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4-min read
September 8, 2022

Driving Product Success Through Customer Communities

Some of the most successful brands in the world have one thing in common — a thriving customer community.

Think HubSpot, Salesforce, Figma, or Sephora. These brands have a community of current (and potential) users who not only use their product(s) but want to talk with others who do the same and contribute to its improvement — what more could a brand ask for?

Even with this, many companies still launch products that don't catch on. Just having a customer community is not enough. So how can your business harness the power of your customer community to drive the success of your product?

I'll cover a few ways here, but first, let's take a look at why having a customer community is incredibly beneficial to your business and ongoing product success.

👉 Looking for ways to activate your community to build better products and ignite adoption? Here are some tips on how to do that.

The benefits of having a customer community

Customer communities are a highly effective way to understand what your customers think about your company and product. Conversations between your community members can serve as a looking glass into what real customers think and feel about your business.

Here are a few other ways having a customer community can benefit your brand:

  • Directly address any feedback or complaints about your product or service.
  • Make quicker decisions about changes to your product.
  • Build new products or make improvements with your customers.
  • Find market fit for a new product faster and increase product adoption.
  • Access to highly-invested beta users.
  • Increased customer satisfaction.
  • Help you build customer advisory boards (more on this below).

Three ways your community can help you drive product success

1. Gather organic product feedback and understand customer needs

Just listen.

If you already have a customer community, your customers are likely already sharing what they think about your product and one of the best ways to drive product success is simply by listening to them and engaging.

Pay attention to the discussions that are naturally occurring at events and on online forums, and consider:

  • What features do customers talk about the most? What do they like about it? What do they find challenging?
  • What are common questions that come up? Is it about a particular feature set?
  • What workflows are they finding workarounds or using competitor products for?

As customers have these conversations, probe further to better understand why they feel that way.

For example, let's say a community member is complaining about a product feature. Don't take it at face value and tell the product team, "Customers hate Feature X." Instead, ask why the customer dislikes it and what they wish the tool did instead. This will help you better understand the core frustrations that customers are facing.

Once you've gathered this feedback, talk to your product teams and advocate for your customers. Leverage your understanding of the core needs to frame the issue: "When customers use Feature X, they're expecting it to do… because they need…. Instead, it does… and they find the experience frustrating."

2. Leverage customer advisory boards to get in-depth feedback

When a new product launch or change comes through the pipeline, I recommend creating a customer advisory board to gather in-depth feedback and inform the upcoming changes.

Customer advisory boards (CABs) can serve as an ongoing focus group for product teams to bounce ideas off. A consistent group of people enables both the customers and product managers to build rapport and trust, improving the depth and transparency of feedback and discussion.

When designing your advisory board, who you include is crucial. Be sure to select customers that are representative of your entire customer base. Don't only include your most loyal or highest paying customers. Consider including people who are new or free customers, from different countries, and more. This will make your discussions richer and allow you to see how different types of customers might react to each idea.

In addition, CABs need organizational support and product buy-in. There is no point in gathering customers to discuss a product and provide input if key stakeholders aren't interested in genuinely considering the feedback and making appropriate changes.

3. Share prototypes and get feedback from real customers

Another way to drive product success through your customer community is by involving them in ongoing product decisions. This can be early on when you're considering a few broad directions or when you're farther along in the design process.

Share low-fidelity (simple and low-tech) mock-ups to get a pulse check on whether your customers are on board with a specific direction. It also opens a discussion around a potential product change, so you can better understand why people like or dislike it.

For example, when one of the Product teams was considering a new direction for the Picsart app home page, we shared a few mock-ups and descriptions with the community so they could share which options they preferred and why. Their feedback has been kept in mind throughout the product lifecycle, and it's paid off — we've heard a lot of positive feedback from the community about the new page.

Paying attention to what your customers are saying about your product and looping them into product decisions will enable your company to create customer-focused products, leading to product success.

Jocelyn Hsu
September 8, 2022

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