That whisper in your ears is the voice of your customer

Most Product Owners are really proud of their ideas. They pursue their self-defined product objectives with passion and dedication down to the tiniest detail. A lot of effort goes into managing development and roadmap. We are bombarded by project management concepts, efficiency measures and team communication tools. Yet many products never sell. Successful companies know how to interpret the signs, put the right focus on the market’s needs and pivot the product idea into something customers really want. Unsuccessful companies end up with a product no one really wants.

I am fascinated by Reid Hoffman’s “if you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late“.

What does he exactly mean with that? This apparently simple statement tells a long and complex story. Reid thinks about startups, often running out of money before having their product on the market. In it there is all the philosophy of the “fail fast” and serial entrepeneurship. However there is a broader bigger meaning.

An often forgotten parameter in product or portfolio strategies is what the customer really want. How can you tell without listening? How do you get answers if you do not ask questions? And how can your customer give you a feedback if you do not have a product?
Even more important than pitching your product idea should asking about your customer’s problem. So an essential part of your product strategy should be keeping asking “what does my potential customer need?”, “what would my customer think of this?”, “what real world problem are we trying to solve with this?”.

The right way to build a product is focusing on its core first and go to market right after. Details and refinement will come. Speak to your customers and work on the details when your are already trying to sell.
Having the right customer-facing strategy and the market analytics in place is as important as your first idea in the roadmap, if not more. You must launch the product your customers want, not what you want.

The whisper in your ears is the voice of your customer! Stop listening to yourself and pay attention.