Fables of Marketing

The Power of User Research: How It Helps Product Marketing Managers

In 2015 as head of marketing for an online marketplace for a luxury fashion product. I was tasked with setting up the marketing team as well as preparing for the launch of the marketplace app. This was one of the most important projects of my career up until then.

In this role, I was expected to lead research with the objective to understand user preferences and their pain points. The focus of these user tests was to refine the usability, and product experience leading up to customer acquisitions.

The data was needed to define the problem statement which in turn would help develop the product to fulfil underserved needs. Which in turn solves the problem of browsing, comparing, and shopping for luxury & designer fashion online. This is classified as a type of user research.

When I joined this organization, I had a background in consumer products. And experienced in managing qualitative and quantitative research for segmentation, pricing, and customer sentiments for developing effective marketing campaigns. These activities are generally classified as market research.

In most industries, research fundamentals are the same. However, for technology products and online businesses, the approach and design could be different.

What is user research and who drives it?

User research depends on the priority of the project. It depends on the project lead and on various aspects of the project. In most organizations, PMMs are responsible for driving the market and customer understanding. Whereas product managers are focused on features and design teams on UI/UX

In this role, I was responsible for defining the ideal customer profile (ICP), and understanding our market and competitors. I had to define the market segment, demography, competitors, and price elasticity so as to arrive at product market fit

Meanwhile, the product team worked on designing the product and its features based on user stories and use cases. We had to be careful to avoid duplicating efforts and make sure our research was coordinated.

How to approach user research?

The Framework for user research

In my article “Product Marketing: A beginners guide”. I have mentioned that the main objective of a product marketing manager is to market the product to the right customers.

As a Product Marketing Manager (PMM), I consider defining the ideal customer profile or ICP to be one of the most crucial aspects of my job. It is essential to understand our customers’ needs, preferences, and pain points in order to create a product that resonates with them. In this article, I will share step-by-step how I used user research to generate actionable insights. This helped me drive product adoption, usability, and experience, leading to customer acquisition and revenue growth. 

Defining the research objective

The first step of user research is to define the research objective. Also important is clarity on the big picture. Research objectives should align with the company’s overall business goals and objectives.

For example, one of our main business objectives was revenue growth. Thus, one of the research objectives was to identify potential customer segments who are willing to pay a premium for luxury fashion products and shop online.


Identify the target audience.

Once I had defined the research objectives, the next step was to identify the target audience. The target audience could be existing customers, potential customers, or a mix of both.

Loyalty can be very fickle and influenced by various factors, particularly in online marketplaces. Therefore, while identifying the ideal customer profile, it’s crucial not to overlook customers who have the potential to be upgraded or converted based on their preferences. It’s important to keep an eye on these customers, as they could be valuable for increasing customer retention and overall revenue growth.

Customer segmentation for identifying the target audience

Choose the research methodology.

As a Product Marketing Manager (PMM), the choice of research methodology is critical when it comes to framing research questions. There are various research methods available to collect data, such as surveys, focus groups, in-depth interviews, and online analytics.

In my role, the task was to solve the problem of shopping for luxury fashion from the comfort of home in a secure and efficient way. To achieve this, we needed to understand the customer’s preferences and buying behaviour, particularly since we were launching an online marketplace.

Based on our research objectives and target audience, we decided to conduct an online survey with a large sample size to gain a broad understanding of the customer’s needs and pain points. Additionally, we also conducted in-depth interviews to gain a deeper understanding of the customer’s needs and pain points about shopping for luxury products and their affinity for shopping online. Overall, choosing the appropriate research methodology helped us to collect valuable insights and make informed decisions for our online marketplace.

Frame the questionnaire to define the right problem.

Defining the correct problem statement

As a Product Marketing Manager (PMM), I strongly believe that framing the questions to arrive at the right problem is crucial for a successful research process. It allows us to understand the customer’s needs and pain points more accurately and addresses the problem more effectively.

To illustrate this, let’s consider an example:

For the marketplace app, at first glance, the main user’s problem seemed like buying luxury products online. However, we soon realized that offering an online marketplace alone may not solve the customer’s problem.

Through further research and questioning, we discovered that the bigger challenge for customers was the time it took to receive the product securely. Many brands had their own online portals, but customers found it difficult to shop online due to inconsistencies in delivery timelines, particularly for made-to-order designer products.

Therefore, as a PMM, we should understand the importance of framing the questions in the right way and digging deeper to understand the true user problems. This will ensure that we develop a product that effectively addresses the customer’s needs and pain points. 

Conducting user research:

Although many organizations have dedicated user research teams, I believe it is crucial for PMMs to be involved in the process from setting the objectives to conducting the interviews or surveys.

When leading user research discussions, I led with empathy toward users to truly understand their problems and needs. I try and define a typical day in the life of the user which in turn helps in developing the user persona.

Framing the right problem and defining the right user persona is useful in setting the context to define the positioning and messaging framework that resonates with the user needs. A crucial responsibility of a PMM


Do's and Don’t of user research.


  • Start with empathy for your users.
  • Set clear objectives.
  • Frame the user problem in the right way.
  • Encourage honest feedback
  • Structure the research with the best methodology or a mix of options.
  • Aim for actionable and measurable outcomes.
  • Create a research loop to iterate and improve your product over time.


  • Do not start with assumptions (about users & the problem).
  • Do not use leading questions.
  • Do not rely on a single source of data.
  • Do not rush your research, take the time to get the best outcomes and complete actionable data

The mindset of a researcher

As a marketer, manager, and now as a startup founder, I have found that having a mindset of a researcher is critical to how I approach any user problem to solve, regardless of the role or industry. I have learned that the ability to gather information, analyze data, and synthesize insights is essential to stay ahead of changing market dynamics and evolving user requirements.

To drive growth, I believe in creating a culture of research within my organization. This involves continuously revisiting product offerings to ensure they remain relevant to our target customers and differentiate from competitors. Conducting user research to understand customer needs and framing the right problem statement is a crucial step in developing the right product.

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