Product Managers: How to Build Products That Sell

New Product Managers Knowledge 5 min read, August 20, 2020

TL: DR As a Product Manager, building products that sell isn't easy. You can't just hit and hope without putting in the research and validating your idea, otherwise you'll end up wasting time and money.

Product Managers Must Understand Your Audience

When it comes to building amazing products, understanding your audience is key to being able to solve their problems and therefore build a sustainable business.

Product development isn't just about the 'development' of the product, but more-so building a strong data-driven foundation for the product that maximizes it's value and perceived value to your potential customers. Remember, people don't just buy for the sake of it, they usually have a problem and are looking for a solution.

This is especially true when it comes to SaaS businesses. SaaS or Software-as-a-Service companies must not only build great software, but they must achieve product-market fit, whereby the software product fits as a solution with the problem statements their market has. Without this, you have a useless stack of code that offers little to no value.

Why does this happen? It varies, but in my experience, I have found (and done this myself) that founders often get over-eager to ship a SaaS product that looks nice, works well but lacks the critical underlying foundations that make it a solution and therefore worth paying for.

This is usually due to little or no market validation.

To build a great SaaS product, you need to first understand your audience, what drives them emotionally and what motivates them personally - they are, after all, human beings.

Product Managers must understand their customers’ problems to make products that sell
Product Managers must understand their customers’ problems to make products that sell

Product Managers like you must then understand what problems they currently experience in their personal or work life. Usually, there will be many, so it's a good idea to have some kind of idea about what type of SaaS you want to build and the general problem you are looking to solve.

Once you have spoken to as many people as possible (in the same industry) and mapped out a couple of universal issues across these participants, you can start to understand if there are any underlying root-causes of these problems.

This then allows you to work on possible solutions. The difference here is that you have already started building a strong foundation using customer research data so you can be sure that there is a problem to solve and that enough people in the industry your targeting experience this problem.

A good way of plotting all of these issues and problems your target audience face is drawing a mind-map or brainstorm, or you can use AnnounecFly to plot these as different 'Topics'.

Crowdsourcing The Root Problem

From here, and assuming you use AnnounceFly as the tool to plot everything, you can present these problems to your initial respondents and ask them to vote on which issues are most pressing to them, or which issues are costing them the most money in their business.

Here, it is key to ask the right questions and stick to the same question for every respondent so you can be sure each one is giving you relevant data that you can act on.

Once you have enough upvotes on the different root problem you have identified from your respondents, you can start to map and prioritize what ones have the largest business impact on your potential customers.

This is not guesswork, this is using the solid data you have collected from real people. And that makes this technique a lot more effective than just asking random questions.

Next up, it's time to start working on a solution.

Asking What Form a Solution Would Look Like

Now that you have some hard data to work from and have a pretty strong idea of the problem you want to solve, it's time to start working on a solution.

Before you jump the gun, it's easy (and wrong) to jump ahead and start guessing at solutions and building things that you think will work. This is where a lot of first time and even experienced entrepreneurs go wrong.

Resist the urge to create for now.

Successful products shouldn't be designed or built in a vacuum. They need to be continually worked on and iterated in line with your customers or in this case the respondents who outlined their problems so that we could solve them,

You've done half the work of getting the problem statement, now start working on the solution with those same people.

Again, back to create a new Room in AnnounceFly for this.

For us, we call our Room something like 'Solution Ideas' then add the problem statement as the description. I've created a mockup using ProductFlare and added all of the Topics/ideas we came up with when trying to build the first version of ProductFlare:

We are able to prioritise different solution ideas using the vote count on the far right
We are able to prioritize different solution ideas using the vote count on the far right

From here, we're able to then plot some of our own ideas for a solution, or ask those respondents to submit their own ideas through the Room so we can add it as a Topic and let people vote/discuss that potential solution.

At its core, this lets us understand what a solution might look like and guess what, lots of the input is actually coming from the people who will be using it, not just our own team!

Always remember, you aren't the target market so what you might buy isn't necessarily what they would buy!

Building An MVP

After you've invested a good few weeks in crowdsourcing solution ideas, and working directly with your focus group on gettings responses, votes, and a healthy discussion going, you can pick one of the most requested solutions and start working on a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

MVPs are the basic foundation for the solution that you are working on - the minimum you can build to start validating the idea and testing it with customers to get early feedback.

The process and cost of building an MVP will vary greatly from business to business and product to product.

For us, MVPs are in the form of software products, but for you, this might be a mobile app or even a physical product that you plan on selling. The underlying concept here is still the same.

If you are building a SaaS software or mobile app, then I'd recommend using a no-code tool like Bubble or DropSource to get you up and running. These are great solutions that help you build really powerful applications without writing code, and are suitable for both beginners/non-technical founders or seasoned programmers to get an MVP up and running quickly.

There are a number of freelancers in the Bubble marketplace that can build MVPs really quickly and at a fraction of the cost of a traditional development agency, so founders with small budgets can still get started.

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