Many company executives believe they can understand the market for their products by passive means. For example, an executive may believe the following sources of information are sufficient for understanding the market:
1. Observations she made during her experience in the industry.
2. Suggestions and feedback from existing customers during support calls.
3. Feedback from sales about what prospective customers want.
These sources of information are all helpful but not sufficient. They are all passive ways of gathering information about the market for a product. You will never fully understand the market for your products without actively pursuing and facilitating interaction with your customers.
A product manager goes to the market, conducting one-on-interviews and surveying prospective customers. In a future entry, I'll mention another active approach with which executives seem to have the most familiarity, but which is usually the least informative.