Product Management Tactics — Focus on the Right Problems

Ash Maurya, Founder at LEANSTACK KEY TAKEAWAY Every time we have an idea, we look for evidence of monetizable problems being solved. Otherwise, the business model stagnates and doesn’t grow. OUR TAKE Ideas for the next best feature, product — or even company — can…

Ash Maurya, Founder at LEANSTACK

KEY TAKEAWAY

Every time we have an idea, we look for evidence of monetizable problems being solved. Otherwise, the business model stagnates and doesn’t grow.

OUR TAKE

Ideas for the next best feature, product — or even company — can come from so many different places. Sometimes we come up with them on our own. (OK, who are we kidding… the best ideas usually don’t come from us). Sometimes those ideas might come from others like our customer success team, salespeople in the field, our executives and elsewhere internally. And we get so much feedback from product people we trust (including, in this case, Ash Maurya) that suggests we should let customers guide us to the right products and features.

But what does that really mean? Will the customer simply tell us what it is that they want?

Sometimes, yes. We’re probably all very familiar with our colleagues in sales coming back to the office letting us know that we missed out on a big deal because there was one can’t-miss feature that our product just didn’t have. Or, even in our own proactive efforts spending time with customers, we may hear a line from our customers that starts off with, “You know what you all ought to do…”

But most of us realize that simply going along with what these customers are asking for can be dangerous. Perhaps that customer just told the salesperson that there was a “dealbreaker” of a feature we’re missing because… well… the customer wanted to be nice and just didn’t want to give a hard no.

But what about the customer who is telling us what she wants? We’re hearing about it in her own words. Why wouldn’t we pursue that? A couple of reasons come to mind:

Just because a customer wants something very specifically, it doesn’t mean that the solution they had in mind will solve their problem the way that they think it will. Even if it did, it doesn’t mean that some other solution couldn’t do a better job of solving that problem.

Even if it does solve their problem — can we monetize that? Maybe it is a great feature and does solve a problem, to an extent. But unless that problem was significant enough that the customer is willing to pay more for our product — or it directly prevents them from leaving our product — is it really worth it?

Being able to give any new product idea “The Monetization Test” is a tough challenge for any product manager. And what would that test even look like, anyway? It’s likely to be different depending on the type of product, market, and business model. But be sure to put ideas through that test before you bring them to market.

Paul McAvinchey
Paul McAvinchey
paul@productcollective.com

For over 15 years, Paul has been building and collaborating on digital products with fast-growing startups and global brands, including AOL and WMS Gaming. Currently, he's a co-founder of Product Collective, a 15,000+ strong worldwide community of product people. Members collaborate on Slack, meet at INDUSTRY: The Product Conference, listen to Rocketship.fm, learn at Product Lunch and get a weekly brief that includes best practices in product management. In recent years he led business development at DXY, a leading product design firm in the Midwest, and product innovation at MedCity Media, a publishing startup acquired by Breaking Media in 2015.