Getting a really good understanding of customer needs requires some market research, and that can be hard for companies selling to businesses that have a limited pool of actual and potential customers.
If the segments you want to understand are already customers, I’d start with some customer visits to observe and understand how they use your product and what they are trying to accomplish – the need or problem they are trying to solve. The questions would be probing on why – why do it this way, why is that problem important, why our product and not a competitor?
Also questions around what problems or issues they run into while using the product. Have they adapted or jury-rigged the product because it doesn’t do exactly what they need? If appropriate, use a prototype/artist rendering to help facilitate the discussion and feedback.
If the pool of current and potential customers is large enough, I’d follow-up with a survey to gauge how many have the same needs or problems that you uncover. A survey can help you identify which of the needs you uncover are most important, and if any are not well met – possibly leading to some ideas for future new products.
Do you have any product development questions, please feel free to ask and we’ll answer them in a future posting.
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