When you hear the term “Product-Led”, you probably imagine a product, UX, or engineering team with their heads down, quickly working through a set of planned features, dedicated to making the highest-quality and seamless product possible. However, there’s a big problem I have with Product-Led – it doesn’t encapsulate the true intent: putting your customer’s needs at the core of your business.

Product-Led as a term insinuates a well-built product sells itself. It's misleading and teams are falsely interpreting how to get there. Some spend months perfecting a product they assume customers want only to release it to the world and discover it doesn't stick. Even worse, build an entire brand or business in a direction their customers don’t want.

In any Product-Led initiative, customer pain has to guide every decision. Without a setup that enables you to listen authentically to customers and make small, quick iterations continuously, your Product-Led project initiatives will fail.

Before you waste time and energy in creating solutions no one wants, you need to understand the deep needs of your customers, then build for them – ruthlessly work to solve their pains and fulfill their deepest needs.

Product-Led is truly Customer-Led

This slight distinction may not seem like much, but a Customer-Led mindset recalibrates team assumptions. It’s now easy to see how crucial customer feedback becomes in success and how it requires alignment from every corner of your organization – not just the product team.

In the early stages of a start-up, this may seem obvious. But, for larger companies shipping new products or shifting away from the top, this continual iteration via feedback and cross-functional collaboration isn’t as obvious or as easy.

For all of you who are new or CX vets, I’ve laid out four simple steps to becoming “Customer-Led”, letting your customers guide your growth, and in turn, achieving your key results with a much higher chance for success:

  1. Continuously listen
  2. Focus on the authentic Voice of your Customer (VOC)
  3. Build a system for team transparency and accountability
  4. Iterate quickly and frequently

Preventing Fires > Putting out fires

Actions produce outcomes. There's something you're doing (or not doing that you should be) that's creating all these fires. Perhaps you’re acting on stale feedback gathered by a six-month-old NPS survey? Maybe you’re letting one loud customer control your strategic direction? Or worse, operating without data behind the why and throwing solutions at a wall to see what sticks?

To proactively prevent fires, you'll need to break the bad habits that lead to churn, bad customer experience, and decay.

By getting back to your roots and setting yourself up with a system that lets you listen to your customers in real-time and make decisions using hard data, you take the first step towards prevention. So, work to develop a continuous process of listening, respond with action, and measure the impact of your actions in the feedback. Once you've heard what your customers want, and you understand how your customers feel about the changes you’ve made, you’ll know what to do at every step. It's that simple.

Use available tech

Now, you may be thinking, "We just don't have the time or resources to focus this heavily on ALL of our customer feedback." Luckily for you, tech companies of all kinds are cranking out tools and software that do most of this work for you—utilize AI tools/platforms to reduce time & resource costs. In these instances, AI can not only automate your workflows but uncover high-level insights into your data. The right tools will gather your relevant data to produce your (holistic) Voice-of-the-Customer. 

Essentially, the Voice-of-the-Customer is the aggregate of customer conversations, feedback, and interactions that, if used correctly, can give actionable insights into each area of your business. You already have this data at your fingertips, whether in the form of a product review, a survey, customer support exchanges, or social media chatter, all you need to do is aggregate it and analyze it accordingly for customer insight. 

The problem right now is that companies are not looking at the entire voice of the customer because all of the conversations are scattered all over the place. Some happen in communities, others in slack, some in emails, some on Twitter. THEY'RE ALL OVER THE PLACE. It's not easy without technology to aggregate all of these voices into one, but it's crucial to know the true voice of your customer. Don't let the loudest voices win out in making your product decisions. There are platforms out there that will integrate with your data channels. Make sure you do your due diligence on which platform is right for your company.

You may be in Customer Success, Operations, Data Analytics, Account Management, or any other arm of the company, but each team needs to be able to coordinate a unified approach based on clear data. Without this cross-talk and mutually shared VOC data, there will be too much friction between teams to act quickly on the feedback you’re getting. So, get all your teams aligned by collecting the relevant data needed for each wing. If you're Account Management, integrate your emails and customer conversations to gather interaction sentiment; if you’re Customer Support, integrate your ticketing platform to automate your tagging; if you’re Product, stay on top of your product feedback to align your roadmap. With your customer insight and unified approach, you’ll produce a synergistic system that elevates your customer experience and spurs your growth.

What's coming?

If legacy corporations don't adapt fast enough, startups and small/medium businesses will adopt the technology that will inevitably flip the current power dynamic. If you're a startup, this is exactly the leg up you need. If you're a corp, better act fast to save yourself.

So, let’s recap our four simple steps to unlocking perpetual growth:

  1. Continuously listen
  2. Focus on the authentic Voice of your Customer (VOC)
  3. Build a system for team transparency and accountability
  4. Iterate quickly and frequently

My focus is to set companies up with efficient systems to capably listen and respond to their customers at scale. I'd love to grab a virtual coffee with anyone grappling with these challenges ☕