Integrating Passionate Customers into every step of your product development process


Integrating Passionate Customers into every step of your product development process

Exceptional products and services are born from valuable insights. The most profound insights aren’t found in traditional surveys and Voice of the Customer research. Community Voice is a powerful combination of customer insights and emotional engagement with the customers and community members who provide those insights. 

Community-Driven Product Development (CDPD) is a formal methodology that integrates Community Voice into every stage of your company’s product development journey, with customers and community members as co-creators. This ensures higher product quality, fewer blind spots, and cultivates fervent advocacy from initial ideation to product launch.

CDPD in 4 minutes

“The Community-Driven Product Development approach is really smart. Involving the community throughout the process ensures that the product owner adheres to guiding principles, while offering a constant feedback loop that isn’t solely internal.” 

– Jonathan Clarkson, Vice President, Head of Marketing at Southwest Airlines




Focus on the right outcomes

At its core, a Community Driven Product Development program is designed to deliver concrete business results for your product development journey. To truly hit the bullseye, you must have a crystal-clear understanding of why you’re establishing this program and what you intend to accomplish by involving customers. It’s all about setting well-defined goals that align with your core business objectives and team needs. These could range from generating ideation, reducing post-launch customer complaints, or avoiding quality issues that tend to surface only after a product is launched.


Find the right people

It all begins here: selecting the individuals to invite into your Community Driven Product Development program. The objective is to construct a program that revolves around diverse voices from your customer community who are representative of the larger community of customers. Diversity and representation in this case is about credibility, leadership, capabilities, and alignment with core customer personas. Who are the people in your customer community who can speak for the larger community, bring their experience back into the community after the program ends, and work well with your product team? And how do you find these voices in both new and seasoned customers?


Figure out the right timing

Every phase in your product development journey doesn’t necessarily require extensive customer involvement. Not all stages are created equal within an overall Community-Driven Product Development program. You might bring in just two customers for feedback during the initial ideation phase, while involving 40 customers as you gear up for the product launch. Sometimes you need a full Customer Advisory Board (CAB) and sometimes you just need a one-off feedback session. The key lies in discerning your how Customer Voice can best impact and support your product development efforts.


Determine the right ask

Merely engaging with program members isn’t sufficient; you must be prepared to ask them to engage in meaningful activities. You need to invite them to participate in ways that are enjoyable for them and valuable for your organization. This creates a deep sense of fulfillment within them and leads directly to critical insights for you. Everybody goes home happy. Creating a well-defined set of activities, guidelines, and reporting tools ensures that your team is crystal clear on how to maintain the enthusiasm and engagement of program participants.


How does this benefit your business?

Product advocacy at launch: With properly Community Driven Product Development program strategy and execution, the moment you launch you have a fanatic group of product fans who are ready and willing to advocate and promote your product.

User-Centric products: Products designed with the community in mind are more likely to meet the actual needs and expectations of users.

Innovation: A diverse group of collaborators often leads to more innovative and out-of-the-box solutions.

Market relevance: Community-driven products are better aligned with current market trends and consumer preferences.

Enhanced trust: Involving the community fosters trust and loyalty among users, as they feel represented, heard, and valued.

Reduced risk: Continuous user feedback minimizes the risk of launching a product that does not resonate with the target audience.

“Having a consistent stream of feedback during the initial pre-launch process was very helpful and allowed us to more quickly fix issues that were identified by community members.”

– Jacy Jackson, Rapsodo Product Manager using CDPD



Creating a program concept that addresses the question “How do we find the right people, time this right relative to the product lifecycle and build the right activities for the participants to get to clear and tangible outcomes for the business?”


I’m a “sleeves rolled up” consultant, frequently helping client teams actually execute these programs together with client leads. This means developing content, running events, moderating/facilitating conversations in the online community space the group uses, aligning with executive leadership, and whatever else might come up during the program duration.


Some product development and product marketing teams what to learn what CDPD is and how to integrate it with your existing processes. I build small and large instructional programs, content, activities, and playbooks to help  your teams get up to speed and moving into execution.


Is this online community building or product management? 
Both! Well, really it’s a net new thing. We use techniques and skills from both practices to help create a new way of innovating. Community Driven Product Development brings together the emotional, authentic customer engagement with the structure and planning rigor of product management to create innovation and advocacy during and well after the product development lifecycle.

Is Community Voice the same as Voice of the Customer? 
It’s crucial to distinguish Community Voice from the Voice of the Customer (VOC). While VOC primarily serves as a research and data collection function, Community Voice represents a deep, continuous engagement, strategically timed and executed to become an integral part of each stage of the product development journey. Unlike VOC, Community Voice is not just about gathering information; it’s about nurturing engagement, fostering loyalty, and building credibility.

How do I convince my colleagues that this is important work?
There are a number of ways we can approach getting internal buy-in and participation, from running small projects and showing results, to inviting colleagues to a meet and greet with customer groups to break through the initial resistance to enlisting executive support to push teams to give CDPD a try. It’s all about understanding the politics and motivators involved. 

How do we protect our company during this process? Do we have participants sign NDAs?
Protection comes down to a few key issues: how much do you share, how many people do you share it with, and what legal protections do you enact. Big groups may give you more ideas, but in turn create more concerns about those ideas getting out into the wild. NDAs may protect you legally, but may also chill advocacy and participation. The best way to solve for the protection concerns is to create a great strategy for how you’re going to execute a CDPD program based on an honest assessment about what true risks actually exist and what is needed to accept or offset those risks.

Will we end up using the same power users over and over?
Not if you build a CDPD program with a solid strategy driving it! The goal is not to lean on the same group of advocates

What’s the biggest challenge to successful CDPD implementations?
The best way to create and execute a successful CDPD program is to remember my mantra: “Everybody goes home happy“. A well designed program considers what makes both the company and  the customer group happy, shares openly what those things are, and then works collaboratively and transparently to achieve them. Not to sound like a broken record but … a great well conceived and executed strategy can avoid any friction you might encounter. Or turn those moments of friction into opportunities to build a closer connection with your CDPD group.

Is CDPD only for physical product companies? Is it only for B2B businesses? 
Not at all. CDPD methodologies and philosophies apply to any type of business creating any type of product or service. Whether B2C packaged products or B2B digital service, every company can benefit from inserting Community Voice in the Product Development Lifecycle. The real questions is how we will go about doing that based on the methodology above and a strategy build specifically for your business. 

What’s the difference between concepts like Product-Led Growth and CDPD?
Product-Led Growth (and similar concepts) and CDPD are inherently compatible. Where PLG looks at a multi-faceted, multi-team, holistic view of how the company functions, CDPD focuses on how to execute certain parts of the PLG approach. Namely, how we engage real users, integrate their Community Voice into the product development processes to both generate and validate ideas, and then work with multiple internal teams to utilize the Community Voice as it relates to their part of the product rollout.

“I had the pleasure of working with Jake as one of the MUPpets – the MINDSTORMS User Panel. He made us feel like we were part of the organization, and helped the LEGO Group reach fans at many events and marketing opportunities. My lifelong affinity with the LEGO brand was made even stronger through Jake’s efforts. 

“Jake cares deeply about community, and authentic brand building – that means putting in the time to learn what motivates fans and how to leverage that enthusiasm in a positive way.”

– Ralph Hempel, LEGO Fan and MINDSTORMS User Panel member

Building your Community Driven
Product Development program

While it’s always best to build your Community Driven Product Development program as early in the product development journey as possible, you can get started at any stage. Using the four steps outlined above, I can help you build and execute a successful strategy that will leave your product team and your customers excited and successful.

While it’s ideal to kickstart your Community-Driven Product Development program right from the start of your product development journey, you can begin at any stage. Following the four key steps laid out above, I can assist you in constructing and implementing an actionable strategy and drive execution that will leave your product team and your customers enthused and successful.

Let's talk about your program!

Watch the webinar

Meet Jake

Hi! I’m Jake McKee, the original Community Guy. Going all the way back to 1996, I’ve played an instrumental role in building online communities and Community Driven Product Development programs for some of the world’s most successful and recognizable brands, including LEGO, Apple, Southwest Airlines, Canon, and H&R Block.

I consult with organizations of all sizes to help solve community and business challenges of all kinds. I’ve co-authored books on social media and community strategy and spoken to and run workshops for audiences of business professionals countless times. I created CX 5essions, a community project that connects senior-level online professionals every month for conversation, connection, and camaraderie. As if that’s not enough community nerdery, I also created a web comic about community management, Confessions of a Community Manager.

Get to know me and what I can do for you!
Results that speak for themselves

For information about my Community Consulting, Training and Speaker services, or to find out more about Dinner5, my unique community for community builders, contact me today.

By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jake McKee Consulting, 9908 China Garden Cove, Austin, TX, 78730, You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact