HomeBlog SiriusDecisions Summit 2016 Highlights: How Should Product Leaders Identify and Prioritize Customer Needs?

SiriusDecisions Summit 2016 Highlights: How Should Product Leaders Identify and Prioritize Customer Needs?

May 25, 2016 | By Drew Zalucky

  • The SiriusDecisions Needs Aperture is a straightforward process so product teams can drive growth and better inform key processes
  • Jeff Lash and Rachel Young presented this on stage at Summit 2016 to create a comprehensive view of the process to identify and select needs
  • The goal is to help organizations move from a product-focused orientation to one that is customer-driven

Not all needs are made equal.

When it comes to managing your property – especially major investments like a house or a car – it’s important to recognize the distinction between obvious, short-term needs and other decisions that you may need to make for the future. For instance, if your car’s radiator starts leaking, the need to schedule an appointment with a mechanic is self-evident. But to avoid such episodes in the future, you might want to consider investing in a long-term maintenance contract, or have the car thoroughly inspected for other parts that need to be replaced.

The same holds true in the b-to-b world. At SiriusDecisions 2016 Summit, Jeff Lash and Rachel Young used their presentation, “The Art and Science of Identifying and Prioritizing Customer Needs,” to inform delegates about using a new process that product teams can use to identify, prioritize and apply needs that have the best opportunity for commercialization. They made the point that intelligent growth must be based on the ability to address needs effectively. Unfortunately, many product teams lack a complete and consistent approach to identifying needs and selecting the most important needs to address.

As a result, many b-to-b product marketing and management teams focus too heavily on obvious and short-term needs. Jeff made the point that, "Companies focusing only on obvious needs miss out on the broader landscape of potential needs that could be addressed."

To help organizations solve this problem, Jeff and Rachel introduced the SiriusDecisions Needs Aperture, a process which uses the metaphor of a camera aperture (which dictates how much light enters the camera) to create a comprehensive view of the process to identify and select needs. Rachel emphasized how important it is to have a common definition of needs: "Though the concept of a need may seem so fundamental that it doesn't need to be described, our research shows that companies struggle to understand and act on customer needs because they lack a common definition of exactly what a need is."

The SiriusDecisions Needs Aperture is structured around five phases:

  • Frame. SiriusDecisions defines a need as a desired outcome that has business value for a persona. This phase sharpens the customer need expression and defines the data elements that must be gathered through research to identify the best needs to target.
  • Focus. This phase categorizes potential needs in terms of customer awareness and time outlook, and identifies which of these types the organization should prioritize. This widening of the product team’s view allows them to identify needs that customers may not even know they have – helping to avoid a myopic focus on obvious and short-term needs. 
  • Find. This is the investigative phase of research and data collection, where the organization uncovers the different types of needs. In this phase, product managers and marketers need to use different techniques and sources depending on the different types of needs they are trying to uncover.
  • Filter. During this phase, needs data is analyzed to determine which needs to investigate further – prioritized by potential commercial viability. This requires a consistent screening process, the organizations use external and internal factors to analyze identified needs. 
  • Formulate. In this final phase, the organization integrates needs into its innovation and go-to-market architecture – which forms the basis for the cross-functional process laid out in the SiriusDecisions Product Marketing and Management (PMM) Model.

Ultimately, the goal of the SiriusDecisions Needs Aperture is to help organizations move from a product-focused orientation to one that is customer-driven. By implementing a consistent, comprehensive and data-driven approach that allows product and marketing professionals to better identify, classify and prioritize needs, this shift becomes a lot easier. The SiriusDecisions Needs Aperture is a powerful, yet straightforward process that product teams can use to drive growth and better inform key processes.

Didn’t make it to Summit this year? Jeff and Rachel will be conducted this webcast, "The Art and Science of Identifying and Prioritizing Customer Needs," now available OnDemand.

Drew Zalucky

Drew Zalucky is an Editor at SiriusDecisions and has nearly 10 years of professional experience in editorial, publishing, management consulting roles and independent journalism.

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