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Discovering Products rather than Creating Them


Question: What’s your Trick?

“What’s your trick to creating a new product? How do you know it will succeed?”

This past weekend I was at a WordCamp (in Miami) and that always means the chance to connect with folks I don’t know. I had the chance to talk with people about membership sites, eBooks, public speaking, and so much more.

But one question struck me as worthy of a written post. I’m sure the question asked was meant to be taken at face value – but I realized that the question was the wrong one. They were asking, in essence, “How do you create products?”

Answer: I don’t create them.

And of course the answer to that question is simple. I don’t create products. I discover them.

Like I said, I know it’s semantics, but it’s a distinction I find valuable. I find that when people set out to create products, they focus on three things:

  1. What to build (features)

  2. What to charge (price)

  3. How to sell (marketing)

These are great things, but you can see that there’s something big that’s missing. In fact, it’s the reason (my personal take) so many products fail. Because they miss the initial step of discovery.

The Power of Discovery

When you go out looking to learn, you don’t learn about products, you learn about people.

  1. What they do

  2. How long they take

  3. What issues they have

The result of this exploration is that you come to understand their pain points. And pain is a great inspiration for designing and developing solutions. But you can’t do that if you haven’t discovered pain.

Not all Pain is Equal

One of the first product blunders I recall making was solving a pain that wasn’t that big of a deal. I had listened (so I get credit for that). So we went and built an automated system that would let folks configure and reserve meeting space (and make food orders) and then both mark the room resource as booked, as well as send the food order to another group. Catering had described their issues and one of them was the way they received orders. So we created a portal for them.

It failed.

Turns out a portal to them just meant another place to log in and check for orders. It wasn’t a big pain. It was the wrong pain to solve. And they didn’t get enough orders in to want to change their approach (and retrain staff).

So if you’re creating a product that solves pain, make sure it’s a #1, 2, or 3 pain. Not a #27 pain. People don’t leave the status quo for that.

Discovering Products

Others have written it, so for sure this won’t be the first or last place you read it, but if you want to discover people’s pain, you won’t do it at your computer monitor. You need to step outside the building and go talk with folks.

Discovery happens – insight arrives – when you connect with people and listen. Ask them about their days.

  1. Ask them about their frustrations.

  2. Ask them about the other things they’re supposed to do but never get to.

  3. Ask them about the things they have to do multiple times a day.

  4. Ask them about the things they spend more than half their day doing?

As you do this, I think you’ll discover the kinds of products they’d love. And you’ll know my trick – if you want to call it that.

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