Marty Cagan, founder and partner of the Silicon Valley Product Group and author of the book, Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love, joins Helping Sells Radio to talk about the new edition of his book, why product managers should fall in love with the problem not the solution, and whether Ben Horowitz is as hardcore in person as he is in his book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers.
"One of the most enduring myths in the product world is that great products result from listening to your customers (or prospective customers). The truth is that customers are consistently not the source of true value creation and innovation." - Marty Cagan, author and product development thought leader, in his post Customer Inspired; Technology Enabled
Love is dangerous
In the product development world, that is. Many product development (PD) teams fall in love with the solution to a customer problem, which causes them to ignore any other potential solutions to the problem that might work better than the one they decided on. Sometimes "customers just don't respond," Marty said. You may be excited about the solution, however the customer doesn't think it's worth the trouble learning about it and switching to your product.
The first attempt at solving the problem often doesn't work, it just needs something different. But if you're so focused on that one solution, if you're so in love with that one solution, you'll never get to the 'right' solution, the one that the customer loves and works for your business.
Just be better
"So, how can we avoid falling in love with our solutions?" Bill asked. PD techniques can help, but as Marty explained, most of them are already focused on the solution. "(The issue is whether you) can you come up with a solution that's better than what they have to get them to switch," Marty said.
That's the critical item here: a solution that's better than what the customer has. The PD techniques keep teams honest, Marty went on to say, keeping them focused on the problem so that customers love the solution that's developed and it works for the business.
"An enduring myth in the product world is that great products result from listening to your customers. The truth is that customers are consistently not the source of true value creation and innovation." - @cagan
How much better?
In the book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz said, "A technology (company must) build a product that’s at least 10 times better at doing something than the current prevailing way of doing that thing." So, what is "better"?
At a basic level, Marty says the solution has to be "better enough to get people to switch." Good product managers understand their business, products, and people, so they're able to recognize which solution ideas have merit and which don't. They know which ideas may be close enough to the 10 times improvement that will get customers to switch.
Weeding out the bad ideas
Sometimes customers may actually want one of the solutions on the list because it'll help them overcome a work obstacle more easily than how they're doing it now, but they won't actually switch to you when they see it. And it's a reason that you may not even think about, such as needing additional training to use the new solution or that they'll need to upgrade their tech stack to implement it.
Other times both you and your customers love the new solution, and you're ready to build and sell it, but there are internal obstacles to it, such as legal implications.
Good product managers have the skills and techniques to try out many solutions quickly in order to weed out the ones that won't work for both customers and your business.
"Good product managers understand their business, products, and people, so they're able to recognize which solution ideas have merit and which don't." - @cagan
Good product development happens when all teams understand deeply what's going on in their organization and their customers. When they share that knowledge with each other and zero in on how their actions help their customers' lives. "Get out of the feature perspective and think of it from the customer perspective," Marty said.
Listen to our Latest Episode
To find out more, listen to the latest episode of Helping Sells.
To hear more of the conversation Marty had with Bill and Sarah, listen to the latest episode of Helping Sells.
[Author's note: Embed SoundCloud code to listen to the podcast here.]
If you liked this episode, you may like these episodes too:
Tell us what you think of Helping Sells Radio
We'd love it if you'd:
- Write a review on iTunes.
- Tweet us using the hashtag #HelpingSells
- Comment below.
Thank you for listening to the show.