In the first two posts in this series, I looked at user involvement as a product development strategy and user involvement as a marketing strategy. Regardless of whether you are interested in one or the other, there are a few basic things you as a company should do.
Here are my top four tips for getting off to a good start when making user involvement part of your business strategy:
1. Only ask about things you want an answer to
The worst companies are the ones that try to stimulate pseudo-involvement by asking all kinds of inane and pointless questions without any interest in the answers. If you are serious about promoting involvement and working with ambassadors, it’s important to ask only about the things you really want to know the answer to. In other words, questions where you don’t already know the answer or where you have a genuine interest in a useful answer.
2. Be specific
Experience shows that involving users in abstract and vague questions is difficult. When you involve users, it’s important to formulate a very concrete question so they can easily understand what they are getting into. It’s okay to involve users in complex issues that may be time consuming for them, as long as they fully understand the point of their involvement.
3. Ask about topics where the users can make a difference
Don’t involve people in questions if you already know they don’t have the competence to provide answers, or if you know the company won’t follow their recommendations anyway. Find topics and products where the users can make a difference and where their input has genuine value for the company.
4. Involve the product development department
Whether you are working with user involvement as a strategy for product development or marketing, it’s important that the strategy is anchored or lives in the product development department. The strategy needs to have a real influence on the company’s products, which won’t happen if the involvement strategy lives solely in the marketing department – or even worse, at your ad agency.
User involvement only works under very specific conditions and it’s important to understand those conditions. User involvement is by no means suitable for all products or companies and can rarely replace traditional marketing and product development. If you don’t understand its limitations (as presented in this series of three blog posts), you can easily end up wasting money on useless projects, or worse, actually damaging your company. So think very carefully before you start.