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7 Strategies for Involving Customers in New Product Development

7 min read
Nikola Sekulic

Written by Nikola Sekulic

16 January, 2023

No matter the popularity of or demand for your product or solution, product development remains the most important prerequisite for continuous business success. This is true for all industries and sectors, especially in our fast-paced world where the consumer market changes rapidly and trends shift at a moment’s notice.

Even when things seem to move slowly, there’s no denying that the only way to stay relevant and competitive is to invest in product prototyping, research and development. Continuous innovation, however, is a costly process that, without the help of your customers, can fall through very quickly.

Customer opinion is the crucial link that ties the product development process together. Leverage your customer base for successful and cost-effective innovation.

Here’s how to do just that.

It all starts with the buyer’s persona

Building a detailed buyer persona is one of the most important steps towards understanding your ideal customers; their core values, aspirations, and behaviors in life. A buyer persona allows you to align your brand’s identity with the unique traits and needs of your target demographic, making it instrumental in the brand-building process. After all, you want your brand to resonate with the hearts and minds of your customers.

When it comes to product development, the buyer persona not only allows you to identify the ideal customer type to involve in the process, but also identifies at what stage to involve them. You will also gain an insight on how to communicate product announcements to different segments. One segment might respond well to product launch emails while other segments might prefer direct messaging or an in-app announcement.

 It is therefore crucial to create a buyer persona that you optimize and update over time so your company’s intel on your target demographic stays relevant and up to date.

In order to effectively use your buyer persona for product research and development, make sure to have updated information on the average customer’s:

  • Age, gender, occupation
  • Job title
  • Goals, aspirations
  • Key values and drivers
  • Income level and income streams
  • Challenges and pain-points (personal and professional)
  • Desired products
  • Desired features and improvements
  • Interests and hobbies
  • Other brands they love
  • Preferred online platforms and communication methods

Leveraging your CRM

Before we move on to some product development best practices, let’s spend a moment on one of the most valuable tools at your disposal, your CRM platform. Customer Relationship Management platforms are comprehensive tools companies use for lead generation, marketing, sales optimization, customer support, and much more.

It goes without saying that a platform that hosts all of your customers’ information and key data points in one place is a vital tool in customer-led research and development. The purpose of a CRM is to provide your brand managers, product managers, innovators, and other vital teams with the customer data they need to:

  • Find the best and most involved customers
  • Identify loyal, long-term customers with a high CLV
  • Generate actionable reports and insights
  • Collaborate effectively on a single platform
  • Identify the stages in each buyer’s journey
  • Identify the best ways to approach each customer to elicit relevant feedback

Once you have set up your CRM and updated your buyer personas, you can move on to the best practices, starting with localization.

Optimizing your strategy for local markets

Localization often gets overlooked in the initial stages of product development, which can be a costly mistake down the road. When developing new products, you need to consider all the markets where you’ll be selling and shipping those products.

Product localization means adapting the product’s branding and features to better fit the target market. When done right by conducting user interviews and local market analysis, good product localization boosts your corporate brand as a whole in the local community. And the product itself will create better customer acquisition and retention in the short, mid, and long term.

To localize your product and the product development process, don’t forget to:

  • Identify all your target markets
  • Identify the most lucrative target market
  • Analyze the key drivers, values, pain-points, and challenges of the local community
  • Analyze the local culture and demographic background
  • Analyze the product’s brand and the messaging surrounding it
  • Engage the local community in refining the product for that specific market

Now that you understand the importance of localization, let’s move on to engagement itself.

Engaging with your customers on their terms

Getting the right feedback from your customers involves much more than asking the right questions. You need to consider the unique preferences of different customers, how they like to communicate with brands, what kind of messaging resonates with them, and the best way to reach them in the first place.

Some customers prefer to fill out an automated survey on your website or answer a few simple questions in an email reply. Others, however, want to talk to a real person and would love to jump on a virtual phone call with you to answer questions and provide in-depth opinions. Both of these avenues are excellent data sources you can use to your advantage.

With that in mind, make sure to:

  • Research your customers and their habits
  • Identify the most relevant customer touchpoints for your business
  • Include all relevant online and offline communication methods in your strategy
  • Optimize and adapt your messaging and questions for each touchpoint and format
  • Give your customers the opportunity to choose their preferred method to engage with you

Create surveys and capitalize on user research

An effective, painless way to collect valuable feedback from your customers is to have them complete a survey. Surveys can take many formats and are versatile in the ways you can incorporate them into a myriad of communication tools and touchpoints to serve every preference.

One of the key data sources here will also be usability testing, which is an advanced and much more comprehensive way to get accurate UX feedback to drive product development forward. The Loop11 platform allows you to create rich and customized usability tests where you can ask survey questions but also add various tasks for the participants to complete in order to get a clear picture of your product UX value.

When it comes to survey dissemination via traditional channels, if a particular group of customers like short surveys delivered via email, you can optimize a survey for their needs. You can do the same for customers who are willing to complete long-form surveys directly on your website. The possibilities are numerous, but the key is to optimize user research for product development specifically and adapt your survey questions, format, and engagement type for every unique customer segment.

Keep the following aspects in mind when creating your surveys:

  • Length
  • Template and visuals
  • Order of questions
  • Wording and tone of voice – make sure both are on par with your brand identity
  • Survey delivery method – email, social media, DMs, website, website chat, etc.
  • Survey localization and multi-language options
  • Incentives for customers to take the survey

This last one brings us to our next important point.

Incentivizing your customers to participate

No matter how loyal some of your customers are, the question always remains – what’s in it for me? You shouldn’t expect people to simply agree to provide feedback about your brand, products, or the things you’re currently developing, no matter how amazing or exciting they may be in your eyes.

Customers need an incentive to participate in any survey, focus groups, poll, or feedback in general. With that in mind, consider the kind of incentives you’re going to offer.

Incentives should bring value to the customer, but they shouldn’t make you break the bank. Instead, these can be small one-time discounts, personalized deals, store vouchers, loyalty points, promotional branded products, or even some of your paid digital products like guides and eBooks.

Consider what your customers truly think is valuable to them, and offer it as a small incentive and token of gratitude for participating in your program.

Collating the data and creating a development roadmap

Finally, you need to be able to put all the data you collect to good use. While your new product cannot satisfy everyone’s needs and desires, analyzing the data will allow you to identify the trends and averages you need to create a successful product development roadmap based on the wants and needs of the majority.

The key to a successful product, and successful market pricing for that matter, is to satisfy the majority of your customers. To do that, you need to pool all the data, extract the recurring answers and opinions, and weed out the non-essential feedback.

Group your feedback according to product functionalities, features, needs and wants, as well as customer pain points and challenges to guide the development process in the right direction.

Over to you

New product development is what allows small businesses to grow in a competitive market, and what keeps established brands relevant in the eyes of their customers. It requires a lot of time, effort, and financial allocation to get right, but it is worth it – especially if you involve your customers throughout the process.

Now that you understand the importance of customer involvement in product development and how to do it right, leverage your customer base to develop amazing new products that will take your business forward both now and in the years to come.

Nikola Sekulic

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