Using listening posts to keep up-to-date

Question: How do you find out what’s going on in your market?

Answer: By setting up a network of “listening posts”.

A “listening post” is a place or opportunity to hear about what’s going on in the market. It helps you find out about customers, prospects, your competition and market trends.

A good network of listening posts should continually drip-feed market insights through to you and can be called upon when needed to answer specific questions.

The diagram below shows some of the most important listening posts for product managers. You will be familiar with many of them already. However rather than just using these on an ad-hoc basis we believe product managers should systematically build and nurture their listening posts. It should be part of their objectives. Why? Because you need great insights to be able to create killer products and propositions.

If you had an infinite pot of money then whenever you had a question you could commission some paid research. However life’s not like that and more often than not it’s down to us as product managers to find out what we need to know.Sources-of-insight

Most listening posts don’t cost money but they do take time. For example, building the relationship with a key contact at a major customer, spending time with your Support team or cultivating the relationship with an important Technology Analyst.

Bear in mind that each listening post has a different profile. Think about how credible the information is, how long it takes to setup, how responsive it is to queries and the time horizon with which it is concerned.

So when setting up a network of listening posts you have to plan ahead. Think about what information you’ll need and the best way to get it.

The bottom line is that you have to put in time to build a network of listening posts. For too many product managers it slips down the priority list as fire-fighting and urgent issues crowd in. But if you want to create killer products and propositions you need the insights your listening posts provide.

Andrew Dickenson
Director, Product Focus

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