biz ladiesLife & Business

Biz Ladies: How to Get the Feedback You Need to Create a Knockout Product

by Stephanie

Today’s Biz Ladies post comes from Tara Gentile, previous Biz Ladies contributor and business strategist for entrepreneurs making a difference through commerce in the You Economy. She’s also the co-founder and lab director of Kick Start Labs, a microbusiness accelerator that teaches sound business principles through experimentation. Today, Tara offers some strategies for better understanding your customers. Thanks, Tara, for this insightful post! — Stephanie

Illustration by David Saracino

Read the full post after the jump . . .

We all dream of developing a product so great that it flies off the shelves. It gets glowing reviews, it hits the media, it wows your customers, it pads your bank account.

To develop that knockout product, you need to know your customer. Really know her.

You need to watch her, listen to her, study her. Her feedback and your observations go a long way toward creating a product that is more than she ever imagined, a “no brainer” purchase. I have a knack for just this sort of thing, and I’m ready to share my strategy with you today.


The best way to learn about your customer and how you can wow her is by observation. Think like an anthropologist. Your goal is to observe her in her natural environment.

Take her out of that environment and she’s sure to act erratically — telling you what you want to hear, becoming self-conscious about her behavior, adjusting her language. Your goal isn’t to observe how she acts and what she says around you; your goal is to observe how she acts around her friends, family or coworkers.

Find her where she shops, works or socializes. Watch for patterns of behavior, and listen for repeated phrases. Take note of anything you find unusual or interesting.

One of the first pieces of homework I give to many of my clients is to go window-shopping at a high-end mall or boutique. Because so many of us are, rightly so, selling products to people in a socioeconomic bracket we’re unfamiliar with, we have to stretch our comfort zone and get to know these people better! If you’re used to shopping at the Gap, go check out how people shop at Neiman Marcus. If you’re used to eating at Chipotle, treat yourself to happy hour at the four-star Mexican fusion place downtown. Take notes.

Your direct observations will color the rest of the feedback you gather and will lead you as you prepare questions, analyze results and begin product development.


Once you’ve started on the feedback journey through observation, your next goal is to talk directly with your customer about her experiences. You can do this in person (coffee is a delicious business expense), through social media, or by using a survey tool like Survey Monkey or Google Forms.

When you’re talking to your customer directly, your goal is to leave yourself out of it. Ask your customer about her own experiences to get a truer representation of the opportunities you might have to serve her through a product or service. The worst mistake you can make in gathering feedback is to ask people about you or your business: “What would you like us to create for you next?” is a terrible question.

Instead, frame your questions about your customer and her world:

  • Ask about her history: Tell me how you went from studying piano to working for Google.
  • Find out how she feels about competitors: Where else do you shop for stationery? What do you think about their products?
  • Discover her values: What do you look for in a gift?
  • Ask about her choices: How do you choose between two dresses you really like?



Everyone gets frustrated from time to time. If your product is viable, it inevitably relieves someone’s frustration. Whether it’s as simple as the article of clothing that ensures you’re never standing naked in front of your closet for more than three minutes or as complicated as the book that puts you on the path out of the cubicle, your customer’s frustration is your inspiration.

Try to discover what is frustrating your customer as it relates to the product you want to create. Think about these questions:

  • What keeps you from enjoying _____?
  • How is _____ taking more time than it should?
  • Why are you avoiding _____?
  • What’s really challenging about _____?


Your goal isn’t to find out what your customer wants you to create but to discover the information you need to create something better than what they want.

For example, when I wrote my book The Art of Earning, I knew that my customers were frustrated about their ability to make more money. But by surveying their experiences, I discovered that their frustration flowed even deeper: They were uncomfortable with pricing, they didn’t have the goals that would push them toward higher earning potential and they didn’t have the systems in place that would allow them to earn more. Instead of writing a book on “how to earn more money” (snore!), I was able to write something that addressed the underlying frustration, giving them more of what they truly desired.

Speaking of desire . . .


There are surface-level desires, and then there are deep, truthful desires. Our customers are very good at expressing their surface-level desires. They’ll tell you, they’ll tell their friends and they’ll tell strangers walking down the street. But they are less equipped to tell you about their deep, truthful desires.

Great products speak to both. In a great product, we see our surface desires realized, but we are also touched on a deeper level. An Apple computer works well and looks great while also sparking your imagination and creativity. A little black dress is the perfect outfit for the cocktail party, and it also makes you feel sexy and beautiful.

Understanding your customers’ deepest desires requires reading between the lines of the feedback they provide. You need to look literally for the gaps in their experience and how you can fill that space.

Opportunities Are Everywhere

Every day is an opportunity to gather the feedback and information you need to create your next big thing. Your job as a product designer is to be a great student of people. When you turn your attention to gathering feedback, even casual conversations, emails and social media interactions can give you the fodder you need to spark an insight.

What customer feedback do you need to create your knockout product?

Suggested For You


  • Thank you for this post. As an artist, you have given me a new perspective about getting to know what perspective clients might look for when purchasing paintings. I am developing a new collection and these insights will certainly help. Thank you so much.

  • Every time I come across one of Tara’s articles it inspires me. Not only to create a better product, but also to ponder about the art of being in business and how my experiences and values and upbringing affect the way I run my business. Thanks for another inspiring article! Lots to think about.

  • Thank you. This was a fabulous post. It inspired me in several ways, especially using and analyzing Desire. That to me underlines so much of what we all do as individuals personally and professionally.

  • The psychology of consumer desire is so complicated it can feel totally overwhelming. As a marketing freelancer who no longer relies on an enormous research budget, I really appreciate the simplicity (and thought-provoking nature) of this article.

  • Really great article. I’ll be looking to buy “The Art of Earning ” also. Thanks :) Keep up the good work !

  • Thanks for the article on getting feedback Tara. This is like another layer deeper down the path of targeting your core customer. As always your writing style allows me to play out how this will work for me and my clients in practise while I’m reading it.

  • One-on-one interviews are a great idea. Having a system for regular interviews over the phone with the same questions will help guide you so you can compare the responses. You can’t, after all, adjust your business on one person’s feedback – but you can change direction when you start to notice a pattern.

  • This is smart advice, Tara. Especially about observing customers in their natural environments. I try to get feedback regularly with email follow-ups, but never thought about ‘ethnographic-field research’ style customer research!

  • It is truly a great and helpful piece of information.
    I’m glad that you simply shared this helpful information with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

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