MarketSmart Case Study: Consistent User Research

Rajesh Nerlikar June 7 2021

The following is adapted from Build What Matters.

In late 2017, Elizabeth Weiland heard Ben’s This is Product Management podcast episode on mentorship and reached out to Prodify to find a mentor as she stepped in to become the first Product Manager at MarketSmart. MarketSmart’s products are designed to help fundraising gift officers at nonprofits land more meetings with major and legacy donors, whose donations play a huge part in helping a nonprofit achieve its mission.

Like any startup PM, Elizabeth had to make tough prioritization decisions, so we used the Vision-Led Product Management framework to help her make those choices. We discussed different ways to connect with customers and users to inform the product direction. One of the first things we did together to better understand what key outcome customers sought was to run a one-time importance vs. satisfaction survey to see how customers prioritized different outcomes and how satisfied they were with their existing solutions to achieve those outcomes.

The results from this survey prompted some new questions that no survey could realistically answer, so Elizabeth set out to conduct user interviews to better understand how customers viewed the value of her product and where they wished it did more. The survey results and user research summary served as a pre-read for a one-day vision and strategy workshop with the executive team, which helped the team identify a pathway to hitting their next business milestone by delivering new value to customers.

As Elizabeth reflected on the engagement and how it shaped the future of the product, here were her three key takeaways:

  1. “Create a product vision. We still use the same product vision and mission in describing our dashboard (though this will be expanding to encompass our entire product suite). Understanding the importance of the vision of our dashboard has given us a north star and ensured that we do not stray from that. It's been instrumental in setting OKRs on a quarterly basis. Before having a product vision, we were building features based on a gut feeling instead of listening to what our customers wanted and needed."
  2. “Talk. To. Your. Customers. You hear it everywhere, but for whatever reason, it can get pushed back, and then you hesitate to pick it back up. When my work piled up, I stopped talking to customers for a few months. But I lost sight of what customers wanted...what their pains were...what they thought we were doing really well. Getting back into interviews even if there's not a topic (for instance, just a check-in to see how things are going and see where the conversation takes us) is crucial in my role, and I'm now passing on the best practices I learned to our UX researcher/designer. When you don't talk to your customers, you lose sight of what matters to them and can fall into the trap of building the wrong product or feature and wasting your time, engineering's time, and possibly losing a customer!"
  3. “Consider different types of research to better understand your customers. Yes, learning how to structure user interviews is important. Surveys can be insightful, but the one thing that truly helped lead us down the path to our next major revenue goal that we refer to constantly is the result of the importance versus satisfaction survey, particularly for donors and fundraisers. The outcomes of these surveys have been a constant reminder of what donors and fundraisers actually want, and where they feel there is a gap. It especially continues to make the product team keep donors at the forefront of everything we do. ‘How will this make the donor feel?’ The results have sparked ideas about how we can create new products nonprofits can purchase that will satisfy the fundraiser wants and the donor wants.”

Are you trying to create a strong customer journey vision? Click here to get our free step-by-step guide to crafting a compelling vision for your product.

Written by Rajesh Nerlikar

Rajesh is a co-founder of Prodify and Principal Product Advisor / Coach. He is currently the VP of Product at Regrow. Prior to that, he was the Director of Workplace Products at Morningstar, a Senior PM at HelloWallet (which was acquired by Morningstar) and a PM at Opower (which went public in 2014).

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