From Customer Insights to Product Features

There’s a gap in the process that companies use to do product development. Strategic product development emerges from good customer research. The gap occurs because, in many companies, customer research is done by the marketing team. This seems like a great fit because the marketing team has excellent people skills. But there’s a problem with outsourcing this research to the marketing team because they are motivated to sell or validate a company’s current offerings. This kind of research isn’t oriented toward wicked problems and long-term strategic vision.

The kind of customer research that’s needed for strategic product development doesn’t emerge from validating your current offerings or solutions. It emerges from understanding the problems that your customers have, then designing future products and systems that address and anticipate those problems. This is a different kind of market research. It’s more exploratory than confirmatory. It’s more vulnerable than confident. And it doesn’t belong in marketing. They could and should be involved, but this research is best lead by designers and engineers, the ones who are on the hook for turning customer insights into product features and solutions.