How To Understand Your Product Users Problems And Needs

by Maximilian Claessens

If you are reading this article, you are probably already aware of the complexity of new product development. The verbatim ‘If you build it, they will come’ sounds fancy, but only if it was true. Today, where 42% of startups attribute ‘no market need’ to be their cause of failure, the big question still resides. How do you ensure product success? The answer lies closer than you think: You need to understand your product users problems and needs.

Your audience is the key to unlocking your ‘bestseller’ product. But audience analysis is way easier said than done. Understanding your target audience’s world has multiple complexities naturally embedded in it. In this post, we are going to address this challenge together. By the end of this post, you will be able to have a profound understanding of how you can create a solid launchpad for developing a product that your audience loves.  

Analyzing User Problems And Needs: Coming Closer To Your Audience

The first step to understand your product users problems and needs starts with humanizing your product development process. Your audience is real people. So are their problems and frustrations. This means solving critical, hard problems for your target audience is the only path to success. And the first stage of this product discovery goes through understanding your audience’s world.

Think of it like stage zero, a pre-MVP stage that validates your proposed solution with your target audience. This way, you can ensure you do not end up developing a product that your audience doesn’t want.

Keeping the system agile integrating customer feedback as a primary part of the product development process is the first drastic step towards achieving this goal. But collecting honest customer feedback is hard. You need a systematic process that can translate into powerful insights.

To do this, you need to adapt to a two-step methodology integrating either a qualitative or quantitative analysis.  

Step 1: Start with analyzing available data sets

As much as product engineers and developers love to think their assumptions to be valid about their user’s pain points, moving without hard data is risky. This means no matter what happens; you cannot skip crunching data when trying to understand your product users problems and needs. But, this step doesn’t need to be complicated as such. You can choose either of the following two approaches depending upon your budget.

a)   Take the finer qualitative approach

If you have little research budget, qualitative analysis is perhaps the best way to validate your product concept. This consists of both primary and secondary research.

You can start by deploying basic web scouring and engaging in online ‘look alike’ communities. Staged or ad hoc user interviews, focus group discussions, user feedback, and observation activities are great ways to go deep in this stage.

b)   Leveraging big-data for quantitative analysis

If you’re on a tight budget, having quantitative analysis is the best choice you can make to better understand your product users problems and needs. Start with market data research. From there, you can spread out to industry reports, third-party accumulated reports, and your existing customer base behavior. This will give you an idea of the real-time market trend of your industry.   

Step 2: Follow it up with pattern discovery

Finding problems is correlated to finding patterns in your collected data. This is the first step in finding and brainstorming solutions.

A lot of rich insights of your industry happening can disclose product opportunities here. Longer production cycles due to unnecessary steps performed to achieve a goal and unavailability of key features that make it easier to achieve a goal are some of the key findings that you could come up with.

But a word of caution here. In a quantitative analysis, you need to be aware of the sources of your data. If you collect data from one type of respondents who share similar residing regions, but your study comprises the global audience, you will have biased data.

Now, when you know the importance of this two-step strategy for collecting audience data, let’s find out the best methods to get your product analysis right. Following are the top ways to understand your product users problems and needs better in the year 2021.

a)   Your customer experience strategy can do more than you think

Given that customer experience is vital to keeping sales and brand equity soaring. But what if it could do more for you? And no, we aren’t talking about more sales here. Customer insight is one such unoptimized mine that your customer experience strategy can give you. This directly means engaging and understanding customer needs not only can make your products better but update them following their real-time needs. Also, in this tenure, chances are you will discover another array of pinpoints that can help you build new products for the same customer base.  Tools like Messenger and live chatbots have made this easier to achieve today.

b)   Find your ideal customer

Researching and asking questions to your customers is just one part of the game. The real deal starts with validating the profile of your test taker. Your data can completely backfire on you if you interview the wrong persona. This means investing only in generic audience personas with demographics like name, age, ethnicity, profession, economy are a big no-no. You need analytics that can reveal to you the emotional frequencies of your audience. Only then can you validate your ideal match. Also, it uncovers the why behind any future buying from your audience’s perspective. Google Analytics is a powerful tool to achieve this.

Pro tip: At a later stage, this data can be used by your marketing teams to place and create campaigns that resonate with your audience on an emotional level. Having a technical documentation system attached to your product makes it easier for your audience to believe in your why. Think of it as a doorway that brings your customers closer to your solution or product.

c)   Your customer journey map tells a lot about your product

Understanding the complete buying journey is critical for many reasons. Pain points and problems are one of them. But each of your customers are unique, and so is their experience with your brand. Capturing each of the data sets can unlock significant potential in alleviating current and future problems. You create graphical representations of your customer journey based on interactions between a customer and your brand from the first to the last interaction event. Analyzing the mass activity during each stage will give you a deeper understanding of the existing problems and how you can turn them around.

d)   Gather customer behavioral data from you online mapping

Your website is a powerhouse of data analysis. The more unique traffic arrives at your site, the better your analytics is going to be. So how do you utilize your website for gathering data?

There are a lot of behavioral tracking tools that can help you do this. Inspectlet and Hotjar are great tools for gathering insights such as dwelling time, bounce rate, short videos, and heat maps. Answering key questions are vital to make this a success. What your audience doesn’t understand, their preferences, navigation troubles, their biggest frustrations while using your product altogether will help you craft a more robust web experience.

e)   Pivot your research to your customers

Once Henry Ford said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Your customers are problem thinkers. They are the key to understand your product users problems and needs. They understand problems, the first part of product building. This means you have to steer clear when discussing the possible best solutions to the problems. Unlocking the potential of their mindset gives you rich input. They see things beyond your product’s capabilities. This should include both leads and existing customers.

f)     Having a biased focus on innovation and competition

Innovation keeps the world moving forward to the future. As an entrepreneur, being a forward thinker is natural. But this can be dangerous for your audience research. Building innovative solutions that don’t connect to today’s market problems are a waste of resources. You need to strike a balance between the future and present where you do not create pockets of the gap in the solution.

Remember, any massive revolution needs long periods of transitions to reach a better place. Also, making your competitors the Northstar for goals and performance metrics is a common mistake you need to avoid. They are a good source of secondary research to unleash what is predominantly working in your industry. But it is not absolute.

Instead, ask the following questions to ensure that you are solving a problem for your target market:

  • Is this problem existing in my target audience?
  • Is the problem relevant to my audience?
  • Is my audience happy with my competitor’s solution?

You will be surprised to witness how many times your user doesn’t even want those extra features your competitors are offering them. Your view of your product users problems and needs may be totally different from their own view.

g)   Focusing only on today’s audience

Delivering value to the existing customer base and prospects is a good start for any startup. However, it shouldn’t be the deterring element of your growth in the long term. Staying too focused on today’s audience means you will miss out on the market opportunities of tomorrow. Balancing the today with the future is the key to sustainable success here. Not only will you know your user’s today’s problem, but you will also be able to predict their future frustrations leading to higher customer delight.

The primary difference between the stated and silent markets lies in this element. A stated market is aware of the problem, but the silent market isn’t aware of it just yet. If you are to become a unicorn, in the long run, neglecting the power of the silent market can prove to be your biggest mistake in product discovery.

Parting Advice to Understand your Product Users Problems and Needs

However capable your product is, the blatant truth is it cannot sustain in the modern market without your audience’s love. Demand is what keeps it going. This means before any other investment of your resource, you need to find the desirability quotient of the product you are trying to develop for the target audience. But, what you need to be mindful of here is that product development is an iterative process. You do not need to fulfill all the pain points at once. Your goal is to deliver value to alleviate at least any pain points and develop with time. This will help you to stay on the same page with your audience while changing your solution’s focus with their changing problems.

And as Paul Graham says, Make something that people want.

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