Three Reasons Why People Buy Your Product

A photograph of Jamie Barnett.

November Event Review: “Three Reasons Why People Buy Your Product (and Why They Should Guide Everything You Do)” with Jamie Barnett, High Technology Leader, Adjunct Lecturer, and Pot-Stirrer.

By Steven Xiao

Persuading people to sacrifice their time, money, self-esteem or the like for another item is by no means easy, yet this is a burden of love on a product manager’s shoulders.  Over a course of an hour, Jamie Barnett introduced SVMPA members to a fundamental framework with heuristic methodology and a facilitated a role play.

Barnett broke the ice with a social engineering case.  In late January this year, the Center for Homelessness for the San Mateo Human Services Agency dispatched members to count the number of people sleeping on the street over one night.  They found 616 people were sheltered and 637 were not.  The biggest benefit, among other advantages, the sheltered people had is that they could shower and wash their clothes, which in turn helped them feel better about themselves.  The people struggled with their self-confidence because of not having these amenities.  With a mission to help the homeless, the agency faced a significant challenge, which looks like a classic product management issue.

The question of why people buy a product essentially guides where product managers should spend resources.  Whereas we could be diverted by market allurement, executive accounts’ endless wish lists, and competitors’ tactics, the paramount rule is to focus on our vision, should be directed toward the problems we desire to solve for our customers.

Reason 1: Use Cases – Does a company solve problems customers have? Can pains be articulated? Before we release our products, we have to demonstrate a deep empathy and understanding about what customers are going through.

An effective use case:

  • Describes pain points,
  • Quantifies pain points,
  • Selects functional requirements, and
  • Identifies technical requirements.

The foundation of a feasible use case is built upon extreme customer empathy.  From Barnett’s perspective, the following situations may not reflect that empathy:

  • Input from a CEO who is talking yet not listening to and observing customers.
  • Steering from a product manager lost in KPIs.
  • Advice from a marketer who hears only an end story.

Hence, rather than being the three smartest people aforesaid in a company, product manager need to be the dummies in that they are elevating the collective knowledge of a whole company by:

  • Asking questions,
  • Observing customers,
  • Listening to customers’ complaints,
  • Living their pains, and
  • Doing cross-functional check-in with all stakeholders.

Reason 2: Competency – Who is this company? What is it good at? What it is known for? And do customers value its solution?

Barnett used her former company as an example of how continuous improvement, rigorous measurement, vision-driven customer success, and scoring audition uplifted a mediocre product to the north of customer satisfaction.

Reason 3: Credibility – Can customers trust a product or a company?

Questions are raised by Barnett to encourage thinking of an infinite process of building and amplifying credibility include:

  • Do customers trust you?
  • Do they trust your vendors?
  • Do they trust a product?
  • What do analysts say about you?
  • How do presses report you?
  • How do your customers talk about you?
  • How are people experiencing with you sales persons?
  • How does a leadership behave?
  • What is your culture?
  • Are opinions from people in different functions of your company consistent? Are they on the same page?
  • Do your artifacts such as website echo your vision and competency?
  • Is your customer experience good enough to bring customers back?

After elaborating these three points, Barnett concluded her presentation by turning back to the challenge facing the homeless shelter agency and revealing the best solution: instead of waiting for people to come to shelters, the agency brought showering and laundry services to the people through mobile shelters called “Dignity on Wheels.”  This way the homeless service agency successfully wins their customers by solving their pains, building and amplifying competency, and strengthening credibility.

Steven Xiao graduated from Brigham Young University with his MBA program and is working for a start-up in Santa Clara.  He can be reached at

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