May 7

Starting Small

The following insights were gleaned from a presentation at INDUSTRY given by Deborah Clarke of CarTrawler @debclarke. Download Product Management TACTICS eBook for more.

Big ideas may be the fuel behind the fire, but aren’t enough to strike a match. In order to actually execute, it’s critical to get more detailed and focus on specifics. Instead of focusing on trying to find that “big idea”, starting small can actually end up making a big impact for your product.

When you’re at the start of an idea for a solution to a problem that you’re considering moving forward with, ask yourself three questions before you get started:

  1. Is this worthwhile?
  2. Is this actually innovative?
  3. Is this nuanced enough to compete?

Whether an idea is actually worth pursuing is a balance of risk and opportunity to learn.  Some of the biggest decisions you will make as a product person will have a high risk and a high reward. Cartrawler’s decision to become part of Ryanair’s mobile app was a high-risk move since there was a heavy focus on mobile, which wasn’t something that Cartrawler had focused on beforehand. The bet paid off with big mobile growth and a stronger business.

When asking yourself whether something is innovative, it’s important to have a definition of what innovation actually is.  Innovation is about knowing why and when buyers act: the entire buyer journey. It requires creating additional value for the user, not just adding features for the sake of adding features. Different decisions are made at different times. Understanding how and why your customers act will help you build the product they want.

Nuance requires focusing on customer pain points and solving them. Sometimes, those pain points aren’t so obvious, though. At Cartrawler, it was discovered the language around car rental insurance was just not understood very well at all.  Simplifying the language to better describe car rental insurance options made a 5.9% increase in the number of customers opting-in.  It was a simple enough copywriting change, but it made a real impact because we were able to hone in on a very specific pain point.

Don’t assume too much about what your customers know. Icons that may be common among people in the tech industry may not mean the same thing to the average person at home. Instead, spend time with your customers.  Try to step into their shoes, so to speak.  Understand the lives that they’re living every day… before, during, and after they’re actually using your product.  It will help you gain

the empathy you need to create products that solve problems for them.

To view Deb’s full presentation, visit

Paul McAvinchey

About the author

For over 20 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 worldwide community of product people. Members collaborate on in the exclusive Member Hub, meet at INDUSTRY: The Product Conference, listen to, learn at Product Interviews and get a weekly newsletters 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.


You may also like