Thinking Like Your Customer Will Improve Product Development

Mallory Merrill

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The crux of any great product or business begins with some simple psychology. Learn this golden rule of marketing, and you will dramatically improve product development.

Your customer is not a cash cow.

In fact, your customer is a real person… just like you.

Building your product strategy, outreach, and marketing campaigns around that fact will enable you to strike a real cord with the real people who set your paycheck.

In other words, implementing a successful business plan for your product must include getting up-close-and-personal with the people who buy your offering. If you want to improve product development, you have to think like the people who are using your products.

One THING to Rule Them All...

Think Like Your Customer, Improve Product Development

While it’s possible that the customer is not always right, it remains true that in order to have a successful product-- one that enjoys continuous growth and customer retention-- you must do one thing better than any other thing. Salespeople, marketers, software developers, and business owners must:

satisfy the needs of customers

Simple, right? But maybe not so simple as it appears. Learning how to meet the needs of your customers can often mean mentally separating yourself from the product. As it turns out, removing yourself from the equation can actually be really hard to do (especially because your product is your brainchild and millions of years of protective instincts encourage you to think of your own “children” first).

But, despite the sociological agility required to do think like your customers, stepping into your clients’ shoes is the most effective way to reveal your clients’ needs and motivations. If you can think like your customer, you can improve their experience and dramatically improve your software product.

Here’s how…

The Short Recipe for Success: One Part Smooshy, One Part Strategy

Good product marketing involves focusing your efforts in two basic, albeit broad, categories:

  • Customer Satisfaction (you know, the smooshy stuff-- the emotional bond you need to create with your users)

- and -

  • Research-Based Strategy (the analysis, planning, and implementation stuff)

Both categories are critical but, just like many relationships, it starts with (and is strengthened by) the smooshy stuff…

Here’s your part:

As person whose goal is to develop a great product and reliably grow a business, you need to recognize that your customers literally complete you. Your product wouldn’t exist without your customers, and to truly serve their needs, you have to know who they are.

Duh, right? But knowing who your consumer is is about more than just knowing what labels you can apply to a target demographic; it’s about understanding what makes them happy or stressed, understanding what they do, and what motivates their decisions.

Connecting to your customer is about sharing their values, relating to their experiences, and ultimately, it’s about enhancing their lives with your service.

Embracing the human traits and pain points of your clients informs your ability to support them. If you want to accelerate your product, you have to consider the perspectives, fears, and motivations that affect PEOPLES’ consumption decisions.

Two Other Things:

Trust is a Must

The surest way to sell your offering, is to first “sell” your business. Consumers buy brands that they connect to and they support businesses they feel, for one reason or another, emotionally drawn to. People do businesses with businesses they trust.

So-- sell your products by being the company that makes consumers feel confident. Create simple paths for them to follow to your products, hold their hand as they traverse that customer path, and create an experience for them that assuages fears and personal buying barriers.

Prove to your customer that you “get” them by answering the “why you” and “why this” question BEFORE asking them for their patronship. Buyers have a lot of choices, and your most important job is to show them why your service is the one they should choose.

Camaraderie vs Commodity

Remember when Princess Jasmine declares that she is “not a prize to be won;” that, instead of a target to hit or a segment of the market to own, she was actually a human person with individual hopes, fears, stressors, and aspirations?

This is a powerful moment for a young Disney Princess, but it can also be an important lesson for product developers. Your “target market” is not just a business asset, it’s people who need proof that you are worth their time.

Your “key demographic” is made-up of people who will choose you-- or choose someone else-- based on your ability to make an authentic connection.

As I remember it, Aladdin didn't win Jasmine’s affection because he had a hilarious genie-in-a-bottle or a charming pet monkey. Jasmine chose Aladdin because he repeatedly demonstrated that he cared for her.

Believe it or not, the same is true for your customers. You can improve product development by simply proving your commitment to your users' happiness. Show your customers that you're in their corner and, by golly, they will be loyal to your brand.

Two More Things:

As a salesperson or marketer, you hear this phrase all the time:

Fish Where the Fish Are

And it’s appropriate advice. You can’t catch a fish if there are none in the water. The same is true for marketing; you can’t make a sale if your offering it in a space where no one is interested.

But it’s bigger than that.

You have to market where your market is hot, yes; but you also have to talk to them in the right way. You have to give people the right message. You have to demonstrate your purpose and your values in a way that compels the people you want to serve to actually become your customer.

Massage Your Message

I don’t mean to be cute here; what I mean is that you need to figuratively massage your brand messaging until it’s absolutely perfect. Work and re-work your marketing copy and visual media until it does two basic things:

  • Represents your brand (your intentions, your values, and the solutions your product/s offer)

  • Appeals to the people you want to serve (evoke an emotional response in your customers; compel, engage, entice, build trust)

You see, an intentionally-crafted value proposition—one that tells your story and effectively communicates your offerings and the benefits therein—is as important as a strong handshake. Your value prop should be both an introduction and a warm welcome.

Your messaging must introduce your brand and your products in a way that resonates with actual people; it must tell people who you are, what you do, and why they should invest their time and money in your product instead of someone else's.

Professionally and appropriately branded marketing is the face you put forward to meet your consumers. Make that face relatable and memorable; “smile” at your consumers, and you will see a measurable payoff.

A sense of hospitality is important to people, and common-ground makes us feel warm-and-fuzzy. Welcome people into your brand and, if you’re successful at fulfilling their needs, they will become (and remain) your customer.


In the end, the most successful businesses are not those who simply know their “market,” it’s those who know the person who consumes their service.

Reaching all the way back to an earlier digression about product developers instinctively protecting their brainchildren, let me say this: to have an infallibly successful brainchild (aka, your product), you have to think first of the things that enable your brainchildren to survive.

I think you know where I’m going with this…

If you take a fish out of water, it will suffocate; and if you disregard the consumers of your product, your product will fail.

Keep the life-blood flowing in your software products by learning to think and feel like your loyal customers. If you can foster a genuine, personal, and smooshy relationship with your consumers, your product will flourish… well… like fish in the water.

If you think you might need help developing your own software product, check out this article on how hiring an outside dev team (like us at DevSquad), can get your product to market faster.

You might also like this free email course created by Phil Alves, our very own CEO and serial entrepreneur. Check it out here:

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