We’re going to kick it old school this time around and take a look at one of the key skills that every product manager should be good at, but all too often we’ve been working so hard that we’ve neglected this task: turning prospects into actual paying customers. If you can’t already list this skill on your product manager resume, then when we are done here you’ll be able to…
The Wrong Way To Do It: AIDA
After all of my years of being a product manager, I have come to one blindingly obvious conclusion about my customers that shapes everything that I do. My customers don’t buy my product. Rather they buy what my product can do for them.
This means that every account manager that I end up working with needs to have the same goal that I do: how can I motivate a prospect to get them to become a customer? Yeah, yeah – we product managers can talk all day about this feature or that feature of our product, but if we do we are forgetting something that should have been listed on everyone’s product manager job description: product management will always be an emotional job because our customers will always buy based on emotions, not logic.
Oh sure, after their gut has told them what product to select they’ll come back around and build a fancy logic framework to support their emotion-based decision, but it will all be a lie. Armed with this knowledge, what is a product manager to do?
When it comes to the strategic management of prospects, it turns out that our brothers and sisters in the Sales profession have known about this emotionally-guided decision making process for a long time. They’ve developed a framework for guiding prospects and turning them into customers that we should all be following today (you are, aren’t you?) in every piece of product-related material that we produce.
Ask any business development manager and they’ll tell you that the traditional process of generating customers starts by getting their attention. Next you want to generate interest in them (sometimes referred to as creating arousal). This is followed by sparking desire for your product or service. Finally, it all wraps up with a call for action – what steps do you want the prospect to take in order to become a customer? The whole process is referred to as AIDA (awareness, interest, desire, action).
The problem with the AIDA approach is that things are left pretty wide open for interpretation as to exactly how to go about doing it. What’s the real difference between awareness and desire? You get my point – nice acronym, but tough to put into practice in the real-world.
The Right Way To Do It: Promise & Proof
I’ve got some good news for you. It turns out that there’s a better way to go about turning your prospects into customers. Business consultant Herman Holtz identified a two-step process that achieves the same goals.
His process consisted of the following two steps: making promise to your customer and then providing the proof that you’ll be able to deliver on that promise to them. Perhaps an example would help to make this system clearer.
A current TV show, Bar Rescue, deals with a consultant visiting failing bars and helping them to win more customers and become profitable again. The show’s star, Jon Taffer, has a very interesting way of looking at just exactly what product a restaurant is selling. He believes that a restaurant is selling human reactions: if you don’t react to a plate of food then the restaurant has failed. If you smile, then the restaurant has succeeded.
This is exactly where the promise / proof technique comes in to play. The key to this approach is exactly what we’ve been talking about: people will buy your product not because of what it is, but rather because of what they can do with it. They don’t want to own it – they want to enjoy what they can do with it.
So what are you offering to your customers in all of those brochures, web sites, flyers, etc. that you spend your time making? Is it the product and a price? Nope, in reality your offer to your prospect is the benefit that you say that your product can deliver. Your prospect wants to know how they can gain the benefit that you are promising them that your product will deliver.
Ultimately it’s all going to come down to the proof that you’ll be able to deliver. Your prospects are going to need to see proof that your product can deliver on the promise that you are making. This means that you need to use certifications, testimonials, reviews, logical arguments, authoritative statements, and guarantees to turn your prospects into customers.
What All Of This Means For You
Taking a quick look around the product management ecosystem, you can find a lot of suggestions for how product managers can get their products noticed by potential customers (a.k.a prospects). What’s been missing is how product managers can help to turn those prospects into paying customers.
Traditionally product managers have been taught to use the following four steps in order to attract prospects and turn them into customers: attention, interest, desire, and action (AIDA). The problem with this approach is that it has always been rather unclear how to actually go about doing it.
I’m proposing that product managers adopt a new approach: promise and proof. This is much simpler and immediately gets to the point. This approach requires a product manager to crawl into a customer’s mind and really understand what promise they view the product as delivering. Once this is understood, the next step is to provide the almost-customer with the proof that they need in order to commit to selecting your product.
Now that you have this understanding of the role that a product manager has in turning prospects into customers, you need to go out there and do it. No, you are not in sales, but you are part of the team that is responsible for making sure that your product is a success. Good luck!