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What Do Customers Want?

Nabila Amarsy

‘What do my customers want? What products, services, and features will create value for them?’ These burning questions are on the minds of every CEO, product manager, and entrepreneur, regardless of the industry they work in. Companies that work hard to understand the value in their value propositions are rewarded with excited customers and unparalleled market traction. In this post, I suggest two ways to integrate your customers into the discovery process and help prioritize the features they crave the most.

Great value propositions bundle carefully selected products, services, and features that maximize the value created for customers.

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The challenge is, of course, to identify those products, services, and features that matter to customers. Uber, for example, helps people avoid the pain of searching for a cab or wasting time searching for one. Skype eliminated horrendously high fees for international calls.

It’s important to remember that no value proposition can possibly address every problem or desire for your customer. You can, however, prioritize the products, services, and features that will be most valuable to them. This isn’t about asking your customers what features are important to them; it’s about integrating them into the experiment, and getting them to help you decide from the start.

The Product Box and Buy-A-Feature exercises I talk about below are a great way to tackle the prioritization challenges your team will face. Both approaches allow for your customers to participate in the process.

The Product Box

Action: Get your customers to design the package for a “non-existent” value proposition you have described to them.

Outcome: Discover the features that your customers desire by uncovering their jobs, pains, and gains.

  1. Split your customers into groups. Give each group some cardboard and markers and ask them to design a package for the "non-existent" service you have just described.

  2. This will encourage your customers to talk about the slogans, visuals, and features they would want to see on the package for this “imaginary” product.

  3. Your customers must now sell back to you the idea that was originally described through the product boxes they have created. This is where your team must listen carefully and take notes.

  4. Pay attention to what your customers are saying. This isn’t about recording the product they’ve created in their groups, it’s about the underlying jobs, pains, and gains that need to identified through your value proposition. These have to be plotted out in your value proposition canvas.

  5. Some of the feature suggestions might sound impossible ( for example, an implant that can download the news to your brain); but if you pay attention to the underlying desire  in the example I just gave (what are they trying to say?), you might instead notice that your customers just want an effortless way to consume the news everyday.

The Buy-A-Feature Exercise

Action: Get your customers to collectively buy the features that interest them.

Outcome: Prioritize the features that customers crave the most.

  1. Take the ideas that your customers suggested during the Product Box exercise and organize them into a feature list.

  2. Price each potential feature according to its estimated development costs.

  3. Give each customer a fixed, hypothetical budget so they can purchase their most desired features. Each individual must not have a budget big enough to buy their own features--instead, they have to collaborate with other members in their group to make a joint purchase.

  4. Observe how the individuals negotiate for the features they want to purchase (why do some want to buy a feature, but others don’t?).

  5. Make note of the features purchased, and point out why your customers were excited about their decisions. These could potentially be the features worth developing.

The two exercises above aren’t meant to produce a final roadmap for feature development. What these exercises really do are provide the cues that can potentially impact your value proposition, and reduce uncertainty around what your customers care about the most.

This is the sort of feature design we’ve placed front and center here at Strategyzer. It help us explore the kinds of value propositions we should build, and it’s a big part of the thinking we've developed in our book Value Proposition DesignCompanies like Adobe, Qualcomm, Cisco, and Fiat have all applied similar exercises that were initially created by Luke Hohmann and his Innovation Game series.  

What exercises have you conducted to encourage co-creation with customers?

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