Sources of data you should seek out TODAY
More on making data-informed decisions
Welcome to our fifth newsletter issue. When it comes to data, it’s good to strike a balance with data, to be data-informed but not completely data-driven. Being completely data-driven risks people blindly following data that could be inaccurate, poorly instrumented or show only one side of the problem. Previously we talked about data that your business is likely already collecting. This article will focus on data that your business might not be collecting on a regular basis but should be. Get your team involved so there is shared context. You and your team should routinely review these sources so you have a sense of the market, your own user base and how they are and are not using the product.
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Product reviews of your own products and competitors
Depending on your product or service, you will find more reviews for B2C compared to B2B products. Look at websites like Trustpilot, Getapp. If you have an app, continuous reviewing the App Store and Google Play is also useful. Keep up to date with what your competitors are doing with their annual reports and yearly conferences. Subscribe to their newsletters or marketing, set up Google alerts with your competitors or category.
Considerations: These may eschew towards negative too. It is worth seeing if consistent things drive down product satisfaction. The reviews may help you identify tactical improvements, as well as inform your product strategy. Some of these sites are incentivised to present information in a certain way by sponsored content.
Competitor evaluation (AKA teardowns)
Slightly different to the above, this involves trying out your competitor products. Understand how the company positions their product to the customers. Create a document detailing how competitors products are addressing similar use-cases. Note down what are their differentiators and additional capabilities. Have different team members do this to supplement the notes. Have some kind of metrics or consistent assessment criteria so it’s easier to review later.
Considerations: Keeping an eye on the competitors is a good starting point. At the same time, replicating them is not a good product strategy. They likely have specific context and intel that drives their decisions and output. It is important to build your own perspective.
Market reports from research firms like Gartner, Forrester, IDC are a good leading indicator of where the industry is headed. These reports are created by interviewing companies on their strategy and vision. They also create syndicated industry and consumer facing research. Other good sources are magazines and news publications such as HBR, WSJ, The Economist. Use these sources to not only look at your industry but also adjacent industries or other businesses for inspiration.
Considerations: These reports would be high-level insights to inform the product strategy. The insights are not immediately actionable and better for long term planning.
Feedback from Sales or Success teams
Sales and Success are the teams that work directly with the customers. They are useful sources of insights into what customers expect from the product. Sales and Success teams often keep track of product gaps which result in deals lost. It’s worth gathering that data either in a formal way or informally by regularly attending their department meetings to hear what is discussed. Work with Sales and Success to look for opportunities to meet and engage with your customers. Try to join in on meetings they may have already set up, such as onboarding.
Considerations: The feedback might be biased to what is most memorable or what high-value customers request.
Forums, discussions, social media, community
User generated data can be another helpful source to review. This information will need some processing or tagging. The tagging will need to be consistent so that it is easier to review and see if there are some overall trends. You want to seek out information from where your users tend to go. It can be your own forum, Slack groups, communities, Facebook groups, Reddit, Stack Overflow, Stack Exchange, Hacker News. Potentially if you have a marketing team they may be using something like Hootsuite to keep apprised of what is being said on social media. A Google Alert based on your company and user group or feature might be helpful too. By using something like a tool or an alert you can make this into more of a passive data source that you get regularly into your email inbox or a dashboard.
Considerations: This data could also eschew to negative depending on where your product or service is discussed.
Early access program (EAP)/beta feedback
Your business might be in a habit of collecting feedback through product releases and updates, or just general feedback. It’s helpful to categorise or tag the data. Make it consistent with your other tagging. Have someone review them regularly, just in case your customers or users are using this as a channel to get help. Look at usage data to make it more quantitative or add some user feedback metrics to benchmark the experience.
Considerations: Similar to the customer support requests, these are likely to be customer support issues when customers can't get in touch with customer support, bugs, feature requests.
Ultimately it is good to use various sources of data and triangulate these. Strive to be data-informed rather than data lead, and if something catches your eye, an anomaly - investigate further from another source.
The sources suggested above should be collected and reviewed on a regular basis. Make it part of your team's practice to review and discuss together. Think about how or where all this information gets stored to make it useful. Scepticism or the ability to look critically at the data is a good thing as long as it’s not overly positive nor discerning.
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What other sources of data do you find useful? Share yours in the comments.
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