Refine Product Discovery by this Imaginative Customer Feedback Technique


You did not even start working on your release, but do you imagine a future letter of appreciation? If not, perhaps you should consider adding this technique to your product discovery toolset. We don’t want to be a feature factory but an organization focused on outcomes, right? Hello, my Product Management fraternity!

Product Managers universally acknowledge that prioritizing the next set of initiatives among competing and compelling options (backlog) is one of the most challenging yet rewarding work if done right. Let’s zoom-in on doing it right part. If you don’t have a prioritization framework but react based on the most recent fire drill or drowned by loud voices, internal or external — you have a feature factory. At best, you can talk about how many story points your team delivered but not how much value you provided.

Product Discovery: Value over Volume

You may get a bit fatigued to read yet again Value over Volume or Outcomes over outputs. If so, I hear you. Unfortunately, there’s much more busywork than the one that’s impactful. As Product Managers, we have an opportunity to change that by prioritizing the work that’s meaningful to the customer and the business.

Product is a function of the customer (unmet needs resolved), business (like revenue, net-new users, cross-sell), and technology (modern tech, ease of building, deploying, delivering). You have to solve for all three.

Product Discovery is all about solving the right problem
Source: Shreyas Doshi on Twitter

As illustrated above, ideas are good, and executing them with quality is critical too. However, grasping the importance of that idea from a customer’s perspective is a multi-million dollar proposition. Expanding and learning to see several perspectives is a skill to master for effective Product Management. One of the ways of doing that is being in your customer’s shoes, imagining the feedback they’re sending your company on how a feature X (or a release Y) helped them. Well, you got to be creative, right? (That’s a requirement in your job description!)

A Visualization Technique

This technique has two parts of visualization from two different perspectives:

  1. A customer writes a letter to your CEO on how your product’s new feature or redesign has improved their lives.
  2. Your CEO, in turn, sending a congratulatory message to the product team on how the new feature(s) helped the business: lower customer acquisition costs, retention, references, top-line or bottom-line improvements, et al.

Before you define the scope, fast forward (say three months or so) when you deliver the product to the market, imagine a letter of appreciation from a customer to the CEO. Write that letter down — what would it say, and why is the customer so thrilled? (no technical jargon, unless your customers are all technical users).

The second step is writing down another memo from the CEO to your product team thanking you. More importantly, this exercise elaborates on why what we have delivered is of importance to the business.

This exercise is forcing you to put your product speak and technical jargon aside but think from the customer and the business viewpoints. They may not always align. If a customer sees the value and the business does not, you want to call it out and make necessary adjustments to your product strategy.

Use this technique after you have a few features ready to be prioritized. It helps to assess the value proposition and in communicating the purpose effectively to your team.

Also, see related topics: Product-Market fit and Building the Right Things.

I first read this technique in Marty Cagan’s Inspired.

What techniques do you have in your toolset for effective product discovery? I’m all ears. Drop a note.

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