Strike Gold: Exploit Your Company’s Hidden Benefits Using 3 Simple Questions.

By Nicole Reineke November 12, 2010

It’s the ultimate Product Marketing Nirvana. Imagine stumbling upon a feature or benefit that you already have, and it catapults you into new markets. Markets that only you can serve. Where they need you. They really need you. Its real, and it can happen if you just take a few moments to step back and analyze your existing customers.

By simply changing a few words in the questions asked, you can gain an entirely different understanding of the motivation behind your customers. You can identify new applications for your existing product and resources, increase your top-of-funnel leads, and increase your customer base. Without changing a line of code.

Sound obvious? Sure. But when was the last time you asked your customers these three questions.

Why did you try our application?

You probably ask people why they buy your application all the time.

And, if you’re like me, you probably hear someone throw your own marketing words right back at you. And it feels SOOO good. In fact, it feels so good, that sometimes I find myself doing a little “I know how to market” dance. And, if you know what you are doing, your customers really do buy your product for the reasons you market: its faster, bigger, better than the rest at doing whatever it is that you do.

But, what you may not be asking them is why they bothered looking at you in the first place. There is a difference.

Here is why:

Last week, I was on the phone with a new customer. He told me that he bought our product for all the right reasons. That our product did exactly what we said it did. 

After I did my dance, I asked “Now, why did you try us?”

And he answered: “Because you were the only product that supported our current infrastructure model.”

Perhaps to you this is mundane, but to me, it was a moment from Monty Python’s “The Holy Grail.” The sky light up and trumpeters appeared!

You see, we had never advertised that we supported this model. We implemented it and knew many companies that use it. But, we did not exploit it as a major differentiator. And we were missing out on an amazing partnership opportunity.

Lesson Learned: Always understand why they tried your product. Not just why they bought it.

After buying our product, were there any products you didn’t have to buy? And why?

Asking questions on how you compare to the competition is probably on your win/loss analysis list. And it should be.  Its incredibly valuable. You need to know how to sell against your competitors.

This question goes beyond asking about why you won against known competitors, it aims to discover if there are any other types of products that you are displacing or replacing. Most product managers don’t ask this question. They assume they already know the answer. After all, that’s what you look at every day. Right? Sure. But, your customers may surprise you.

Even though I thought I knew the answer, I started asking this question when our 1.0 product was still in beta. To my great surprise, it was useful. 

Our customers identified that by purchasing our product, they could avoid buying a separate management tool for their users, which we hadn’t previously considered in our ‘space’. The tools were, however, related in the customers’ mind. Buying our tool led to a large savings for the customers that we weren’t aware of. This is now an integral part of our ROI calculator.

Lesson Learned: Always ask what you displace, there could be savings in there that you never considered (and a potential new market)!

Is there anything we can do to help make you more successful?

I learned this question from my CEO. If there is one thing I take away from knowing him, it is that delighting your customers is the only way to be successful. And delight goes far beyond what your product does, it is all about making your end users successful before they ever ask.

In the early days of the company, I asked this of all of our beta participants. They answered: help me show my boss what this will do for our company. And we did. We added reports right into the product. We provided calculators for ROI. We gave unbridled access to our internal industry experts. And they were successful.

With the next release, I asked this of our customers, and they answered: help me optimize my infrastructure (which hosts our product). And we did. We put our talented infrastructure experts on the job. They went above and beyond to ensure our customers infrastructures would be optimized for their success. We produced scads of best practice documents and videos to make sure all our customers could benefit from the knowledge we had gained. And our customers and partners were successful.

But how did this expand our market?

We discovered there are administrators who would like to implement our type of product but they do not have in-house expertise on implementing these products. Our expertise, and desire to share it to make all of our customers and partners successful, is an amazing differentiator.

Lesson Learned: By asking how to delight our customers, we uncovered a way to expand the market – to include companies who would otherwise have stayed away from us. We figured out how to make them successful and expanded our reach.

So start asking the three questions. You never know what doors they will open.

Categories: Go-to-Market
Nicole Reineke

Nicole Reineke

Nicole Reineke is an Agile Product Manager and experienced Scrum product owner. Nicole is also a popular blogger and author on product management, data protection, high availability, desktop virtualization, technical marketing and agile development topics. Nicole’s industry experience spans more than 15 years designing, building and marketing infrastructure management, data protection, storage virtualization and desktop management solutions at companies including Stratus, Iron Mountain, Accusoft, Connected and Sepaton. Nicole was also a founding team member at Unidesk. Follow her on Twitter @NicoleReineke.

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