Market Interviews Gone Bad #5: Stymied!

And now a market interview where the product manager hasn’t done anything wrong (yet).
Esteemed Crankerati, what’s your advice about what a PM can do to salvage this interview?
Product Management: Market Interviews

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26 comments

  1. Geoffrey Anderson

    Whoa. You must work here.

    Alas, any existing product, you shouldn’t bother with the “Biggest obstacles…” type questions. They are never thinking that way, and instead have a list of piddly grumbles and gripes (Trulia, I have a shitload of things you need to do better in your UI/functionality…)

    • Ian Edwards

      Yeah this is a tricky one and geoff is right, but it can be done. The key to this I think is 1) selecting the right person to talk to in advance (ie go higher up the organisation to more visionary contacts rather than those deep in the detail) and, 2) set the expectations properly for the meeting (“we know we have a lot of low-level enhancements to do and we are managing that but at this meeting I’d like to explore some new areas with you for our Innovations team”)

    • Ian Edwards

      Re: ~5 Stymied:
      Yeah this is a tricky one and geoff is right, but it can be done. The key to this I think is 1) selecting the right person to talk to in advance (ie go higher up the organisation to more visionary contacts rather than those deep in the detail) and, 2) set the expectations properly for the meeting (“we know we have a lot of low-level enhancements to do and we are managing that but at this meeting I’d like to explore some new areas with you for our Innovations team”)

      • Bruce McCarthy (@d8a_driven)

        Good advice here. The other thing I like to do (if I can) is play dumb. “Before we get to your list of requests, I’d like to get to know you, your company, and what you are trying to accomplish. Let’s start with your job…” People love to talk about themselves and if you can divert the conversation away from your product to all of their problems, you learn a lot — including better context for the requests when you get to them.

        • tevirselrahc

          That is the approach I’ve evolved into taking – people like to talk about what they do. From there, you will find out where there are issues, whether they are related to your product or not. If they are, you get their feedback, if not, you get ideas for new products.

  2. Daniil

    Well, there are at least 2 ways: first one would be to run away and cry, while second would be to stay, go through the list together with the customer and try to identify what are the real problems causing the list to appear.

  3. Tim Jarrett

    I tend to be pragmatic about these sorts of customers. If they have 24 enhancements they really want us to look at, that’s all they’ll consider at that point. We generally try to position a follow up discussion where we discuss the problems they’re trying to solve with those enhancements, and how they dovetail with our broader roadmap priorities. But that conversation almost always has to be with a higher level individual in the business.

  4. Upstreamer

    I’d highly recommend to this Product Manager that they use “Job Mapping” interview techniques. See “What Customers Want” by Anthony Ulwick. For a introduction to the technique, see “The Customer Centered Innovation Map” HBR article by Ulwick and Bettencourt. It takes a little getting used to, but the results will rock your world. :)

  5. jel888

    Welcome to the real world. You’re so right clients, customers and even people dreaming someone will make a product to meet their needs are ready and willing to give you a detailed lsit of what they want. The days of I need to think for the customer because they don’t know what they need, well did it really ever exist?

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