Continuous Discovery

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Last week, I was attempting to sign up for a popular movie theater chain account on their mobile app and, after four unsuccessful attempts, I gave up. The experience was neither intuitive nor user-friendly and did not get me what I needed - the ability to make a movie reservation online. I grew increasingly impatient after each failed attempt, and it soured my opinion of the company. They lost a potential new customer (me) because it was clear they had not invested enough time or money to give me the best experience possible. They had not worked to gain my trust or foster confidence enough for me to want to build a relationship with them as a consumer.

That experience reminded me of the importance of what I get to work on each day. Realizing that this example includes apps from two vastly different industries, a point can still be made.

SmartDollar is a digital product that offers much more than a single job-to-be-done. Part of my role as a Digital Product Manager is to work to provide a product that will facilitate change in the hearts and minds of individuals and positively impact how they view and interact with money. Our goal as a product team for SmartDollar is to disrupt the toxic money culture we live in and help bring financial freedom to individuals who have become slaves to credit card debt, vehicle or student loans and 'normal' ways of relating to money. Our stakes are much higher because our impact can be so much greater.

Continuous Discovery

I believe Marshall Goldsmith may have coined the phrase “what got you here won’t get you there” in his book by the same name and I have found it to be true – personally and professionally. In the digital product space, I must be open to it being true there as well. We live in an ever-changing world and, while Dave Ramsey’s proven Baby Steps principles that lead to financial wellness need not evolve, how we communicate and share them within our digital products must. It does not necessarily mean throwing the baby out with the bath water. But it will require continuous discovery and partnering with our customers to stay in sync with what they need and want, to help determine what we should build.

Consider your favorite digital products, or the ones you use regularly: Netflix, Venmo, eBay, PayPal, Spotify, Yelp, Verizon, etc. Now think about how often they change and improve.  The good ones are in constant contact with their customers and make enhancements often (based on customer feedback), gain new customers and delight existing ones. Shouldn’t SmartDollar product development be viewed through the same lens?

We can all remember products from days gone by that lost market share and either drifted into obscurity when they lost sight of what their customers needed, or simply went under altogether – Blackberry, MySpace, Kodak, or my husband’s fave, MapQuest. (He still uses the phrase “just MapQuest it” quite often). No one wants to be the digital product manager on one of those products, right?

Questions for product teams

So, what should continuous discovery look like for SmartDollar? Teresa Torres, author, speaker, and product coach has a great article on this topic here, but for us, it is making a habit of asking product questions and giving serious thought and consideration to the possibilities. For example, how can (should) we re-think our entire digital user experience?

What do our customers need to be successful and, of equal importance, how might we help define “success” for them?

What do our customers need right now? Many are coming to us with a problem they want to solve. They are not necessarily coming to us for a framework, but what our framework provides. How might we help them solve that immediate problem, or give them answers to a specific life situation they are experiencing, then show them how it is linked to the Baby Steps? Is there a clear and uncomplicated way for us to reach them with relevant or even curated content?

What are our customers saying (and are we talking with them regularly)?

Have we identified our customer segments (i.e., personas)? And do we understand what behaviors those personas uniquely exhibit within our product, what their product journeys look like?

How are we capturing, socializing, prioritizing and solutioning product opportunities?

How might we obtain and visualize life change for our customers, by way of sound education and better financial habits? What does our feedback loop look like and is it something we are reviewing consistently?

What experiments can we run, or validation research can we perform to obtain clarity?

This is not an exhaustive list of questions, but it is a good start.

Never Give Up

At Ramsey Solutions, all our products – digital and analog – seek to change lives.  This is why one of our core values is that we “never give up; we will impose our will on the marketplace.”  This is why we do not have the option to quit, or to deliver subpar digital products that do not foster trust and confidence. (Business moves at the speed of trust, doesn’t it?) 

If we surrender the field and do not intentionally seek to serve our customers well, someone who needs hope and help will not get it. We must make continuous discovery a priority.