Through series of blogs articles on ‘Comprehending customer buying process’, I have been evangelizing to take a holistic view of the entire buying process and connect the dots to understand what goes beneath the thought process of customers while making a buying decision. Nevertheless, the buying process is really complicated with multiple engagement points at each stage of the buying process spread across offline and online space. It would be extremely tough for Product Manager to grasp what is exactly happening without the aid of tools. Product Manager should have access to tools that could stitch all the activities across the entire buying process together. Without the existence of tools and without the ability of tools to stich the activities across the buying stages, how does Product Manager ever know whether the issues with customer support are hurting cross sell/up sell opportunities? How does Product Manager ever know which marketing campaigns had direct impact on sales? How does Product Manager ever know whether product is being evolved as per the expectations of customers? What I had observed is that the CRM tools fall into three main categories
- Marketing – Awareness phase
- Sales – Information phase till Adoption phase
- Customer support – Loyalty phase
Product Manager might or might not have a say in selection of tools, but if there are multiple tools (s)he has to figure out some ways to stitch them together to understand more on customer behaviors. Presence of tools hardly makes any difference unless the Product Manager is not curious to know –
- How many customers got to know about the product?
- How customers got to know about the product?
- Was awareness about the product was created among all target customers?
- Have marketing campaigns effectively communicated the value of the product to entire target customers?
- Did the awareness phase raise enough interest among target customers to know about the product?
- How many customers have expressed interest to know more about the product?
- How many initial leads got converted into sales?
- What customers liked most about the product?
- What are the top 3 reasons for customers to buy the product?
- How many leads were lost?
- Why did customers not choose the product?
- Are we consistently losing to any competition?
- What would help product regain the lost ground?
- Are customers satisfied with the product?
- Was there any recurring sales from those customers
- Did quality of product had any impact on up-sell/cross-sell opportunities
The thought of tools triggered to me when I recently had an opportunity to demonstrate my product (B2B) in one of the leading events. The tool used in the event is awesome, it identifies –
- How many customers are visiting the event?
- Which booths did they visit and when
- What sessions (demo, technical, keynotes etc.) did they attend?
- Short survey to identify, the list of technologies or products that interest customers, what is budget spend of customers for next few quarters
Product Manager can have precise details on the exact number of customers who knew about their product and who those customers are. Product Manager can further identify if there is a dip in the % of attendees knowing about their product due to inappropriate location of booth or any other factors. The tool is exhaustive to provide any details pertaining to the event and customers who attended the event. But what is missing is to understand the influence of the event (awareness phase) in pushing the customers to next phase (information phase). Other element that I missed during the event is to figure out whether customers attending the event are existing customers or not. Accordingly, I could adapt information provided about the product to both existing and prospective customers. Icing on the cake would be to link the details of customers visiting the event with support data to identify the list of issues recently faced in their network, so Product Manager could have leveraged the opportunity to set appropriate expectations, allay any fears about the capabilities of the product to address their needs. Customers also would be happy that they are being heard and their issues are taken seriously.
Ideally, tools do a fantastic job in silos (marketing, sales and customer support), but they should be unified to get some fantastic insights. Can dip in customer support cases of a specific customer be correlated with sales tool to identify whether that customer has possibly migrated to any other product or migrated to competition? Can patterns of critical support cases and sales be linked to check if there is any correlation? The biggest insight that could be obtained is to identify the exact set of reasons (both product and non-product attributes) influencing the buying decision of customer. There should be deliberate introspection to identify whether customers are buying the product for those reasons that Product Manager envisaged. If not, something is fundamentally wrong in our understanding of customers and our approach to build, sell and market the product. Those activities are not aligned in favor of customers thought process applied during the buying stages.
Sometimes, the tools might not be linked for fear of data security breach. Nevertheless, nothing should stop Product Manager to at least manually stitch them. Otherwise, Product Manager could not create a feedback loop or establish causal and effect mechanisms among the four main pillars of product development – (i) creating value, (ii) communicating value, (iii) delivering value (iv) capturing value.