Savvy product managers not only understand their customers, but also their potential (non-) customers. Finding and getting time with potential customers can be tricky. They do not have an established relationship with you or your company and may not even know anything about the company. However, they typically gather and associate with the same people who are customers.
One of the best places I’ve found to get feedback from non-customers is at industry specific trade shows. I recently attended a trade show that targets companies that make up the bulk of my potential customer base. We had a booth on the exhibition floor which a few members of the sales team staffed for the most part. I spent about four hours there in three days and spent the rest of the time in breakout sessions and talking with people at the show.
The sales guys were not overly impressed with the show leads. However, the show was a huge success for me because I spent three days talking and interacting with potential customers. Here’s what I learned:
- Potential customers will talk about their business successes and struggles (both of which are valuable)
- Industry specific (targeted) trade shows present an excellent forum to get valuable information about potential customers
- Knowing what drives potential customers helps you develop a market-driven product roadmap
- Gaining valuable information about potential customers takes a lot of digging. It’s hard work but well worth the effort.
Product managers need to gain a deep, visceral understanding of the potential buyers in their market. Though the value of trade shows has been called into question, attending the right shows presents an excellent opportunity to know your potential customers.