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Three Product Challenges for Entrepreneurs

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Three perennial challenges for entrepreneurs and start-up founds are (1) seriously listening to their markets, (2) building customer-side savings/ROI logic, and (3) whole-product thinking. Tiny companies lack formal product managers, but need to apply some product management thinking to these fundamental product/market needs.

This talk was for Stanford Continuing Studies' Entrepreneurship course, “Getting from an Early Idea to a Real Business.”

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Three Product Challenges for Entrepreneurs

  1. 1. CLICK TO EDIT MASTE R TITLE Three Product Challenges for Entrepreneurs Rich Mironov May 14, 2013 “Getting from an Early Idea to a Real Business” Bret Waters, Bus 217, Stanford Continuing Studies
  2. 2. • Veteran product manager/exec/strategist • Organizing product organizations • Business models, pricing, agile • “What do customers want?” • 6 startups, including as CEO/founder • Author of “The Art of Product Management” and Product Bytes blog • Founded Product Camp ABOUT ME 2W W W . M I R O N O V . C O M
  3. 3. What product managers do? Three product challenges for entrepreneurs 1. Seriously listening to your market 2. Customer-side ROI 3. Whole-product thinking AGENDA 3W W W . M I R O N O V . C O M Product Challenges for Entre- preneurs
  4. 4. CLICK TO EDIT MASTE R TITLE market information, priorities, requirements, roadmaps, epics, user stories, backlogs, personas, MRDs… product bits strategy, forecasts, commitments, roadmaps, competitive intelligence budgets, staff, targets Field input, Market feedback Segmentation, messages, benefits/features, pricing, qualification, demos… Markets & CustomersDevelopment Marketing & Sales Executives Product Management WHAT DOES A PRODUCT MANAGER DO? W W W . M I R O N O V . C O M
  5. 5. When NASA wanted to put a man on the moon, they planned a series of mid-course corrections… AVOID POST-COURSE CORRECTIONS
  6. 6. What product managers do? Three product challenges for entrepreneurs 1. Seriously listening to your market 2. Customer-side ROI 3. Whole-product thinking AGENDA 6W W W . M I R O N O V . C O M Product Challenges for Entre- preneurs
  7. 7. • Can’t do both in the same meeting • Selling turns off prospects • Defensive, waiting for the catch • Unwilling to give you key information • It’s all about you • As soon as you pitch your product, open-ended discussion stops • Can you listen (= shut up) for 15 minutes? SELLING & LISTENING W W W . M I R O N O V . C O M
  8. 8. • You are selling when you… • Do most of the talking • Anticipate objections • Plan your arguments • Understand the material • Want to “close” in the meeting • You are listening when you… • Ask open-ended questions • Take notes • Repeat for clarification • Use silence • Expect to be surprised ARE YOU SELLING OR LISTENING? W W W . M I R O N O V . C O M
  9. 9. • Get inside their heads • 30+ minute in-person interviews • Open-ended questions • Record session or take good notes • Ask about… • How their business* works • What they name things • What keeps them awake at night (pain) • Current solutions, alternatives, shortcomings, competitors • Natural units of work • Unstated requirements • How they justify spending (ROI) EXTENDED INTERVIEWS W W W . M I R O N O V . C O M
  10. 10. • Markets are complex and surprising • You learn about the world from customers and prospects • “What’s the pattern?” • “Who are the outliers?” • “How would a customer fit us in?” • My rule of thumb: you need 8 to 20 in-depth interviews to start seeing patterns • Your initial theory is always wrong DISCOVERY VS. THEORIES
  11. 11. • From Blank and Ries… • Search for market/product fit in early development • Testable specific questions • Rapid, goal-oriented • Within your intended target audience • Product mock-up, A/B comparison • But easy to lose context and force false choices LEAN CUSTOMER RESEARCH
  12. 12. • “Urgent” versus “Important” • Truly understanding customers and markets will save an entire product cycle • Customer language and stories make selling easier • Postponing market analysis may cost you the company YOU HAVE TIME TO BE STRATEGIC W W W . M I R O N O V . C O M
  13. 13. CLICK TO EDIT MASTE R TITLE What product managers do? Three product challenges for entrepreneurs 1. Seriously listening to your market 2. Customer-side ROI 3. Whole-product thinking AGENDA 13W W W . M I R O N O V . C O M Product Challenges for Entre- preneurs
  14. 14. • Your products don’t matter • Your costs don’t matter • Customers don’t allocate budgets for you • Closing a deal is usually hard • You have to do your customer’s thinking for him • How will he justify spending money? PROSPECTS DON’T CARE ABOUT YOU W W W . M I R O N O V . C O M
  15. 15. • Why will customers buy? • Tell a story in customer’s own language • What’s the natural unit of exchange? • How do they derive value? • What does the competition do? • Don’t expect customers to think for you • Test, trial-close, get your hands dirty TELLING THE PRICING STORY W W W . M I R O N O V . C O M
  16. 16. • Businesses buy most products to make money or save money • How do they describe value? • Quantify it for them • They won’t spend time to fully analyze your product • Assume you can capture a fraction of value • Typically 5% to 15% VALUE FOR B2B CUSTOMERS W W W . M I R O N O V . C O M
  17. 17. CLICK TO EDIT MASTE R TITLE “By using our tech support knowledge automator, you can reduce your support time per call by 30%.” HARD COST SAVINGS EXAMPLE Your support calls/year 22,000 Average minutes/call 16 Total annual support hours 5,867 Current support team FTE 3 Average salary $85,000 Annual staff cost $255,000 Savings per call 20% Total savings $51,000 W W W . M I R O N O V . C O M
  18. 18. • “Anchoring” or comparable product • Similar shampoos, apps, lawn care services • Per hour fees for lawyers, tour guides, babysitters • Sometimes, price = luxury • Jewelry, designer clothes, chocolate • Consumers over-estimate usage • Health clubs, Costco bulk items • Fairness • BofA’s $5/month debit card fee B2C PRICING IS HARDER W W W . M I R O N O V . C O M
  19. 19. CLICK TO EDIT MASTE R TITLE What product managers do? Three product challenges for entrepreneurs 1. Seriously listening to your market 2. Customer-side ROI 3. Whole-product thinking AGENDA 19W W W . M I R O N O V . C O M Product Challenges for Entre- preneurs
  20. 20. Customers make our products into solutions We like to over-simplify their complicated world YOU SELL PIECE PARTS Your product fits here
  21. 21. What important things do customer need along with… • Electric car? • Fantasy baseball mobile app? • Concrete saw? • Tivo/Roku/Boxee replacement WHOLE PRODUCT THINKING W W W . M I R O N O V . C O M
  22. 22. • Recruit an outsider • Provide only product materials • No hints, no help • Watch, listen, learn • Can you… Program your DVR? Read a cell phone bill? Synch calendars? HAVE SOMEONE TRY AN INSTALL W W W . M I R O N O V . C O M
  23. 23. Increase your odds of success by 1. Seriously listening to your market 2. Showing customer-side ROI 3. Thinking about whole products Product managers do this for a living TAKE-AWAYS W W W . M I R O N O V . C O M
  24. 24. CLICK TO EDIT MASTE R TITLE Q&A W W W . M I R O N O V . C O M
  25. 25. CLICK TO EDIT MASTE R TITLE CONTACT Rich Mironov, CEO Mironov Consulting 233 Franklin St, Suite #308 San Francisco, CA 94102 RichMironov @RichMironov Rich@Mironov.com

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