How to make a product work? (with a bonus section)

Paul Graham in multiple instances told the founders to focus on products rather than anything else. Here are a few things I learned while building Truepush. Mostly common sense. I asked Ankur, Product Management Leader at MakeMyTrip Group to add a few points from his experience too and you will find them in the bonus section.

– Build the basic (80:20 rule)

20% of the features serve 80% of the use cases, find out what is yours. We got many websites started Integrating into their websites while we only have simple push notification and RSS feed as only features.

– Disrupt one thing well

We have a disruptive (free) pricing model and it got great attention for us. I keep checking Ahrefs every day and I see new platforms are adding us in the free tool list, few in marketing and few in developer tools. People like to talk about the disruptive feature. Find out what is yours. Your overall product should be good too

– Go aggressive on exploring platforms

Though it was in November we released, we were exploring different channels to work on. ProductHunt happened to work well. It helped us get a lot of feedback too. If we haven’t been posting in a different forum and trying different online and offline channels, we would have never found this out and never would have understood customers as we do now.

– Know where you are fragile as a product

You will inherently know where you are fragile. Keep the knowledge and fix it asap and on the go. Many things won’t matter when there is a small audience but you should definitely know when it would affect you.

– You always may be in a glass house, so be humble

You are in a glass house. I was reading ‘It doesn’t have to be crazy at work’ and the authors, founders @ basecamp wrote say they feel they are in a glass house and they don’t want to comment on any other software or how someone should build something. If someone with more than a hundred thousand paying customers says that they are in a glass house. You and I probably are too(and you will feel it yourself anyways)

– Few days are short but weeks are enough to build something significant

I was new in the product management role and initially was counting days to complete something. Over time I realized, while you get started and have a short release, there will be many small things come up your way and comes times as a surprise. While the best thing is to eliminate those things, I learned to count things in weeks than days. Few days is not significant and when you give enough time it needs, you will have great output.

– Your feature prioritization may be based on your initial customers, not market research always

A bird in hand is more worth than two in the bush. Initially, we ended up with a big list of features and had few things build. But we have not executed many of them. We started getting feedback on the product and started building those things. Having said that, we also did hold features asked by customers and kept it for later. Knowing what would appeal to your customers and prioritizing them is the key.

– Building product looks never ending

As building a product you will always envision few months runway of things you want to build, change or experiment. It is never done.

– Knowing about your Stakeholders is wisdom

You may be heading the product but you need to understand different Stakeholders and their job pressures, timelines, goals, and expectations. Know each of them very clearly, many of the times you can influence them for getting things done and few times you can’t but knowing is wisdom. Be wise.

– Don’t immediately react to people or situations, think through.

Everyone has their own thinking and perspective. Everyone has different experiences and backgrounds. The way they speak will be different. Understand what they mean while they say rather than what words they use. Few people can be introverts and may never talk to you in a group, few people cannot keep things in good words though it’s important and few others just exaggerate things to get your attention. Understand people and pay attention.

– Relax and keep working

You will have a lot of pressure to finish things off quickly and it never ends. You need to work with your team closely to get things done. If you ask around, delays are common and these are because of false expectations of deadlines. Your team will end up doing a patch up work to meet the deadline and when they come back to fix it, it would take the same average time. You need to patch up and work a few times but most of the times, it is not.

Bonus Section

Here is what Ankur have to say about Product Management adding to the above

-About copying competitors

What works for them, might not work for you. Even they might not know what they are doing

-Build a specific value prop to start with to again early adopters.

To poach customers from an incumbent, your product needs to be 100X better. 10x doesn’t cut it.

He says

1. 10x is easy to catch up for the incumbent.

2. 10x doesn’t build retention and stickiness. It’s incremental and helps once but then muscle memory for the user takes over and he goes back to the incumbent.

3. 10X is incremental. 100X is a paradigm shift

Few Examples:

1. FB for college students as against Myspace for everyone.

2. Dropbox for file sharing as against pen drive or p2p sites.

3. for hotel bookings where you can pay at the hotel as against prepaid or booking over the phone.

4. Wechat QR code as against Cash in China.

5. Tinder quick swipe left/right and instant match as against OkCupid lengthy personality quiz concept to match.

PS: Did you like the article? Let me know and share your experiences in comments or on tweet to me here

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