Great Customers are the one’s who want to be your best friend. They are hyper consumers of your product, the ultimate power users, they’re on your forums helping novice users and advocating for you. They might have become this way because your product inspired so much passion in them that they are now an advocate. Great Customers are like a jackhammer – they make a lot of noise and a little goes a loooooong way.
You can identify a Great Customer if they have two or more of the following traits:
- They email you more than once per week
- They have your personal cell phone number…and use it frequently
- They call you directly for technical support (and like an idiot you help them because it’s faster than explaining to them for the 9th time that you aren’t tech support – BAD Product Manager, BAD!)
- You log into your user forum and find that they have started eight new threads and commented in 14 others.
- They’re first in line for beta, always available to meet with you or take your phone call, and always have interesting feedback on the product
BUT…you had to see this coming…Great Customers are not always great for Product Management. Great Customers are the squeaky wheel. They’ve got cell phone numbers for you, the CEO, the VP of Marketing, the VP of Engineering, the lead developer (gulp!), and the Manager of Tech Support. If they don’t get an answer they like from you, they move down the list. These customers are masters and finding the inconsistencies in your stories and exploiting them. This is especially true for roadmap items.
Unfortunately, if you piss them off, Great Customers become Power Pissers. Power Pissers start blogs dedicating to bashing you, register yournamesucks.com, and badmouth you on every message board from here to MySpace.
It’s easy for a PM to phone up one of their Great Customers, because they know they’re going to get good feedback. Some companies even farm their Great Customers into a Customer Advisory Board. Where we can easily go off track is that CABs and Great Customers do not represent the Market. Just because they are easy to reach and we like them doesn’t mean that they look like or have problems like our target market. Great Customers are almost exclusively power users. Prospective customers are novices, at best.
It’s hard to connect with prospective clients. You call them up and they think it’s a sales call, they’re too busy with their jobs to talk with a Product Manager from some company they may or may not have heard of. It’s also one of the most critical things a PM can do. You’ll get a whole new set of data from the potentials.
We find potentials by contacting the leads that scanned into our booth at our biggest tradeshow. I throw a dart on the map, tell my Product Manager for that market segment that this is where he is going this month, and to fire up Salesforce and find a mix of current customers and potentials to go meet. We are able to bring back great data to the team for prioritization and decision making.
Good market data is your drug, and your company is the user. Get them hooked and they’ll want even more. You’ll find Executives are your biggest users – they’re too busy hiring, firing, and doing deals to get the kind of data you bring. Even grumpy CFOs get hooked (more on this later).