Product Development

A better discovery process for your product. How to ensure it.

You have spent months thinking about a great product, something that can potentially help millions of customers. You, then, further spent weeks and months getting a first usable version of that product ready. You put your heart and soul into it. Countless sleepless nights, one redesign after another to make it more user friendly. A lot, and I mean a lot goes behind every single product our customers use every single day of their lives. As a creator myself, I totally understand that. I also understand the pain you feel when you think your product isn’t getting the exposure it deserves. Or, when it does get the exposure, the users you attract either aren’t sticking around long enough for the product to deliver value to them, or aren’t using the product. Neither of them is a scenario an entrepreneur wishes to encounter.

I feel your pain. The frustration. We feel all of it. After all, you and I, we aren’t much different from each other.

So today, let’s take a pause from pure-play marketing and take a look at the product side of things.

The first step in getting a product ready is knowing the product that needs to get ready

This always seems so obvious, and yet it is one of the most overlooked aspect of product development. We get so tied up in the amazing product and the value it can offer to customers that we start getting sucked in more and more in the “how” of product development. How to build the product, how to design it for best user experience, how to make it more retentive, how to make it more intuitive, how to make it faster, how to make it lighter.

All those “hows” are important. There is no denying that. But when there is so much emphasis on the how, the ‘why’ and ‘what’ often starts taking a backseat.

And answering those whys and whats is what makes the foundation of any good product.

You need to ask yourself these two questions, and in this order:

  1. What is it that your customer needs?
  2. Why do they need it?

Everyone will tell you to do consumer research to understand what your customers need from a product like yours. Unfortunately, if you don’t follow that up with an understanding of why they need it, your product plan will end up becoming insanely bulky, your development cycle will be much longer, and at the end of it, all you would have managed to achieve would be to bring about some features that have probably already existed in another product for years.

You think your customers need a particular feature? Great. Now try understanding why they need it. What is it that they do that would be aided and eased by the existence of this feature. When you understand the customer’s workflow and structure, you may be able to think of a better solution than what is being suggested. Always remember, customers do not care about what features your product has; they care a great deal about how your product help them do what they need to do. Understanding the customers’ work processes, motivations and pain-points becomes crucial to achieve this.

Does a market need exist in the first place?

You can come up with a bunch of cool tools and features that help the customers manage certain aspects of their lives, but unless these tools are solving a critical painpoint, the discovery will never take off. Since it was never a shooting pain in their sides, even though you have solved “a” pain for them, it would end up being taken for granted, and they won’t even realise something great was done. Newsflash: if the painpoint wasn’t prominent, it wasn’t something great that got done. Yes, it was a cool thing to have, but cool doesn’t cut it for a widely used and successful tool. Usable does!

What this essentially means is that despite what conventional wisdom will tell us, product discovery process doesn’t start after the product has been built, shipped and launched; it starts as soon as you start brainstorming the idea. What you build, why you build it that way, and how it will get done make the foundation of a product getting discovered. All three of them. In the absence of even one of those pillars, your very foundation of product discovery is going to be unstable and shaky. Bottomline? Done incorrectly, it can all go boom when you were instead expecting it to take off.

The process is not going to be linear

There will be a lot of getting back to the drawing board. How your users are using and engaging with the product once it has been put out there, will help you understand the true usability and usecase scenarios. And no amount of planning is going to make this process smooth. This part of the process is as unstructured and unpredictable as it gets.

One of the mistakes I see many founders make is claiming to have achieved product market fit after having seen a few transactions, or having been around for a few months. While not impossible, it certainly is extremely improbable.

Before you achieve product market fit, there is going to be a lot of back and forth as far as the final shape of your product and/or your business model looks like. It is ridiculously insane to predict when you are going to learn something valuable or how long is it going to take. Exploration and validation would be the two flagpoles you would be running from again and again, doing laps, as you work on your way to make the right product for your audience.

Another mistake is to throw things to the wall and see what sticks. It is extremely time consuming, ridiculously ineffective and ends up causing a lot of frustration and discontent in the teams working on the product and marketing it. There needs to be some order to the chaos, and your analytics data can help you achieve this order. This would include web analytics, product analytics as well as an analysis of customer conversations, requests and queries.

Use goals to effectively measure consumer interest

You need to come up with multiple pathways to address the whats and whys we talked about earlier.

Before we even start considering making changes or additions to the product, it’s prudent to analyze customers’ reaction to it.

Starts with the whys, and really explore your customers’ needs. Go beyond just identifying them, and come up with scenarios and solution ideas that could address those needs. Then use goals to understand how customers are reacting to these solution ideas.

set up goal

For example, your goal could be something as simple as getting users to subscribe to your newsletter, or check out another related blogpost that talks a bit more about the solution idea. (You can achieve this by using simple tags and categories to appropriately bucket your posts, or by simple hyperlinks within the blogpost’s content itself).

If more and more people are completing the simple goal you set up, that is a good indication of existing customer need and potential interest in a solution built along the lines of that idea.

At this stage, you should also make a note of the flow of consumers from discovery to conversion of these goals. How are these people finding you? Getting a better understanding of that will help you formulate the right marketing strategy, landing pages, and marketing communique to promote your product once you have the solution idea implemented as a feature in your product.

It takes some time to get it right, and to identify the winning traits of your product, but (a) it is so very much worth it, in the end, and (b) the sooner you start doing it, the farther you will get to on your product lifecycle.

Product development is a complicated process. One that starts long before we actually start developing the process. But, no matter how complicated it is, breaking it down into small measurable chunks will help you stay ahead of the curve. If you are facing some challenges with your product development processes and methodologies, I would be happy to chat. Let’s see if I can’t help you overcome a challenge or two.

That’s it for today, see you tomorrow.



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