How Well Do You Know Your Customer?

September Event Review: “How Well Do You Know Your Customer?” with Laura Klein, Author, Principal of Users Know

By Dan Galatin

Laura Klein gave an informative and entertaining presentation at the September 7th meeting of the SVPMA, focusing on a useful framework for understanding users and their needs: the User Map.  Laura started by asking a provocative question to the audience: How well do you know your users?  It’s imperative for product managers to know the users of their products thoroughly, and be able to disseminate this knowledge to the rest of the team so you can make more effective decisions.

Traditional techniques that help product professionals to understand their users include personas, empathy maps, jobs to be done, and customer journey maps.  Laura stated that she likes these techniques, but they can be easily misunderstood or misused.  Teams aren’t always sure what to do with these artifacts – for example, personas can be prescriptive of the type of people who might use the product, but often aren’t specific enough to be actionable.  PMs need a better view of users that covers the entire lifecycle of their usage of the product, as well as a tool that is less complicated to use.

Laura came up with a set of 16 key questions that product managers often ask about their users, and categorized them into the User Map.  The general categories include:

  • Channels & Influencers: How will you attract potential users?
  • Goals & Purchase Intent: How do you know someone will be a user?
  • User + Product Fit: How do you know your product fills a need?
  • Context of Use: How will your user interact with your product?
  • Future Use: How will your user grow and change?

Each category of the User Map consists of a set of questions that you must answer in order to fully understand your users and how they will use the product.  Each category is important and necessary to understand, but user + product fit is particularly central for PMs: how does your product “make the user better”?  Understanding user needs will help you predict which features are most important for specific users.

Context of Use is also fascinating to consider and important to get right: when, where and with whom people use the product – and why.  While we all spend much of our energy thinking about day to day tactics, it’s also crucial to think of Future Use: how usage of the product will change over the course of time, and how users themselves will change over the next few months and the next few years.  Seeing how power users use the product is often a good indicator of the directions the product could take going forward.  Products often serve more than one type of user, and Laura recommends creating a user map for each user type, since the answers to the questions are likely to be different in each case.

It’s also imperative to validate the answers that you’re providing to the questions with actual user research, rather than relying on “guesswork and optimism.”  In closing, Laura urged the audience to keep in mind that the User Map is intended to be a living document rather than a static artifact that’s set in stone!

Dan Galatin has over 20 years of combined experience in product management and software engineering.  He is Director of Communications for the SVPMA and can be contacted at