The term “use case” is thrown around a lot, and it is important to be clear about what it is and what it is not. A use case is a specific situation in which a product or service could potentially be used. Given people buy the same product for different reasons, use cases can vary depending on specific circumstances.
An example I frequently use is socks. The most ordinary of products. Believe it or not, there are distinct use cases for socks. One person may wear them for fashion. They want the most unique socks to coordinate or highlight their outfit. Someone else may want them for warmth. Their feet are perpetually frozen or they are outside in the cold frequently. Another use case is the person that makes sock puppets. Yes, sock puppets. That person wants a sock that fits over their hand, has a different colored toe box and is thick so it holds up to buttons and the face being sewed on. All three of those are valid use cases for socks—but they all have unique characteristics that the user values.
That example can tell you all you need to know about the “why” use cases are critical to developing a product strategy.
Through customer discovery, you learned the “why” people wanted what you were developing and how they were going to use it to attain the value proposition. You learned what the product had to do to be worth the value that the customer was going to exchange and how it solved their pains, provided gains and helped them do the things that they needed to get done. You learned the minimal amount of functionality or utility that the customer had to receive for them to buy and use your product. That is what should have constituted your MVP (Minimum Viable Product).
Once you have your MVP, you will use it as the base for your product strategy. You should have an MVP that is highly targeted at a customer that really NEEDS what you have and will evangelize for the product. Here are a few concepts to understand to continue to develop your strategy:
The Reasons for Product Development
The next step is to figure out how your product needs to develop to perform a few critical functions.
- Retain your current customers
- Expand the use of your product by the current customers
- Provide value to new customer segments
- Stay ahead of the competition (there is always competition)
- Increase your revenue
- Become indispensable
- Deliver more value
Remember, a use case is specific to a customer segment. You need to know how each customer wants to, needs to and does use your product. Not how you “think” they use your product, but how they actually do. I am sure all of you have used a tool that is not a hammer, as a hammer.
Understand How Your Product Is Used
A “day in the life” understanding of your customer is critical. You need to understand the User Experience (UX) and how they interact with your User Interface (UI). UI is an understanding of how the user interacts with your product while they are pursuing their job and tasks. You need to understand what they do to derive the value proposition for which they purchased your product. Once you have that understanding for your core initial customers, you can start to explore what you can do to deliver on the bulleted list above.
There is a balance to be struck between, what needs to be developed, what should be developed and what would be nice to develop. You cannot develop for every eventuality, but you need to develop for those that are frequent, important and deliver the value needed for your customer. By identifying additional needs, pains, gains and jobs, you can start to structure what features you need to add to your product to drive stickiness, revenue, loyalty, utilization, etc. The understanding of your current customers’ use of your product will begin to define your enhancement product strategy.
How To Attract & Convert Customers
Next, figure out what needs to be added to your product. These features may be repackaged and repositioned from a marketing perspective to address a new customer segment. Remember the socks example. They are still socks, but the marketing and packaging are different for each customer segment. Sock puppet makers are not shopping at Nordstrom for their base materials. Once you understand what you need to add or change, you can build your product strategy around delivering that new use case that will draw the interest of the new customer segment.
What have you observed that your customer (new or existing) could use and pay for that your product is not already delivering? You also need to consider what the competition (direct and substitution) is doing so you can stay at least one step ahead of them to retain current and attract new customers. The findings discovered in this process are critical to developing new releases, new products, product options and entirely new lines of business.
The use case is an ever-evolving description of how your user does, can and will use your product (or find one that will satisfy those needs). A deep understanding of how your users interact with and derive value from using your product is the key to keeping existing customers and gaining new ones all while keeping competition at bay — that is the genesis of innovation. Understanding the customer so well that you can present something to them that is intuitively indispensable yet has never been conceived by them.