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Why you must understand the customer before drafting the PRD

Why you must understand the customer before drafting the PRD

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Last week, customer experience thought leader Annette Franz hosted a webinar for Sendbird about the ten foundational principles of customer-centric organizations. 

One of those ten principles stuck out to me: “people before products.” Yes, that’s right. People should always come before the product. 

During our webinar, Annette spoke about how product teams have to really understand what the customer is trying to achieve, what problems they are trying to solve, and what challenges are standing in their way. Before jumping in to build a feature or product, make sure to understand what your customer is looking to achieve.  

It’s more than just asking for what your customer wants, it’s about truly understanding the customer’s pain points as well as what they are doing, thinking, and feeling in the job to be done. That’s what Franz means about people before products — putting the customer pain point first, knowing what problem the customer is trying to solve, before jumping to draft the PRD. Otherwise, you might find that your product ends up creating more problems than it solves for your customers. 

As a product marketer, I’ve seen firsthand how likely customers are to dive straight in (as eager as your product and engineering teams) to define the solution. But as Annette writes in her book Built to Win

“If you are asking customers what they want, you are doing it all wrong.” 

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!” – Theodore Levitt

The problem to be solved by the product is the need for a quarter-inch hole, and there are many options for how to solve this for the customer. Focusing on the customer’s pain point is what will help product teams find innovative ways to create value for them. And value retains customers.

“Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.” – Seth Godin

Annette defines a customer-centric organization as one that follows the rule of “no discussions, no decisions, no designs without bringing that customer voice in.” If product teams take time to really think through how they can solve the customer’s problem, that provides value to the customer, and in return, value for the business. Hence, customer understanding is the “cornerstone” of a customer-centric organization. 

So where do you start? How do you bring the customer voice into all that you do? Annette outlines great ideas in her presentation, including the ones you see in the slide below. I highly recommend you watch the replay of Annette’s webinar presentation to get the full benefit.

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