We’re all experts now

How often have you seen product or portfolio decisions taken without the support of robust insights?

In the absence of existing insights, gathering meaningful data can be time-consuming and expensive. And with constant downward pressure on both time and cost, the temptation to cut corners is always there and guesswork creeps in. After all, how difficult can it be to guess, particularly considering the amount of information which is already available?

  • The web provides ready access to a vast amount of market data.
  • Discussion forums dedicated to the particular product or topic almost certainly exist, irrespective of how niche it is.
  • Online customer reviews are ubiquitous, instantly available and free.
  • … and since we’re all consumers anyway, we have our own experience to fall back on.


[Photo credit: SAP]

All too frequently the temptation to cut costs, combined with the almost instant access to market data is too much to resist. This can result in decisions being made on completely the wrong basis.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people saying “I don’t know anyone who would use this” – as if they personally know the entire target market.

It is crucial that any product is scoped, designed, implemented, tested and eventually sold with due regard to the demographics of the target market. Customer insights will identify critical characteristics and behaviours of the target customer and might include factors such as buying habits, preferences, life-stage, and location.

Customer insights need to be gathered methodically and published internally in a manner which is meaningful to all those involved in the product development cycle. Crucially they also need to be maintained (or at the very least re-validated periodically) since many characteristics evolve over time.

We all have opinions. Gut feel and common sense have their place but they’re based on guesswork and intuition rather than hard facts, and they’re no substitute for proper insights into customer behaviour. Failing products can not only result in poor company performance – they can leave a dangerous legacy in their wake.

There will always be a temptation to do some quick-and-dirty analysis. Quick might be particularly attractive, but in the race for “answers” it’s easy to forget that the downside – dirty – is less attractive.

The irony is that we’re all customers, and personal experience should inform decisions. It would be negligent to completely ignore such a potentially rich source of information. But its weighting needs to be driven by the context.

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