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Launching a v1 product
Product Management is a continuous discovery process. Business strategies evolve, new customer insights unfold, and the competitive landscape changes. How do you decide you have learned enough to define an MVP in this ever-changing environment? This article will discuss a framework to help you define an MVP while continuing your product discovery. For each step, there will be examples to make it relatable.
1. Define your goal
The primary job of a product manager is to deliver business value through your product. So starting with a clear goal or an outcome will set you in the right direction and offer a guiding principle along the way. This would involve starting a conversation with your stakeholders, your manager, or the product lead. There's value in collecting inputs from engineering, sales, marketing, customer service, or finance teams based on the type of product you are building.
Acquire: do you want to grow the user/customer base? This might be a great way for early startups to create a buzz, get investors, etc.
Activate: once the users have signed up, what’s the critical activity that drives engagement? Is it upgrading to a paid account? Or posting the first video. Or booking the first ride.
Retain: keeping your existing customers is often easier than acquiring new customers. To retain, you need to make sure they are using the product, find it valuable and are overall happy with it.
Monetize: finally, for any business to be successful, it needs to drive revenue.
Ask your stakeholders what they value the most. Sometimes, it's appropriate to have a blend of more than one goal. In that case, pick a primary goal and then have a secondary goal. Having a clear set of goals is critical to keep everyone, mainly you and your product, focused and aligned throughout the product development life cycle.
Here's an example. Say you are a new product manager to develop a content platform for the marketing team. Then your goal could look like this:
Goal: Increase content-led marketing revenue.
You can define OKRs (Objective Key Results) around this goal to make it more actionable.
Objective: Increase content-led marketing revenue
Increase the CTR on content-rich marketing campaigns
Increase user transactions by 5% in the next six months
2. Start with a blank canvas
Now that you have a goal start with a blank canvas. The job of a product manager is to identify opportunities that map to the goal you identified in the first step. Starting with a clean slate minimizes confirmation bias from the current alternatives and proposed solutions.
Start painting your canvas with the following questions:
Who’s the customer for my product?
What are their top problems?
How do they solve it today?
What does success looks like?
I find a product canvas a great way to frame the problem statement. There are various templates available. I find this one useful, particularly in the discovery phase.
Now take this canvas with you and start interviewing stakeholders, customers, partners, customer support, subject matter experts. At the end of this exercise, your product canvas for the content marketing platform would look like this:
3. Map the opportunities
Now that you have framed the problem and have a high-level idea to address those, you are ready to brainstorm ideas. Setting the goal at the top, map the opportunities that can impact the goal set in Step 1. Start with a wide net. This will prevent the team from getting obsessed with a single idea.
Make your product discovery inclusive of disciplines. To ensure a focused discovery, carve out a 60-90 minutes session to ideate opportunities and solutions that will move the needle on the goal you are trying to address.
Once you have mapped opportunities, take the first pass at identifying those that the team feels would impact the goal most.
For example, an opportunity map for the content platform could look like this.
4. Identify the common denominator
Flesh out top opportunities into smaller use cases. Evaluate them against the relevant criteria along with your cross-functional team. A typical set of criteria could be:
Once you tabulate the use cases against your criteria, a pattern will emerge. Pick the one with the highest ROI against the overall criteria:
Let’s take the content platform example. Image-based content marketing seems like the best bet. Also, a common denominator across the use cases is an asset repository that you need regardless of which use case you decide to build first.
5. Define the MVP
This is where you put it all together. A minimal viable product (MVP) is a hypothesis based on the goal you defined, the customer problems you identified, and the top opportunity you think will drive the highest ROI.
An MVP typically has four parts:
Hypothesis: If we do ..then we will improve..because..
User story(ies): As a user, I can ..so that..
Acceptance criteria: Call out assumptions, critical outcomes of the user experience, prerequisites, etc.
Metrics aligned with the OKR: How you will measure the success of the MVP
Here's what our content platform's MVP constructs would look like:
Hypothesis: If we can show fresh, relevant images in our marketing campaigns, then we will engage users in our ads because images set the first impression of an ad
User story(ies): As a marketing manager, I want to inspire users with fresh, relevant images so that I can effectively promote the product
Need at least 5 different images for the top 1000 travel destinations
Image resolution need to be 1200X628 pixels
Metrics aligned with the OKR:
Primary metric: Click-to-open rate
Secondary metric: Conversion
A continuous product discovery
Now that you defined a goal-driven MVP, inclusive of cross-functional teams, the engineering team can begin implementation. In fact, since they were already involved in the discovery process, they might have had a head-start on the technical specifications based on the common denominators you identified in step 3. And once the implementation starts, you free yourself to start the discovery of nNext. This way you can drive a continuous discovery process while continuing to build and ship products to validate and evolve your product strategy.