Product & Startup Builder

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Your product experience should be obvious and easy to use

Added on by Chris Saad.

A good product shouldn't require a training manual or even that much text to be initially useful to a user.

The trick is to have clean and clear UI/UX metaphors that seem obvious, great "clean slate" experiences that nudge the user to do key things when they first log in and in-line tips for what to do next (just 1 or 2 sentences at most). In this way, users learn how to use the software organically.

Tips, tricks, help and knowledge base should only be available for some advanced functions or to handle edge cases.

What are some of the best examples of this you've seen in the wild?

Join the conversation on Facebook

Product Strategy Is a Combination Of These 3 things

Added on by Chris Saad.

Often times product strategy is a combination of experience (knowing how apps typically solve a UI/UX problem - i.e industry best practices), good taste (having good judgment about what looks good and what doesn't), and empathy (having strong intuition about how and why given users might behave or react to certain things). Data and research can then be used to interrogate these instincts.

Originally Posted On Facebook

The Goal Is To Win The "Best Business Award"

Added on by Chris Saad.

The goal is not to win the “best technology” award. The goal is to win the “best business” award.

More often than not, a more effective sales and marketing operation with a simpler/easier to use product will beat the most comprehensive/powerful technology.

If you’re struggling to build your business around technology that most people don’t understand or can’t digest then consider going back to a blank piece of paper and building something very simple that is easy to understand and adopt. Even if that thing is not necessarily new or novel. Then expand from there.

Let’s call this the “gateway drug strategy”

Originally Posted On Facebook

3 Key Product Mistakes To Avoid

Added on by Chris Saad.

Startups often make a number of key product mistakes over and over. Some that come to mind today...

1. Starting with too broad a "platform" trying to solve all categories/verticals/use-cases. E.g. "It could be anything!"

2. Starting with the wrong specific problem or niche vertical when there might be another niche that has more pain and money associated with it. E.g. Working to help gardeners get leads instead of helping lawyers (more money in the latter).

3. Starting with the wrong specific solution by not directly attacking the #1 sub-problem in the given market/use-case. E.g. Building a product to help lawyers write proposals when what they might actually need most is new business leads

Originally Posted On Facebook

4 Things You Need To Prove To Raise Capital & Have A Good Exit

Added on by Chris Saad.

If you're building & running a self-serve consumer app, you really only need to prove 4 things to raise capital and have a good exit:

  • You can spend $x on acquiring a user and get $y in return. Where y is  the  Customer Life Time Value (LTV) and is many multiples above x.

  • The market your addressing is large enough such that your total revenue can become meaningfully large.

  • You have a clear strategy to reduce the cost of X and Increase the return of Y (This is essential if X is still greater than Y).

  • You have an IPO in your future and/or (more likely) you have a number of potential acquirers lined up - ideally you've started building relationships with them already.

Originally Posted On Facebook

You Need To Hire When...

Added on by Chris Saad.

Don't hire until you're absolutely ready to hire. Building a team to run an imaginary business just burns time and money.

You know you need someone to join your team when...

1. You, or someone on your team, is underwater and the tasks hitting the floor are holding the business back.

2. You don't have anyone on the team who is good enough to complete an essential and immediate task at the level of quality/effectiveness needed.

For example, don't hire a sales person unless you have a product to sell - and you've personally figured out how to sell it with the first few sales. Don't hire a growth marketer until you have a self-serve product ready to onboard and retain users. Don't hire a community manager until you have a product worth building a community around.

Noticing a trend? Build a PRODUCT that people want to use and is ready to scale before scaling your team.

Originally Posted On Facebook

What Does Being A Product Manager Mean?

Added on by Chris Saad.

Upon asking a colleague what being a product manager meant to him, he gave me one of the best answers I've heard.

P. R. D

Product managers will recognize that this acronym refers to an oft used tool of Product Management known as a Product Requirements Doc. It's the way that a PM shares the details/spec of the product that needs to be built with all key stakeholders (especially engineers).

In this context, though, he came up with:

  • Priorities

  • Requirements

  • Design

I love this. An elegant way of repurposing the acronym to neatly summarize what PMs should be focused on.

Originally Posted On Facebook

Product Management Isn’t That Hard.

Added on by Chris Saad.

It just requires a little bit of... 

  1. Empathy

  2. Common sense

Oh and a little bit of...

  1. Taste

  2. Design skills

  3. Technical understanding 

  4. Project management

  5. Leadership and consensus building

  6. Diplomacy

  7. Pattern matching

  8. Data analysis

  9. Vision

  10. Pragmatism

  11. Attention to detail

  12. Long term discipline

  13. Experience

  14. Passion

  15. Curiosity/truth-seeking

But that’s about it...

Originally Posted On Facebook

Product Is About Nuance Across Multiple Dimensions

Added on by Chris Saad.

Product is about nuance across multiple dimensions - context, intent, markets, personalities and more. 

As someone who started out as an engineer, I’ve made the mistake of forgetting this over and over in my career. 

As a (good) Engineer, you want to generalize things as much as possible. You want to look for common patterns and implement as few entities and workflows as possible.

An asset is an asset, right?

Wrong. 

As a Product Manager you need to understand the difference between Persona A and B, Use Case A and B, Intent A and B etc. they can and should be very, very different. 

Word choice, framing, UX metaphors etc should all radically change even while the underlying entities might remain the same. 

The goal is not maximum system elegance/rationalization but, rather, maximum user understanding/alignment with their existing mental models and needs.

Originally Posted On Facebook

Sell Your Own Product!

Added on by Chris Saad.

In the early days of a b2c startup, doing bizdev activity for b2b2c distribution can feel so fun and gratifying. 

It can feel like high-momentum, effective work that allows you to lock down glossy brands and partnerships who might get you big batches of users through the door. It also feels great to announce them to friends, family, media etc.

Often times, though, the reality is much, much different.  Why? Because...

  • They often move very, very slowly. 

  • They demand new features and behaviors that are tangential or orthogonal to your core product and business strategy. 

  • They change their mind mid-stream

  • If you eventually get to ship the partnership/co-marketing program the results/conversion are often much, much smaller than you expect

  • If the results are marginal (which they almost always are at the beginning), your partner will often give up quickly and not put in the effort to optimise

For all these reasons, and many more, bizdev partnerships for a b2c app is really something to push off for later as a long-term bet and moat.

Instead, there's an axiom that says "Sell your own product'

Often times this feels like a harder, more data driven grind. However if you crack it (and you need to crack it!), it's high-scale, repeatable and has a huge, huge upside. It also forces you to really polish your product so that the user acquisition and retention really works.

Originally Posted On Facebook

What does MVP Really Mean?

Added on by Chris Saad.

An interesting phenomena I’ve noticed when advising startups is the shallow understanding of what MVP means. Almost everybody uses the term now, but few understand how to successfully operationalize it.

  • It’s often difficult to determine exactly what the MVP is. It’s partly science and it’s partly art. The answer often requires a mix of experience and taste.

  • Often, after building the MVP, they continue to build more and more product without going deep on user acquisition and feedback.

  • Sometimes they build multiple MVPs of multiple major product areas leaving much of the product surface area in a largely broken state.

Remember, the purpose of an MVP is to get it into customer’s hands and learn and grow with your shared understanding. You need to continue to iterate and polish it until you can see your own face in the reflection.

Remember it’s “ship and iterate”, not “Build, build, build”. Shipping doesn’t mean just putting it on production. It also means putting it into customer’s hands at as much scale as possible.

Originally Posted On Facebook

What Is One Of The Biggest Challenge That Young Startups Face?

Added on by Chris Saad.

One of the biggest challenges so many young startups with global disruption ambitions face is an addiction to revenue. 

In the early stages a startup’s life its job is to grow - fast - not to make revenue or profit. That’s why they raise enough capital to invest in growth for the first few years.

Undue focus on revenue forces decisions that can be massively distracting, undermine focus, create overstuffed products and stunt growth - ultimately killing the company.

Instead: Focus on what users need. Focus on doing just a few things well. Focus on product polish. Focus on repeatable, scalable workflows. Focus on removing pain and friction. Focus on building something that people love (the hardest thing in the world).

Defocusing revenue also allows you to consider disrupting rather than partnering with incumbents. It’s very easy to run to where the money and scale is. However often times a tech startup should be killing not helping some of the legacy players in an ecosystem. Or at the very least forcing them to play by new rules. 

Originally Posted On Facebook

Avoid Shipping The Org

Added on by Chris Saad.

When working on product marketing (how you will brand and merchandise your products on marketing materials like your website) you want to be sure to avoid “shipping the org” (i.e. describing things based on the way they were built by internal teams) or doing things for the sake of appearances (e.g. trying to show more products than you have).

You’re number one priority should be to think through the problems and use cases your customers have and describe your product in those terms as clearly and simply as possible.

Originally Posted On Facebook

Product Design In 3 Phases

Added on by Chris Saad.

When working on product design:

  • First you want to get the "architecture" right (E.g. what are the core areas/screens/patterns)

  • Second, the UI metaphors (e.g. Are lists, feeds, carousels etc the right thing to do in each situation)

  • And finally, the fine grained details (is it 'your stuff' or 'my stuff', is it 'overview' or 'summary', is it 'done' or 'complete' etc).

Originally Posted On Facebook