What is the #1 Resource for Product Ideas?

5 May 2020 by Scott Middleton

80% of product managers say they don’t talk to their customers enough yet they report that their best sources of product ideas are direct customer feedback and market research.

A recent survey of 550 product managers by Alpha for the 2020 Product Management Insights Report reveals a gap between where product teams focus their time and where they actually get their best ideas from. Addressing this gap will give product development organisations better outcomes.   

Customer Feedback and Data Provides Best Insights

The first principle of a product-led approach is an outside-in perspective. That is, understanding your product and business from the perspective of your customer. This is what led to Google’s success and the success of many others. It’s why it’s the first pillar of their approach to product.

The data supports the importance of the outside-in perspective as well. In the survey, 2 out of the top 3 sources of the best product and feature ideas came from Direct Customer Feedback and Market Research. Direct customer feedback topped the list with 60% of respondents seeing it as one of their best sources of product and feature ideas.

Alpha 2020 Product Management Insights Report

Broadly, as a product community we also seem to understand this. The fact that 80% of the 550 product managers surveyed for the Product Management Insights 2020 report said they don’t talk to customers enough shows that the awareness is there. 

But most product managers are focused elsewhere

Yet as a group of practitioners we spend more time in meetings/email/Slack than any other activity. 

Alpha 2020 Product Management Insights Report

Additionally, when asked what the upcoming, pressing priorities are less than 12% listed more customer feedback and better market research. Instead product managers said their priorities were for (1) a clearer roadmap/strategy, (2) more development resources and (3) more opportunity for experimentation. Granted, experimentation could be seen as another form of direct customer feedback but it’s still third with strategy/roadmap a standout first.

Alpha 2020 Product Management Insights Report

What does this mean?

There is a clear gap between where product teams focus their time and where they actually get their best ideas from. 

Steve Blank, best known as the father of the lean startup movement says “Get outside the building”. Nothing interesting happens inside the office. 

Instead of living in email and meetings or aspiring to the ivory tower of strategy, product teams need to spend more time with customers and customer data. Clarity of thinking, communication with stakeholders and a disciplined roadmap are essential pieces of the puzzle but the genuinely game changing insights will come from outside the building.

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