Up Your Skills: Know How to Sell Continues Feedback Cycles

Getting early feedback is the key to success. How do you help your client understand that?

Getting continues feedback is hard to sell in the IT industry. Do not ask me why. I am not sure I understand myself.

Asking critical questions on market fit raises eyebrows. Mentioning customer journeys gets brushed away with “oh that’s not necessary”.

It is as if the south German sector likes spending money. Disregarding any risk management strategies. “We will get to it when we see it” is one of the most common reasons. Or the ever so anxiety inducing: “We just need an app”.

More often than not, clients come with a ready-made design. Put together by the in-house graphic designer. Supervised by a manager with little to no product experience.

In a perfect world, companies justify that product. Either by the marketing team, or by the product design team. But it hasn’t. The application has been a brainchild of a person with authority. Most likely based on something this person has seen the competition do.

And guess what. There’s nothing wrong with that. We cannot blame who that does not know.

Our Job as Product Designers

It is our task to help the client understand the importance of continuous feedback. But how do we do that?

The obstacle to overcome is the fact that people know apps. People have recognized repeating patterns and formed opinions on them.

Although it is not rooted in proven principles, people understand apps. They use them on average 3 hours a day.

For me, that’s all an “of course”. And it’s helpful to have a general direction. Sometimes it slows down the process, too. The thing we have to be most wary of is when the original idea is based on assumptions.

How do we communicate that building an app on assumptions is too risky? (Do You Recognize the 5 Early Warning Signs of a Product Failing?).

I have learned that selling benefits is effective. Supporting those selling points with memorable analogies strengthen them.

Here are the benefits of getting feedback early. With the goal, that we can better articulate the reason why we should.

Three Stages Where Feedback Can Save

Getting feedback happens at three stages of a product development’s lifecycle.

The First Phase: Market Research

The first is in market research. Usually carried out by the marketing team. Sometimes by the hired product designers (oh no!). Collecting information on how the target group experiences the problem is the main goal. It exists out of quantitive data from analytics and qualitative data from focus groups.

The benefit of getting feedback this early is you can tune your idea to what people expect.

Imagine building a way to get off the train station. You planned on building stairs, yet one person from the focus group has a partner that uses a wheelchair. You now understand you need a ramp, instead of steps.

The Second Phase: Idea Validation

The second phase is during the initial sketching of the product. That can be a quick paper prototype, or clickable mockups. Or anything in-between.

It’s geared to the initial idea and concept of the app. The features are defined and the first prioritized features are being tested.

I use the term ‘prioritized’ to not confuse them with ‘necessary’. Features like the registration of an account might be necessary. But, don’t need testing. Yet.

When you’re building the next YouTube, make sure you test your differentiating feature. Put naming a channel in the backlog, for now.

… And for one of the biggest misunderstandings: A minimal viable product is NOT a collection of the bare necessary features. It is a collection of features worth testing. Save your money and test the features that matter first.

The Third Phase: Per Cycle Feedback

The third round of feedback is a tough one. It both involves the existing features tested on large audiences. And other features get validated before the programmers get their hand on them.

When you are a small team, you might want to split over several development cycles. If you have the capacity, you keep track of both.

This way you have that continues improvement cycle, refining your application as it grows. (The true meaning of ‘updating’.) New features are not added too carelessly, and existing features are getting better.

That is risk management in a nutshell.

Conclusion

Selling has become easier now we have articulated the benefits of continues feedback loops. I will refine this over time, no doubt. For now, I want to keep this an open conversation.

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