Product Manager: Don’t Be a Data Fool

data only trap

Pop quiz: How many minutes a day do customers use your product? What screens do they visit most? How much data do they enter? These questions might have you dreaming of an analytics dashboard that would bring you nirvana. But beware — you will never fully understand your customers if you fall into the “data-only trap.”

Numbers only give you part of the answer when it comes to understanding what your customers really think about your product.

This data-only trap can be easy for product builders to stumble into — it is just one of the many that I outline in my bestselling new book, Lovability.

As a product manager, it is your job to set the strategy, build your product plan, and measure customer use. And, if you are in a software business like we are, you are probably swimming in data, such as conversion rates, active users, and churn.

You can capture and study a nearly endless list of data if you make the investment to instrument your product. And do not get me wrong, you absolutely should. You must. But you need to do even more.

Data will tell you what a customer is searching for — but it will not reveal why they are searching.

And that is critical information to have. The why reveals the customers’ challenges and motivations. When you have that kind of emotional intel, you can deliver a product that your customers will not just settle for, but one that they will love.

This is particularly important because lovable products earn customers’ heartfelt love and loyalty. And that is the way to lasting success.

To get there, you need to broaden your focus beyond the charts to include your customers’ hearts. Here are three ways to escape the data-only trap:

Connect often
Meet with customers often to ask for their thoughts and collect their ideas. Sound time-consuming, conjuring up visions of endless business trips? It does not need to be. For example, our team at Aha! never travels for in-person meetings, but we do meet with hundreds of customers each week via live video conferences.

Listen closely
Each interaction should help you learn more about your customer — whether they are talking about you on a review site, in an email, or on a call. Be open to feedback. And do not be dismissive if you hear anything that sounds strange or you do not yet understand. Keep listening and asking questions until you get it.

Hire alike
The best way to empathize with your customers is to hire people who are just like them — people who understand their challenges and what is meaningful to them. At Aha!, our customers tend to be product managers, so we only hire former product managers on our Customer Success team. As a result, our team does not need to guess what it is like to build a product because they have experienced it first hand.

Data alone will not help you delight customers or make them love you.

That love comes from knowing your customers like family and having the data. You need both. It is the only way to turn your product vision into real, meaningful value for your customers and ultimately customer love.

How have you avoided the data-only trap?

About Brian and Aha!

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product roadmap software — and the author of Lovability. His two previous startups were acquired by well-known public companies. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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