Customer-Powered Product Development: How to Create Better Products & Increase Demand

Raif Barbaros

Not hitting your product adoption targets? It could be that you haven’t achieved product-market fit—something that “80% of companies never achieve.”

In my experience, most companies rely on time-consuming outreach to validate their products and gather customer feedback. Or, they send out impersonal email surveys that don’t motivate customers to respond. But there’s a more direct route to get the insights you need to build better products and boost adoption rates.

An engaged advocate community can provide a system for regularly collecting meaningful feedback from a large group of customers. That information can then be used to improve your product offerings, and inspire customers to adopt new features faster.

Our customer Carbon Black recruited more than 100 customer advocates to provide product insights for R&D, and over 500 to boost their marketing team efforts. This was all within the first year of launching their advocate community program. Want to build a similar support system for your product?

In this blog, I’ll share two customer-powered product development strategies that you can use to get better quality product feedback in less time.

1. Gather product insights at scale via an advocate community

If you’re relying on the same small pool of customers to influence your product direction, you may soon find this pool dries up as customers get burned out. Tools like Pendo can help you engage with a wider swath of customers directly in your product interface.

With a customer advocate community, you can also quickly collect a variety of insights from a broad group of actively engaged customers. Plus you can instantly recognize them for sharing their opinions, so they’re motivated to do so again and again.

Send timely, gamified polls, surveys or open-ended requests for feedback to your entire community with advocates. Or, target users of certain product lines or industries to quickly get the best insights at multiple points in the product development lifecycle.

With an advocate community, you can also launch your products more effectively by tapping into the market insights provided by your customers. For example, Influitive helps companies build stronger relationships with strategic accounts, such as Customer Advisory Board or Product Advisory Board members. We do this by giving them exclusive sneak peeks of new products and greater influence on go-to-market plans.

From a product marketing perspective, you can also launch engaging campaigns to collect customer feedback on pricing, naming, packaging, and messaging. This way customers are excited to adopt and promote your newest products.

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2. Lean on community super users to accelerate product iteration

If your product team needs a ready-made group of beta testers, look no further than your super users. After all, they’re the ones who work with your product every day. They’re invested in your success, and they’re more likely to help out than your average customer.

Via your advocate community, you can quickly source specific beta testers (based on usage, industry, etc.), track their progress, and share real-time feedback internally so you can iterate on products with less effort.

This strategy helps you quickly get products and features, that were already validated by customers, to market. It’ll also help you collect customer feedback so your product team can build the best products. This way, customers will be excited to adopt new solutions before they’re formally released.

Success Story: How Carbon Black collected product feedback from 100+ advocates

Kate Cohen, Senior Manager of Product Marketing at Carbon Black—an endpoint security company—needed an easier, faster way to get product feedback to her R&D team, as well as to strengthen the company’s brand through online reviews and media.

With an online community of over 15,000 members, she recruited the company’s most active members to join an exclusive community. She hand-picked advocates to help her on both fronts, while rewarding customers for their participation.

Just one year after launching the Cb Defenders advocate community, Carbon Black recruited 100+ customer advocates to support their R&D work, and 500+ to boost their marketing team efforts. As a result, Carbon Black:

  • Ran six design studies over three months; integrating feedback into the product’s UI
  • Went from one week to two days to recruit 25+ advocates for a product design study
  • Generated 50 new reviews on Gartner Peer Insights
  • Recruited an additional 40+ advocates to participate in analyst and reference calls

“When you think about all the different teams in the organization—from marketing to sales to product management and beyond—they all have something they can learn from our advocates that can help them achieve their goals. My biggest motivation is being able to support our company mission with the customer’s voice and to help cross-functional teams and leaders make informed decisions.”

Kate Cohen, Senior Manager of Product Marketing at Carbon Black

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Customer advocate communities save you time and resources

Building a customer advocate community gives you access to an on-demand, large-scale pool of beta testers and focus groups. These customers will provide you with timely feedback to build better products.

They’ll also help you save time and resources spent on time-consuming one-on-one customer outreach, such as emailing impersonal customer surveys. Plus they can help boost your adoption rates.

That’s why customer-powered product development is a critical part of a larger, customer-powered enterprise strategy.

To learn more, download our eBook now: The Customer-Powered Enterprise Playbook.

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