pimp your software
Building better products 5 min read

Pimp your product: Leverage the power of your community

Ben Robinson • May 27, 2019

When it comes to building a successful product there are a seemingly endless amount of challenges. What features should be prioritized? How does functionality impact the user experience? What iterations will give the best results? Perhaps most importantly, who is best placed to provide these answers? The truth is, harnessing a customer-centric relationship with your users is the most effective way to get to the bottom of these questions, improve your product and ultimately deliver for the customer. Here’s how to do just that.

Create a Community

There is no doubt that customer feedback is essential for B2B companies—as this Trustpilot blog neatly sets out. That being said, engaging effectively with your customers and gleaning this feedback, especially in B2B, can be tricky when there are so many mediums out there. Customer surveys, focus groups, innovation labs and data analytics, for example, are all highly valuable when it comes to gathering insights but they can also be tough to set up and complex to draw conclusions from. That’s why having a one-stop-shop for users and product owners is a massively powerful tool for B2B companies to get the most from your customers. An online community does exactly that and allows for regular, two-way interactions that constantly add value. That’s not to say that a community is the answer to all of your product feedback needs. The key? Knowing how to leverage the gold-mine of information a community can provide your product and, ultimately, your business.

The Product-User feedback loop—let’s talk about it

The product-user feedback loop (shown below) sets out a clear methodology when it comes to incorporating your user community into your product workflow. Of course, the power of your community, and the foundational element of the loop, is communication. As the old saying goes, knowledge is power, and, well, your community is filled with knowledge. Utilizing an online user community allows product managers to communicate effectively with and amongst your users to collect valuable qualitative feedback on matters such as how new features and updates are being received and key use cases that customers are facing. As this feedback loop shows, communication is central when it comes to incorporating your user community into your product workflow:

Product-user feedback loop

                                           The product-user feedback loop

It’s what you do with all of this information and communication that defines just how much your product can benefit from it. Here we will go through the 3 pillars of the loop to show how harnessing your community communication can better your product:

1. General insights

Let’s start with the basics—feedback. Feedback is one of the most useful ways to ensure your product development team are on the right trajectory. There are 3 main ways your product team can benefit from general insights in your community:

  • Gain precise feedback from users on product updates—check out the Nuntanix community for great examples of this—they post product updates up to 5 times per week!  

  • Help your team think outside the box. Customers may be using your product in a way you didn’t even consider and you might want to implement, or at least try, surprising alterations to your product that customers come up with. This could be anything from unusual use cases to hacks or workarounds for your product.

  • When trying to better a product, it’s often easy to focus on the areas that need to be improved but don’t forget to acknowledge what you get right too! Your community is a place where users openly display the things they love about your product—be sure to understand where you are hitting the nail on the head!

2.  Build the right product—together

Communication means quicker and more accurate collaboration. Enabling the benefits of a collaborative and two-way communication between your product team and your end users is essential to make sure you are building the right product. At the end of the day, who better to ask what they want than the people using your product day-to-day? Think of asking users to upvote their favourite new ideas, create polls on favourite features or request in-depth critiques of your product ideas. At inSided, our product team is highly active on our own user community which fosters a real sense of collaboration between those building the product and those using it.

See your community not only as a feedback machine, but also an idea generator! Bear in mind, though, not all ideas are good ones. B2B software company Infoland use the multi-way conversations on their community to help them understand if a feature request is really a good idea or not. This way they are relying on their own users to weed out unhelpful ideas and highlight the best ones. As Koen Sterken, their Product Owner explains, “What we find most helpful is when other users call a request or idea as actually, not being a great idea. This really helps our product team prioritize. It can be so subjective.”   

B2B software company Thinkwise have nicely integrated a user ideas page into their community; take a look:

Thinkwise Ideas page

Here’s a tip: Ideas are not always just ideas. Often, they’re actually a great indicator of deeper problem areas. Pay attention to where customers are putting their own emphasis. If users are submitting multiple similar ideas or there are tons of upvotes on a particular suggestion, take a closer look because users may well be identifying areas that need your product team to take a look at some serious improvements.

3. Improved Product Adoption

Successful product adoption is integral to long-term success for B2B software companies. The onboarding stage is your chance to demonstrate that your product will give the most value to your customer—therefore boosting retention, avoiding churn and building revenue. Here are just a few of the ways to use your community to support product adoption:

  • Lean on your super users! Those most active and dedicated members of your community are an integral part of your team—use them! They know your product inside out and can take the pressure of your support team by providing answers to other users during product adoption.

  • Make announcements. As we know, especially in the product world, users can be afraid of change. Using your community to make ‘pre-announcements’ to your users can go a long way to alleviating users’ fears around product changes. People fear the unknown—enlighten them using your community!

  • Direct new user questions to your community and avoid your product team answering queries over and over again. The more questions that are answered on your community, the larger your knowledge base becomes and the easier customers can find resolutions to their problems. Keep building your knowledge base—it’s a gift that keeps on giving.

  • Increase peer-to-peer collaboration in your community, especially when it comes to adopting new product features. Encourage users to share and discuss their real-life use cases and offer tutorials, best practices and how tos for specific scenarios. This is a granular level of guidance that you as a product team simply don’t have the capacity to offer (no matter how much you may wish you could!)

The best product teams should always have the needs of the customer at the heart of their strategy. The beauty of an online community is that those needs are clearly on display—there to be discussed in a transparent forum. Never before have users and product teams had the ability to collaborate in such a proactive and productive way—long may it continue.  

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By Ben Robinson

Customer Success expert and writer at inSided. Sharing value-driven content that helps customers help themselves.

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