#gxmxp Series

Product-Market Feedback Loops

As you initiate conversations with customers, they’re (hopefully) going to give you feedback. Some of that feedback is going to be about your market (i.e., your pricing, your value propositions, your website copy, your sales deck, etc). Other feedback will be about your product itself. 

To accelerate learning and find product-market fit, you need a system to collect all of that feedback and quickly implement changes based on it.

We call that a product-market feedback loop, and that’s what we’ll cover in this installment of the #gxmxp Series.

Feedback Is a Gift 

Having what we refer to as a “GrowthX Mindset” means setting your ego aside and striving to be less wrong tomorrow than you are today. We can’t stress enough the importance of learning. It’s the life blood of a startup and it always precedes revenue.

Feedback is a gift. At every stage of market development you are testing a very specific hypothesis. Without feedback you are unable to test your theories and get closer to the truth.

In One Ear and Out The Other

You just walked out of a pitch with a potential customer squarely in your ICP and it was a game changer. You were only scheduled to be there for 30 minutes but they gave you two hours. The feedback and insights they provided you were off the charts. You have an entirely new outlook on what to do and how to do it that’ll unlock this entire business! What happens now?

In most cases, nothing. Coming out of that enlightening meeting, most teams go to lunch and continue to banter about how awesome the meeting was and then the conversation stops. The feedback is not recorded, it’s not shared with the rest of the team and all of the potential learning is lost.

The purpose of creating a closed product-market feedback loop is to stop feedback leakage and to enable you to collect it, analyze it and share out the learnings.

Feedback should always have a follow-up, even if you ultimately decide against acting on it. The best way to do this is to be diligent about capturing and sharing it. Remember, most people talk about running “data driven” businesses but few actually do. Creating and maintaining a product-market feedback loop will enable you to walk the walk.

Context Matters

It’s important that you receive feedback in context and with perspective. All too often we see founders take feedback very personally or worse, take feedback very literally and turn every note in the comment box into the excuse for a knee jerk reaction.

Avoid the “tyranny of the anecdote.” Be aware of feedback from different Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs). The worst thing that can happen during this exercise is for the feedback to create an incohesive product or disjointed market messaging. This happens when people from different worldviews give a lot of conflicting feedback. 

Feedback is a gift. Click to Tweet

Don’t just take feedback at face value. Take the scientific approach and qualify all of it. Was it real feedback? Is it something you need to be concerned about? Is it something specific for the individual you’re hearing it from, or is it a problem for a larger segment of your market? That’s an important distinction because you want to eliminate as much friction as possible before it occurs.

Your iterations based on this feedback will come in a variety of different sizes and levels of intensity. You have to figure out how to prioritize them. Determine which ones you can do right away, which ones you won’t do, and which ones you can set on the back burner until you have more resources. 

Improve Communication

Creating a product-market feedback loop helps to minimize the communication gap that commonly exists between the market team and the product team. In many cases the product and market teams communicate very infrequently, if at all. This is a critical mistake which ends up revealing itself only through customer feedback. The good news is that it’s easily avoidable.

For the product team, they need regular communication with the market team to understand what feature requests are coming from the customers and why? This feedback will directly influence the product roadmap and the order in which things get built. Without this feedback your product team runs the risk of burning up costly development cycles on features that may or may not be related to the needs of your ICP.

While the market team is providing feedback from the customers the product team needs to provide back to the market team insights into what’s coming next, the vision of the technology and how that vision can translate into value propositions. Why is that valuable?

In building the pipeline, the market team will need to share with potential customers new features that are coming down the road to make the product more impactful and relevant. For example, the market team may be speaking with one or several prospects who are interested but would like to see a specific integration with a commonly used industry tool.

If the market team is unaware that the product team is working on that very integration, then they will likely tell the prospect that they cannot meet that requirement and move on from the deal. However, if the team is aware of that integration, then the market team can keep the deal alive. Remember, there are only so many qualified, ICP deals out there at any given time. You don’t want to lose one over something as simple as not knowing your own product roadmap.

Track Everything 

Before reading further, scroll over to the Resources/Downloads section and grab a copy of the Product-Market Feedback Tracker. This is a great template for collecting and organizing feedback. 

Use this template to document all of the feedback you receive. Don’t feel the need to make a separate entry for every little piece of feedback. You can group consistent messages into a single line on this doc. The most important thing is to make sure no feedback is lost. 

The first tab is for collecting product feedback on both new and upcoming features. This tab helps the market team know how to communicate new product updates to customers and it helps the product team communicate with the marketing team about what features are coming next.  

When your product is not fully developed, be prepared to tell customers about the next iteration. You never know when that new update will be exactly what someone is looking for.

Similarly, as you’re reaching out to people and building a pipeline, some opportunities will move very quickly and some will move slowly. You need a new reason to reach back out to people, and new product updates are a great way to do that (more on this in our next post).  

Here’s how to fill in each column for the product tab of the Product-Market Feedback Tracker:

  • Update Name: Give this update any label you want. Don’t worry about standard software updates or tiny changes to the UX. Focus on new features, functionalities, and integrations.
  • Update Description: What did you do with the product? What are the changes? Be specific with how this update impacts the customer’s business.
  • Date of Update: When did you make the update?
  • Push to Customers and Push to Pipeline: Do you let your customers know about this product update and/or do you push it to your pipeline? You may push the update to one group and not the other. Or you may push it to both or neither. Decide based on the nature of the update and based on the resources you have. Who will it be most relevant to?
  • Link to Messaging: Link to any new or old messaging that’s relevant to this update.

The second tab on this document is for market feedback. This is where you’ll collect feedback from customers and prospects (your market). You’re looking for friction. What concerns do people have? Are there problems with integrating your product into their existing workflow?

Here’s what to put for each column in the market tab: 

  • Feedback Name: Give the feedback a generic name so you and your team know how to refer to it. 
  • Feedback Description: Go into detail here. What’s the concern? Who is concerned? What’s the person’s title? Describe the feelings your customers are having. If you can use direct quotes from them, that’s even better. Also, be specific about whether this is product feedback or market feedback. 
  • Date of Update: When was the last time you got this feedback? 
  • Push to Market and Push to Product: For these two columns, determine what type of feedback the market is giving you. If somebody’s telling you that your pricing is wrong or that the problem you solve for them is actually much bigger than you thought, then you’ll want to push an update to marketing. If your feedback is about a bug or an integration fix, you’re going to push that to the product team. Identify who this information is intended for. 
  • Link to Messaging: If you create new messaging around this feedback, link to that here, or link to an old messaging document if appropriate.

What Matters to Customers?

All too often, we don’t appreciate the feedback we get enough. It goes in one ear and out the other. Take the time to listen to the feedback you’re getting. 

We see a lot of founders have weekly product update meetings, and they come out of them either very upset because things aren’t moving quickly enough or they’re really excited about a new product feature. But that’s where it stops.

It’s not enough for the founder to be satisfied that new things are happening. The people who need to be satisfied are your customers.

Do the product updates matter to your customers? How do you find out if they matter? And how do you take the feedback you’re getting from the market and implement it?

Customers are interested in your product roadmap because they can often get what they need from you cheaper and faster than they can building it themselves.

The Product-Market Feedback Tracker is your data-driven source of consistent feedback from your actual customers. There’s no challenging it. This is the truth and the goal of your company is to find that truth.

Next up in #gxmxp, we’ll show you more ways to create long-term communication with customers and your pipeline using additional outreach channels and new collateral. 

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