Make Smarter Product Investments by Doing These 3 Things

Lorraine Chapman | September 18, 2020 | 5 Min Read

With many companies’ budgets and projects under intense scrutiny, product managers are feeling the pressure to ensure that every product decision and investment they make is a good one. To help you make wise, data-informed product investments that will yield a long-term positive return, here are three things you can do.

There is no doubt that COVID-19 has impacted how businesses operate.

Business priorities have changed and projects are being scrutinized now more than ever. While some projects continue to get funded, many are getting scaled back or canceled altogether.

In light of this, the pressure is on to get things right; no one has the luxury of making poor product decisions and spending time and money to fix it later.

This is why design research should be on your radar – if it wasn’t already. By investing in some research, you can accomplish the following three things that will enable you to make smarter product decisions and validate where to spend your money.

1. Identify New Market Changes and Opportunities

If you want your product to thrive in the current evolving marketplace, you’ll need to understand how COVID-19 has changed your customers’ processes and priorities.

You’ll also need to evaluate if those changes are here to stay, or if they’re temporary.

You may have an understanding of the ecosystem pre-COVID, but what does that new ecosystem and landscape look like now?

Understanding your ecosystem means understanding the objects and stakeholders within it and how they’re connected (e.g. via data flows, processes). While you examine these connections, you’ll also want to identify potential barriers, and ultimately market gaps, that could be opportunities for your business.

For example, with the impacts of the pandemic, many drug reps or medical device reps no longer have direct access to physicians or clinicians in the office or in the OR. This may be a temporary change, or it may be an opportunity for businesses to address this challenge in anticipation that it will continue as a new norm.

Taking the time to map out your customer’s ecosystem can help you identify areas to explore further or identify new paths to support better interactions with your target customers while respecting any new procedures or environments.

The more you know about your customer’s new ecosystem, the more you can figure out how your product fits into it and what factors will affect your product design decisions.

2. Focus in on a Problem and Identify New Customer Requirements

Once you’ve identified a market opportunity with long-term potential to pursue (e.g. new user groups, markets, potential operational changes that present barriers), deeper design research can surface insights on how you can effectively mitigate risks or take advantage of this opportunity.

With these insights, you’re more equipped to design a product that can address an urgent customer need better than the existing solution/process, while offering the potential to drive future business value.

For example, in conversations with several hospital/clinic customers, management teams had expressed an initial struggle with implementing government-mandated COVID-19 screening practices with their staff (a new operational change that presented an urgent need).

Upon arriving to work, staff had to fill out paper forms provided by the employer and then wait in line with other employees to submit their forms. Someone then reviewed their responses and told them whether or not it was safe for them to enter the facility.

This process was time consuming, inefficient and was potentially putting staff at risk by congregating those who were well and unwell to submit the forms (current solution inadequately addressed need).

By conducting design research, we were able to better understand the customer (hospital) and user (staff) requirements which were translated into the design of an alternative digital screening solution (research unveils requirements for how to effectively address the need).

The mobile screening application we created for our customers improved the safety and experience of those being screened while providing the data they needed to ensure patient safety and compliance with public health requirements (new solution addressed urgent need better than current process).

Not only did this solution create an immediate impact by solving an urgent customer problem, but the infrastructure and technology implemented to support the solution also opens opportunities for digitalization and streamlining of similar processes, like patient intake forms (new solution creates potential opportunity for future value).

3. Re-Evaluate and Enhance Your Value Proposition

Knowing things have shifted means you need to re-evaluate how you articulate your value proposition so that it emphasizes the direct business benefit for your customers.

Through the research process, you can gain direct confirmation of the needs and priorities that matter most to a variety of customer stakeholders – from those who are using your product frequently, to those who make the purchase decision but are rare users.

Different stakeholders will connect with different value propositions, so your research insights will allow you to tailor how you communicate value.

For frequent users (the primary users), the value proposition that resonates with them may be about saving them time, providing essential information or making their job easier to do.

However, for the buyer stakeholder, the value proposition that resonates may be about cost-savings/reductions, employee satisfaction or how your service supports higher decision-making.

Many companies think about their value proposition on a one-dimensional basis which can lead to missed opportunities.

In our mobile screening app example above, we intentionally framed the value proposition of our digital solution to speak to the positive outcomes it would achieve for our healthcare provider customers. In this case, the value proposition was not about “going digital”, but was about creating “efficiency” and “safety” because based on our research, these were the benefits our customers really cared about.

You Can’t Afford to Guess!

A lot of money can be wasted in product development and marketing/sales if you don’t have the data to tell you how your market landscape has changed, whether you’re tackling the most “meaningful” problem in the right way, or if your current value proposition is still of value to your customers.

So for a relatively small investment, take the time to do the research to inform your product development process with data.

Dig deeper to reveal the fundamental or underlying issues and use that to move your project forward.

Not sure how to get started with design research? Feel free to reach out – we’re here to help!

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