Today we are going to touch the sphere of product management. Nowadays many people think of creating or developing their own product or startup. And here you will find what to do on the early stage of product development on the way to market release. We will touch basic steps together with some insight tips for these steps on the basis of Code Inspiration team’s experience.
Before we start to talk about tips we would like to pay your attention to very important aspect that is called problem-oriented thinking. This way of thinking is actively used by experienced product managers and is extremely useful for those who work on products and startups. What is problem-oriented thinking? It is about aiming at:
- Detection of problems or pains around you.
- Analysis of these problems and generating a possible solution to address exactly these problems and pains.
In fact this is very interesting and useful skill. The situation is that not all founders really understand what pain their product addresses to. And existence of pain to address is of great importance for product success. The challenge here is to train the ability to detect even small and insignificant at first sight problems and pains. And as a following step try to analyze causes and effects, then – imagine what a solution can be, how it should work.
As a result you will get some kind of stream with ideas to think about. Be prepared to the fact that not all your ideas will be worth realizing. Take it like a game you know. And don’t forget the more pains you track and the more ideas you generate – the better your solutions are and chances to find a good niche are rising.
In continuation, we will outline some business oriented tips and insights that will help you to reach a successful product launch. Providing that you actively work on it, of course.
Useful Tips for Product Development
Tip 1. Fill in Lean Canvas for your product. This is a document that asks your 8 basic (but specific) questions. The simplest way to do this is to fill it online here . Guides on how to fill forms are already included.
It is important to generate Lean Canvas for each market side of your project. You need to identify several customer segments and fill in a Lean Canvas for every segment.
As a result you will get a statement like:
Test the hypothesis as a result of filling in Lean Canvas.
Lean Canvas is a first step at commonly applied today Lean Startup methodology and concept. Lean Startup methodology works in 3 steps:
Lean Canvas is a perfect tool for early-stage startups as well as for ongoing businesses and successfully replaces business plan. Perfectly made Lean Canvas may be enough for some investors to start the dialogue with you.
Tip 1.1. A good idea is to combine Lean Canvas with brainstorm where all your team takes part! This leads to fantastic results.
Tip 1.2. Define and focus on the most significant risk (or the most risky users) of your project and check exactly this risk in the first place.
Tip 2. In addition to Lean Canvas fill in the so called Guy Kawasaki template. After you answer these questions you will receive a ready presentation to pitch your early stage product even if you do not have demo or something to show. What’s more important this will provide you with even better understanding of what exactly you do.
Tip 3. Ask your friends/colleagues to share feedback on your project. Usually they tell the truth in person.
Tip 4. Social networks feedback. Create a poll on Facebook and Instagram. Ask your subscribers what they think. This is simple and free and enough to get initial feedback. Or even find a fellow-thinker.
As a result of all these activities you will have a good speculative understanding of:
- What product/service you create?
- What is your market?
- What is your target audience (clients, users)?
- Where are they situated (geographical target)?
- What pains of these people do you address to?
- What benefit these people get using your products\services?
- How will you reach them?
- What is your business model (How you earn money, who pays you, for what they pay and how much they pay)?
- What do you need to start (investments, development resources, etc.)?
These speculative statements are subject to check.
Tip 5. Performing previous 4 steps is already enough to start a so called Customer Development. In other words it is about going to meet your potential client.
“Would I Try to sell?”
You meet the client to ask. To ask a lot about their daily routine, do they face any problems, how they solve it now, why they use this solution and so on. Again, not a word about the product you keep in mind! If you start to pitch your product or try to sell this means your customer interview is failed. The task and challenge of Customer development interview is to know as much as possible and then discuss information inside your team. After you pass at least several Customer Interviews, of course. Further, update the idea, and only then return to MVP development.
We highly recommend the book “THE MOM TEST” where all aspects of Customer development are explained very well. Or at least try to read summary of the book, this will be enough to start.
Tip 6. Do your best to create something to show. The best advice we can give now is to act like Dropbox founder did it. Check the video:
Do you think how much time did he spend to do this? A month or two? Because he has developed MVP, performed a lot of coding and then recorded this video? No, he did it for a couple of days. He just made a fake video that successfully demonstrated project features without any line of code. Then he published this video with a link and received about 2 000 emails of people who were interested in the solution. As a result, Dropbox founders got a confirmation of hypothesis as well as initial client’s base. Even without a product or MVP there is a way to perform Customer Development. So try to create a video demo of your future service and publish it before any development.
As you may probably know, practically every founder in Silicon Valley follows the approach “Fake it till you make it”.
Tip 7. Take part in startup conferences in your location. Local startup events are a perfect opportunity to meet investors, fellow-thinkers and maybe clients. The good idea is also to visit and pitch at local startup events with any target call to action: after every pitch ask audience to subscribe to you socials, sign up on your website, download your application, etc. There are always a lot of people at startup events, so use it for the needs of your product development!
But do not forget that meeting with a potential client (especially, if you develop a B2B solution) is anyway better than pitching at startup event.
Tip 8. When you are ready to start MVP development, think of features to remove instead of features to add. Focus exactly on features that address pains of your customers. More features will be added later if basic ones are successfully used by customers.
Tip 9. Update the idea and hypothesis according to results of all past steps. Include all the team members in these activities. And keep updating when it is required. You may love your product and idea, but you have to be flexible.
Tip 10. When you got in touch with an investor or mentor and didn’t come to any specific agreement or any further interaction, send them report every month. This report must include what you have (haven’t) done, what the team plans for next month, any results and achievements which might be of interest of any other investor or mentor. Monthly report provides you with 2 important aspects:
- on one side ensures that investor remembers about you;
- on the other side it shows you keep working on the project.
The thing is that mentors and investors usually communicate actively with colleagues and they can recommend you and your product to someone.
Tip 11. If there is an investor in your startup, do not forget to ask him/her to share expertise and relevant contacts. An investor is usually an expert in some industry, and founders might forget about this simple but useful possibility.
To sum up
Things to do:
- Fill in Lean Canvas document.
- Fill in Gay Kawasaki template.
- Ask for feedback.
- Perform Customer Development.
- Create demo.
- Take part in startup events.
- Update the basic idea and hypothesis if needed.
- Focus on features that address pains in MVP.
- Send monthly report to all mentors/investors you know.
- Ask your investor for expertise.
We hope you have found something new to apply to your startup or product development. Code Inspiration team wishes you to be successful in your projects and always happy to support you in decision to move forward, providing not only web development services and custom software development services, but also consultancy and assistance in forming the development strategy, supporting you on your way to success.