There is No Manual: Changing Your Product’s Rules to Appeal to New Customer Segments

Every company wants to see their customer base grow. This is one of the baseline metrics of success. But if a product is built for one core group of users, how do you know which way to move your product as you try to appeal to a new segment? In our most recent product office hours, we spoke to a company called Effektif about this issue and how they could plot their path forward.

Effektif has spent the last few months building a BPM tool that could be billed to Enterprise level clients as the “simpler” solution. After a brief perusal of the product, it was clear that compared to market competitors like Salesforce and SAP, Effektif was a more straight-forward tool. In addition to continuing to improve the product for their Enterprise customers, Effektif wants to expand their market to small and medium sized companies. As Effektif’s rep, Peter Hilton says, “we see simpler tools as both the future for big companies and a way to introduce BPM to smaller companies,” which is a great hypothesis for them to validate.

It was clear that Effektif understands the Enterprise market really well. Their tool didn’t require massive tutorials, but there was an expectation that their customers would receive training and would check out a manual. The usability of Effektif’s BPM reflected this. There were several features and flows that I didn’t even notice until Peter gave us a demo and navigation was not intuitive.

I talked to Peter about my experience as a Product Manager at a smaller company and how I would have used this tool. A lot of the product’s value wasn’t initially apparent, but after I saw the demo I thought of several instances where it would have been incredibly useful.

During our session, we encouraged that Effektif stop thinking about how to market the value of their Enterprise BPM to small businesses, and start thinking about how to evolve a version of the tool into a Small-Business BPM. Applying old rules to new customers doesn’t work, you’ve got to create a new foundation of understanding. Effektif needs throw out their assumptions about small businesses and carve out time to discover what’s valuable and what’s not so important. This means getting out of the building and having conversations with people who work at small companies, which will drive out a new rules like, “I don’t have time to do a training,” “I need to be able to easily delegate these tasks without extensive discussion,” and “I really need a BPM that has X template.”

Without a solid understanding of what a new customer segment needs to accomplish, the chances of creating an indispensable product are slim. Kathy Sierra, one of my favorite product people once said, “People don’t want to be great at your product, they want to be great at the context.” In Effektif’s case, people want to be great at their jobs, and they want a tool that doesn’t get in the way of that. Attempting to capture new customers means throwing out the old rule book and finding the stuff that makes your product’s value crystal clear.

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