On route to an interview with Henry Ford in 1914, a surprised reporter noticed an aparrently carefree Ford driving down the street in the new touring car, windows down. The reporter later discovered that this was a common practice for Ford, who was often seen driving new car models around the streets of Detroit.
The point? The renowned businessman and pioneer of American industry still made time to test his product.
Knowing your product requires more than data analyzation and marketing strategies. While these processes are necessary—without them, businesses fail—some lessons are better learned outside the office.
If you truly want to know your product, you and your team need to be more than employees—you need to customers!
Ford was smart to test his own product, but other business leaders since his time have also recognized the importance of it. Brian Chesky, founder of Airbnb, listed his own living room sofa on his company’s website for many years to ensure that he didn’t grow too detached from the fundamentals of his own business.
At the peer-to-peer equipment rental company, Fat Lama, every member on the team lists items for rental on its platform. This helps all departments stay in direct touch with the product, enabling them to make recommendations for improvements from a customer’s perspective.
As you can imagine, this strategy is vital for startups and other young companies that depend on good customer experience during the infancy period of their respective businesses. It also serves to prevent the founder’s greater vision for the company from eclipsing the importance of everyday interactions with customers.
“To maintain perspective, set aside time each week to use your product as a customer and see your business through the customer’s eyes. Besides helping you identify the flaws in your business, it will help you celebrate successes and fundamentally keep your feet on the ground.”
Gaining a customer perspective can also fine tune your marketing strategies so they’re more tailored to your customer’s needs.
When it comes to marketing, it’s easy to rely on data when planning advertising campaigns. The thing is, numbers and surveys can only tell you so much about your audience demographics. The result data-driven marketing is often messages that are technically correct but not relatable to real people.
Not only does using your product help you create marketing campaigns that are enthusiastic, but also ones that have a human touch.
Another area that will improve when you use your own product or platform is customer service.
“Unless you work in the customer service department, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking about your users as numbers on a spreadsheet rather than real thinking, feeling people. This is a mistake that can kill businesses early on, especially with the prevalence of online reviews nowadays.”
When BuzzFeed launched, Jonah Peretti and his team spent a lot of time researching topics and articles that were trending. They knew that looking at things from a customer perspective would help them create a site that delivered exactly what users wanted.
“Being in tune with your clientele’s demands requires more than just quantitative research. You should be able to see what your users see.”
When you “step into the customer’s shoes,” you’ll instantly recognize the areas where your business needs to improve in service and support.
If you’re ever at a loss of how to make your brand resonate with your customers, take a cue from Henry Ford and “test drive” your own product or service.
“Understanding your products’ features allows you to present their benefits accurately and persuasively,” says Business Queensland. “Customers respond to enthusiastic sales staff who are passionate about their products and eager to share the benefits with them.”
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