Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Building a Leading Product

When a new product is introduced, it is extremely rare for a product to become a market leader right away. Most often, products take time to build a market share and become a market leader.

Building market leading products can be drilled down to a process. If product management executes on this process, one can build a market leading product. Building leading products is a joint function of engineering and product management.

Looking more closely at all the leading products, I have distilled this into a few product management characteristics that can serve as valuable guideposts.

1 . Know customer context and develop products accordingly 

Initial product development, say for version 1.0 is often based on certain assumptions on how customers will use the product. But when the real product is released, and customers start using the product, the actual customer usage will differ from the initial assumptions.

One has to develop a deep understanding of customer context - on how, where, when, why, what - they are using the product for, and that becomes the basis for the next round of product improvements  in the next release.

Understanding how customers use the product is the key. This insight can be gained by mainly by observation and customer interaction. I call this as Customer Anthropology.

Studying customers using the product gives a deep understanding on the context of product usage and product limitations & issues faced by customers.

2. Take a broader view of the Customer Experience

It is also important to observe (potential) customers who are not using your product and gain a deep understanding as to why they are not using your product - and instead they opt to use a competitive product.

Customer experience and use cases are very diverse and one need to look in detail on what the actual customer experiences are. Often time, it helps to think in "What-if" lines:

What if the product responds more quickly?
What if the product does this additional function?
What if the product costs more? (or less)

Taking a broader view of customer experiences will give the deep insight on how they can beat the competition and emerge as market leader.

 3. Act on insights systematically 

Once you have gained the deep insight on how customer use your product, and also why certain customers don't use your product, product leaders must act fast and systematically to address the product shortcomings.

This sounds a lot easier then actual reality. But most companies fail to act in their insights for various reasons and let the product fail.

Acting on insights takes real leadership. Ability to influence all stake holders and drive them to act consistently and systematically is the key to success!

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