Continuous Development with Customer Panels

Molly Miller, chief content officer

So you got out of the building and you’ve been talking with customers—and hopefully those whom have chosen not to be your customers. But now you’re wondering how to keep it going, how to continue to innovate with customers at the helm. And keep in mind, we’re still not talking about what customers tell you—we’re talking about what customers SHOW you. In other words, it should always be about watching and shadowing, while you’re developing—products or programs—your research should be more like ethnography than surveys (which have their place, that comes later).

But how do you incorporate that thinking into your continued development work, or perhaps the evolution of your legacy products? You need consistent feedback, not just one-off conversations. This is where advisory boards or innovation panels come in. But how do you find those people—that mix of customer and prospect, those that kinda like you, don’t like you, hate you, love you, etc.

What you need are user and buyer panels. You need to engage with a set of individuals by role who are your target users and buyers. This is absolutely critical to innovate legacy businesses. You outline the commitment—perhaps 3 months—of monthly calls and weekly email questions. You can use the call to show concepts over shared desktop. You may want to save up a few monthly calls and shadow again. Or you may want to design it so that you can do one day of shadowing followed by 3 months of concept iteration and weekly touch-base emails. Always use those interactions to also talk about any trends your panels are seeing. Ask them what they’re reading and what they are discussing, what are they worried about, what keeps them up at night. Sounds trite but this keeps you fresh and armed, always at the ready to think about how you can be better prepared to deliver the greatest impact to your customers—and those that will become your customers.

How are you working with your clients and customers? I’d love to hear what’s working for you. When did you use a customer panel that helped you truly innovate a legacy business product?

Molly Miller

Chief Content Officer, ALM, Molly is responsible for leading the integrated editorial organization to develop synergies between industries, identify new monetization opportunities and engage critical audiences. Since joining ALM in 2012, Molly has held several leadership positions, including Publisher of The Recorder and, Chief Content & Product Officer and Chief Marketing Officer. Previously, she held marketing, editorial market planning and product champion roles at Lexis Nexis after practicing law in Cincinnati and reporting for the Cincinnati Enquirer.