Product Manager should identify the information which when provided to customers would make their buying process easier and simpler. Product Manager therefore has a fundamental responsibility to identify what information would be sought by customers across various engagement points at each stage of the buying process. Identifying the causes for customer churn and identifying what information is sought by customers are strongly inter-related. Unless, appropriate information as sought by customers is provided to them during buying process to simplify their decision making process, they quit. Unless Product Managers identify the reasons for customer to quit the buying process (I will explicitly focus on the reasons for customer churn in subsequent blog), it will not be possible to reinforce engagement points to provide relevant details that can possibly influence customer buying decision positively. Engagement point need not always provide information, sometimes they deliver experiences. In case of restaurant, where food is considered as a product, restaurant can be considered as an engagement that delivers the experiences for customers to enjoy the food. The review sites like Zomato (www.Zomato.com) can also be considered as an engagement point that customers leverage to decide which restaurant to go based on the reviews.
For details on customer buying stages and engagement points, please visit by earlier blog
Customer has certain expectations from product in alignment with their respective needs. During the buying process, customer is actively on lookout for experiences or information that can provide sufficient details to identify whether the product can meet his/her expectations. As long as experiences or information provided by participating engagement points during each stage of the buying process matches customer expectations, the journey would culminate in a sale. Therefore the task of Product Manager is to identify what are the expectations of customers in each stage of the buying process and accordingly feed the engagement point with necessary data so they are equipped to meet the expectations of the customer.
Customers start their journey with a need for basic information about the product and as they march onto subsequent stages of the buying process their desire to know more about the product only increases. Journey of buying process starts with creating an awareness about the product by feeding customers with basic information about the product (purpose, USP etc). While seeking information, customers look for more details about the product. Evaluating the product is tantamount to looking out for details (ie proof) to authenticate the information provided about the product in the information and awareness stages. Proofs could be in the form of customer testimonials or opportunity to evaluate the product to ensure what the product promises is what it delivers. Customer have reached evaluation phase because the information that was provided until then had convinced them to buy the product. So evaluation phase is an opportunity to convince customers that product delivers as promised to them until then. Good news is that customer do no look for discrete information, the kind of information they want to know about the product primarily stems from initial messaging of the product in awareness phase.
Customer information needs across buying stages
Understandably the expectations from customers across all stages of the buying process do not remain same. It hardly makes any sense to flood customers with all the details about the product at the awareness phase. Product Manager has to identify the right set of information to provide at each of the stages. Excess information might leave customers confused thereby making their choices difficult and eventually pushing them away from us. Part of the purpose is also to help custo
mer make right buying decisions by providing only appropriate and relevant information, so the product is always sold to the RIGHT customer. I always opine that successful sale to a non-target customer will always be detrimental.
Especially with B2B products, pruning of information and sharing appropriate information at each stage of the buying process is really critical. Most B2B products are built with plethora of features and they do million things to address various customer pain points, it is sufficient to just talk about the finite future set that would address exact customer needs or pain points. To do so, Product Manager needs to be aware about the customer environment and their needs or pain points. Lack of such information will only push Product Manager to flood the customer with product capabilities, Product Manager is letting customer experience information overload leading to a very bad experience. Product capabilities sound alien to the customer. What customer expects in each stage of the buying process is how the product can address their pain points. Identifying customer pain points and elaborating how the product can address those pain points in more optimal manner much better than anyone else will essentially simplify the buying process. I have elaborated below on the kind of information that would be expected by customers in each stage of the buying process.
Awareness is all about creating a lasting impression in the minds of customers about the product or brand synonymous with its core functionality. BMW with luxury cars, DropBox with collaboration, Freshdesk with customer support, Intuit with finance SW.
When the need arises for a customer (both B2B and B2C), brands or products that are synonymous with the functionality capable of address the need should immediately strike them or when customers google for products that addressing their needs, corresponding relevant products should be displayed. The focus of creating awareness lies entirely with Product Marketing Manager. Awareness is not about throwing lots of details about the product, it is just about communicating what the product does. I have few examples
What information is provided by Intuit, Vedantu.com and Freshdesk in those ads.
- Intuit is an online software to manage sales accounts, invoices
- Vedantu is a portal offering personalized tuitions (1-to-1).
- Freshdesk is customer support software.
The ads communicate what those products stood for and what is their primary service offering. There are no much details, intention is to provide information on what the product does without dwelling too much into the details while creating awareness about their respective products through ads.
The engagement points in the information phase feed few more additional details to indicate how the product can address the needs of pain points of customers, what is its competitive advantage and how uniquely can the product address the customer pain points, what is the price of product offering.
In case of online tuition (Vedantu.com), customers will be able to identify for which grade tuitions are available and for what subjects, who are instructors. How the tuition is delivered, is it recorded medium or live? Are the tuitions conducted for competitive exams as well? If yes, for what exams? Etc.
Demos to substantiate that the product can address the customer pain point can be the ideal opportunity to let customers evaluate and experience the product. Product Manager has to demonstrate the capabilities required by the customer, demos for the heck of it helps none. More often Product Managers are obsessed with demonstrating features that are deemed important by them. Some of the features might be really innovative (out of box), unless they would influence the buying decision of the customer, do not explicitly talk about it.
Evaluation is all about creating an atmosphere for customer to evaluate the product in alignment with their requirements.
If it is a sports car, what is the point in allowing customers to test drive the car within city limits where there could not really experience the car. So the test drive should really happen on highways/freeways to experience the power of the car firsthand by the prospective customer.
On similar lines, in case of SUV with strong off-roading capabilities, there should be a facility for customers to experience on firsthand the off-roading capabilities before buying the car. Otherwise, I don’t see how customers can make right buying decisions.
Product Manager can also create an atmosphere to facilitate customers to experience their offerings.
Apple stores do not merely exist for the purpose of selling all their products. They exist primarily to allow their prospective customers to discover, learn and experience various Apple products.
Companies offering home theatre solutions (such as Bose) would create an exclusive environment to allow customers to experience their offering thereby creating a WOW experience among customers.
Testimonials of customers already using the product for similar purposes, market share to emphasize the acceptance of the product among customers can be deemed as reliable alternatives by prospective customer to evaluate the product. Product roadmap to showcase the future plans of the product is also critical for evaluating the future of B2B product. Customer can always resort to one or more of the suggested methodologies to evaluate the product.
Trial is an extension of evaluation phase especially in B2B space. Evaluation does not always involve actual validation of the product. Moreover, the evaluation will be done in a controlled environment. But trial will mostly be held in customer premises and it is an opportunity to test how the product can fit in customer environment and address their requirements. Product Manager has to exert control on the trial by identifying stakeholders on either side to work together throughout the duration of the trial. In addition, the trial has to be planned well to determine what customer might evaluate and pro-actively verify whether there is any possibility for product to misbehave. Such pro-activeness is required to avoid any negative impact during the trial.
Customers go past this stage if they are convinced that product is worth the price. Communicating and justifying the RoI is critical especially for a B2B product. Communicate ROI to customer to indicate the value delivered by the product could offset the initial cost. If the product costs $100,000 and it is the responsibility of Product Manager to communicate the tangible and intangible benefits of investing $100,000 to customer business. Product Manager has to clearly articulate the benefits in terms of operational efficiency (savings in $) or ability to generate more revenue, or enhance customer delight etc. Depending on the situation discounts, migration plans or flexible pricing options had to be projected to provide an attractive proposition to customers.
In this phase, customers do not seek information but they seek experience. Level of experiences delivered will determine the loyalty of customers. Track how customers are using the product and measure his satisfaction level. Keep a tab on the support cases, feature requests raised by customer. Possible interlock with them to make sure that there are always opportunities for CROSS SELL and UP SELL. Loyalty is not merely for cross sell or up sell alone, but to have those customers act as product ambassadors and speak about the product positively. I am surprised at how certain companies periodically call their respective customers to remind them about pending service or license upgrades or renewals. The engagements points in loyalty are expected to imbibe such behavior.
Apart from the identifying kind of information that would be required by customers during each stage of the buying process. Product Manager needs to have penchant to know more details on how and where customers would like to consume the information. If we are providing all the information required by the customers but not in the form expected by them and not in the location of their choice, then it is a colossal failure.