Engage Your Customers in Product Development

Here are strategies to involve your customers in product planning: Latest insights from Society for the Advancement of Consulting

Many of my CMO community members are also responsible for product management.

I have been a Society member for two years, and learn a great deal from my peers.

July 1, 2013


The SAC® Release

How to Engage Customers in Product Development

The Society for the Advancement of Consulting® has asked its
global members to comment on how best to engage customers in new product
development. “We are a global association of top consultants,”  notes
SAC CEO Alan Weiss, PhD. “and we regularly ask our clients and our members
what they are seeing. Here’s a representative sample.”

Lisa Nirell, founder
of EnergizeGrowth® in Washington, DC and author of EnergizeGrowth NOW: The Marketing Guide to a
Wealthy Company
, recommends three key strategies. “First, when I work with my clients on something as simple as structuring team meetings, I encourage them to track how often they put their customer first while making marketing decisions. Customer-centric cultures share one thing in common: the entire company is oriented and incented around customer success.”

Second, Nirell
cautions companies to “be mindful of pressure to close
business at any cost.
pressures will undermine your customer-centric commitment and sabotage long-term
profitability. For example, companies should avoid succumbing to unique
customization requests just to close that end of the quarter deal.”

Finally, Nirell
advises that while enrolling customers in key decisions and gathering valuable
feedback, tell customers how your own stakeholders are going to take action on
that data.
Your customers want to know that their input is
valued beyond the one-time interview or advisory board meeting. For example,
EMC Corporation distributes companywide mirror surveys to assess employee’s
perception of how well EMC is managing the customer experience.”

Dr. Maynard Brusman is a San Francisco Bay Area executive coach and
consulting psychologist. Maynard is the president of Working Resources, and an
expert in strategic talent management specializing in executive coaching and
leadership development. www.workingresources.com

Dr. Brusman notes: “Steve Jobs was
known for his ability to create products customers like even if they hadn’t
been involved in the creation process. However, few people have this genius and
have to rely on other ways of product creation.

“A product is often defined by the
product managers with input from a few internal teams, and in some cases with
input gained at user and focus groups. Social Media creates a fantastic opportunity
for listening and engaging with customers as an on-going process. The agile
approach often used for much software development fits well with this approach.
The mindset needed is that product creation is a collaborative effort between
customers and an organization.”

“As a global business consultant and former supply chain
executive, I find that merely satisfying your customers with excellent service
and communication is no longer enough,” points out Lisa Anderson, President of LMA Consulting Group, Inc. in
Claremont, CA. “Instead, you must involve your customers in designing ways to
collaborate for success. For example, one of the best new product introductions
I’ve seen which led to significant revenue increases was a collaboration of
cross-functional internal resources, customers, and suppliers. Collaborate to
thrive in today’s new normal!”


SAC is an
international association of consulting professionals who subscribe to an
industry code of ethics and have provided evidence of significant consulting
results among their clients. For more information, please go to http://www.consultingsociety.com, write to info@summitconsulting.com, or call 401/886-4097.


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