How to Grow Your Product with the Customer in Mind

By Justin Hitt, Strategic Relations Consultant,

Your customer is the ultimate decision maker when it comes to changes your product will undergo over time. Successful companies design their products with this fact in mind; they create modular products, they understand their product/customer interaction life cycle, and carefully evolve their product for the customer. This article will introduce you to some strategies that can help you grow your product with the customer in mind.

1. Start by looking at your product in its smallest unit.

Products are the building blocks of what your company provides, they consist of various parts and components which contributes significantly to the reasons your customer buys from you. If your product is a service its 'smallest unit' could be a single phase, or for manufactured good your 'smallest unit' could be the screws used to hold it together. Building your product in modules introduces service opportunities where individual components are repaired or replaced independently of the entire product.

Find the smallest unit in your product then ask yourself:

The answers to these questions can reveal cost saving opportunities and various means to enhance your sales. Seeing your products as modular parts of a larger solution makes you more valuable to a customer, especially when that message is properly conveyed. You will be surprised what you will learn by asking your customers these questions.

2. Document the product life cycle and customer interaction points.

Every product has a beginning-middle-end with various points in which it interacts with a customer, leveraging these points can extend your products value for a particular customer segment. The beginning of your product life cycle is when you customer purchases your product, the middle is when they use it and the end is when they dispose of it. Look at this simple progression as a cycle with various points where your customer interacts with the product and your company. Look for ways you can extend the life of your product by grouping it with other products or introducing additional points of interaction.

Ask yourself:

Each of your products will have a life of its own, a simplistic life cycle has been shared here -- expand on it to develop your own according to your marketing and sales statistics. Remember, each customer interaction point is an opportunity for your organization to generate additional sales and to collect usage information about your product. Make the best of each interaction.

3. Collect your feedback and inject it into your product development.

Originally, customers only had one choice, but with all the options on the market today, you need to maintain focused on the problems you solve while incorporating new features for your customers. The product you initially introduced to the customer was fixed in design, but over time, some buyers customized it for their own needs or incorporated it into other products -- learn about these adjustments and utilize those of value in your product development. After a little market research you may find hundreds of new options for your product, it is tempting to implement them all, but focus on those that contribute to solving problems for your customer.

At times you may need to even prune out features no longer used, go back to the 'smallest units' discovered earlier and ask:

It is important to review your product over a certain period to determine if it still solves the problem your customer wants solved. You may find that the problem has changed or the product is now too complex to do what it once did. Cutting back your products features will be hard and will require testing, but you will find greater customer satisfaction in a smaller more targeted product.

If your customers are not buying your products then they probably are not finding what they need to solve their problems. Constantly request feedback on how your product is used or what expectations your customer has with what you provide. Use this feedback to improve your product through answering the questions above.

With these strategies, your product will grow with your customer in mind to produce greater profits and products that are more successful.

© 2002 Justin Hitt, All rights reserved.
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Justin Hitt is a consultant who specializes in growing relationships for executives in technology companies who want greater profits. For a copy of his newsletter Inside Strategic Relations visit

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