This Friday, June 26, join the folks at Enthiosys for the Innovation, Design & Serious Games Exchange 2009 in San Francisco. The session notes say,
If you are interested in how games solve problems, you are invited to IDSGE. This event is meant for a range of practitioners... from those who have heard provocative things about games or who have experimented a little... through those who use games on a regular basis... to those who design and develop games in the physical and digital worlds.
Pragmatic Marketing's Barb Nelson will be there, discussing the need for understanding market problems as a key element of product innovation.
Too many product managers use opinions when data is required; they are in the office more than they should be. Market facts are found in customer environments, not in company meetings. NIHITO, baby!
It seems reasonable to be able to visit customers in their place of work but my friend Dave wonders about visiting people in their homes.
I think this gets into a tricky area. How do you set up a home visit? And should you?
I don't know about you but I'd be cautious of being alone with people in their homes. Lots of opportunity for misunderstanding. So be sure to do home visits with a colleague. And this may be inappropriate to say but I suggest that men should always do home visits with a female co-worker. Maybe I'm just a victim of the sexual harassment police but I'm uncomfortable being alone with any woman who isn't my wife.
If you sell products for home use, you really should understand the customer environment. Sitting in a person's home reveals much about the person and about the way the product will be used. You can see how the product does or could integrate with the rest of the household. With customers, you can see misuse of the product or whether it's under a bed or table without adequate ventilation, for instance.
Years ago, we had a pilot project for PC use in truck stops. Neither the engineers nor the product managers anticipated how much dirt was found in a truck stop! We found a thick layer of dust covering the motherboard, the fan could barely move from the accumulation of grime, and the PC was running much hotter than designed--there was no way for it to cool down. After only one month, the PC was choking! Poor thing! While not a home-use example, the truck stop was an environment that we couldn't duplicate in a lab. After all, we all work in air-conditioned cubicles.
One product manager specializing in home-school products set up three home visits with home school parents and learned much about the way the home school area was set up (or wasn't) and how the parents integrating learning into the family structure (or didn't). Could you see that in a coffee shop?
But if a home visit isn't possible, an interview at a coffee shop is a nice alternative. In fact, in most cases I would suggest that you start with an interview in a public place. If the interview progresses well and you create trust (both ways), then a home visit is a nice follow-up.
In a coffee shop interview, ask the client to walk you through a typical day. How does paper move around? What approval steps are necessary? When do they use the computer and when do they use Post-It notes? A coffee shop interview is better than a phone interview but an in-home interview is best of all.
In the old days, family doctors made house calls an integral part of their practices. How can you understand a family's health without seeing the family's environment? The same is true for product managers of products used in the home.
Or said differently, "We know you opted out but we really want to spam you with our rubbish. Won't you please opt back in?"
How much are you annoying your customers? Think about your personal choices to opt in and opt out. Is it so that sales people and bad marketers can spam you? Or do you opt-in so you can receive valuable content? I choose the latter... and I buy when I'm ready to buy, not when it makes sense on some sales guy's forecast.
PS. Irony alert: Outlook marked this as spam when I forwarded it to myself at work.