last time you felt awesome about your backlog choices?  Are you ready to feel awesome?

 Consumer research done well, framing the conversation the right way, leads to a clear roadmap and better results. And when you understand what’s delivering maximum value to your customer, you feel confident about every decision.


The right solution versus the wrong one

When this type of research is done upstream of the strategy, it leads to a host of benefits:

  • Drives team alignment

  • Mitigates risk

  • Helps stakeholder buy-in

  • Spurs innovation

  • Fosters a proactive versus reactive workflow

 It’s simple to understand the downside: wasted time, capital and, ultimately, the failure of the product – because customers don’t understand where your product fits into their lives. Your product’s greatest value lives in its relationship with customers. Until that is clearly understood, everything is more difficult.

If the strategy is set up wrong upstream, no number of iterations will make a difference. Plans and strategies based on product and feature research ultimately fail to create impact in the market, fail to innovate, and fail to differentiate themselves from competitors.

It’s a mirage. Conducting product and feature research doesn’t lead to true customer insights. It leads to $100 million mistakes or ultimately takes down the company, like Primary Data. But when your research focuses on customer needs, you give yourself every opportunity to learn the unexpected, find out what moves your customers, and give your team every advantage in a competitive marketplace.



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Want to know more about how UX research can lower costs and gain insights? Read this.