I ended a recent post with these two sentences:
"If your webinar reporting isn't giving you what you need in order to do your job effectively, tell your vendor. The only way things get prioritized for change is if enough paying users demand it."
That concept is important enough to justify its own post. So let's talk about it.
I have been a product manager, a product marketing manager, and a technical development lead for large-scale commercial software. These positions usually have sole or joint responsibility for setting development priorities. It's always tricky. Everybody has their own ideas for cool new stuff that would be fun to add.
The Marketing department wants obvious new features that demo well so they can issue press releases and brochures. Sales people want to match competitors' features so they never have to say "No, we can't do that." Support wants bugs fixed. Developers may want to boost performance. Who gets the green light?
As an end user of the software product, your input means more than you might think. It is easy to cynically think of yourself as "just another voice in the crowd." But the truth is that software companies have a difficult time getting representative input from customers and prospects. User conferences are too infrequent for rapid response, and they may be inconvenient for the majority of their customers to attend. Surveys are often long and confusingly worded, with low response rates. Bug reports are usually confined to operational problems with existing functionality.
So when you make yourself heard, it has impact. Write emails. Fill out bug report tickets with a subject line of "Enhancement Request." Tell your account manager or sales person what is important to you in terms of new or altered capabilities. And if you are shopping for a solution and really do pick one product over another because of the way a feature works or because of the ability to do something, let the loser know what lost them the sale!
And while I am on the subject, I'll address the web conferencing / webinar / webcast vendors who read this blog. If you do not have a clear and obvious online channel for collecting this kind of feedback on an ongoing basis… Shame on you. You exist in a 100 percent online and collaborative ecosystem. The entire point of your existence is for facilitating online communication.
You should have a field on your user-facing ticket system that encourages and identifies new feature requests and ideas. You should have an online forum, wiki, or message board where users can bounce ideas off each other and hear from a representative of your company that the feedback is being noted and logged. You should hold (gasp) customer webinars on a regular basis where you solicit feedback and "blue sky" ideas about the product. If you are relying on a once-a-year conference or survey, you are behind the curve. If you are sitting back and hoping that you'll get enough unsolicited inbound emails to let you know what the majority of your users think, you are living in a fool's paradise. Give your users an easy communication method and encourage them to use it. Often.