The product development process needs far more than just an exciting idea and money. Your idea is just the beginning. You also need a team to get it out of the dream phase, and a plan to keep it on track. Not to mention, a marketing strategy that clearly defines the problem to your audience—and why your product is the solution.
Today on the Igniting Startups podcast, you’ll learn how to take a product from concept to market. Joining us are two veterans in the field of new product development. First up, we have Mike Reynolds, founder and CEO of digital product agency Innovatemap. In just five years, Innovatemap has helped more than 125 startups, scale-ups, and tech-enabled large businesses launch, manage, and market beautiful digital products. In fact, six clients have already reached an exit.
Joining Mike is Christian Beck, executive partner at Innovatemap and co-host of the Better Product podcast. There, he has built a successful career working with tech companies and startups to build out design teams. Beck also helps startups strategize the right approach to get them through the product development life cycle.
Between these two, you’ll get a master class in understanding the product development process. We will cover how to find out if your idea has any legs, what a product agency can do to help that idea develop, and the different roles design, management, and marketing play in developing a product.
In this episode on the product development process, you will learn:
- What a results-driven product development process is … and isn’t.
- How to go through product design and development with success.
- The advantages of using a digital product development agency.
- How to decide if going through a new product development process is worth it.
- The importance of feedback throughout the product development cycle.
- Why the idea needs to be drawn out to some degree before beginning.
Please enjoy this episode on the product development process with Mike Reynolds and Christian Beck!
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Mike Reynolds and Christian Beck quotes from this episode of Igniting Startups:
“You need your #product to come across very quickly where it’s understood. Someone hits your page and they’re like: ‘I get it, I understand what problem they are solving, I understand the product solution they have.’” – @mreynz_mike of @innovatemap on @PowderkegCo
“The reason that you start getting the #productmarketing in line is you have to figure out how to communicate what you actually have to the market.” – cmbeck_ of @innovatemap on @PowderkegHQ
#Productdevelopment process 101: “When you’re ending the dream stage, you should start to think about sales strategy/marketing strategy, you should have a splash page up.” – @mreynz_mike of @innovatemap on @PowderkegHQ
Links and resources mentioned in this episode:
Companies and organizations:
For more product expertise …
Check out the Better Product podcast, hosted by Innovatemap’s Christian Beck and Anna Eaglin. Throughout each episode, Anna and Christian explore what differentiates industry-leading products in the marketplace. Those insights bubble to the surface as CEOs, entrepreneurs, and other innovators share stories on how they built products infused with purpose and vision. New episodes drop weekly.
Become a product guru. >>>Listen to the Better Product podcast.
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The reason why you start getting the product marketing in line is because you have to figure out how you’re actually going to communicate what you have to the market.
Hey there powderkeg fans.
Thank you for joining us on episode 77 of powderkeg igniting startups the show for entrepreneurs, leaders and innovators, building remarkable tech companies and communities outside of Silicon Valley. I’m your host, Matt Hunckler. And I am chomping at the bit to start today’s show, because today we’re talking about something every company at every stage needs to know how to create a product development process that works. And we’ve got not one but two experts on the subject, both from a very exciting digital product agency here in the Midwest. Last year, they made the Inc 5000 list. And we’re the number two fastest growing company in the state of Indiana. In just five years, they’ve helped more than 125 startups, scale ups and tech enabled businesses launch, manage and market beautiful digital products. In fact, their work has helped six of their clients reach an exit already. They’re very good at what they do. I’ve seen their work, it is phenomenal. And to help you understand just how complex product development can be. Just want to share a couple of stats, only one out of every seven product ideas will yield a successful product. For every seven new product ideas. Only four actually reached product development, and 25 to 45% of new products fail in the market 25 to 45%. So these two guests today help you reduce the amount of failure and increase your chances of success. And so let me introduce those two gentlemen today. First up, we’ve got someone who, before starting this product agency worked at a primo and Teradata as a product executive in May 2014. He launched innovate map to help tech companies better execute their product design, product management and product marketing. He is a proud graduate from Purdue University boiler up, please welcome CEO and executive product partner from innovate map. Mike Reynolds. Mike, thanks for being here today. Man. It’d be here, Matt. All right, and I’m gonna introduce our second guest here who’s sitting across the table from me. Our next guest led design teams for large enterprise software teams like Autodesk and a primo. He works closely with founders of startup and scale up tech companies to take their ideas and turn them into well designed and profitable products. He leaves the design practice and is an executive partner innovate map. Please help me welcome Christian back. Thanks, Matt. Thanks for being here, man. All right, we’re gonna dive right into this. We’re talking about the product development process. And you guys have worked with us and helped us from afar on some of our products. I’ve seen you help so many companies down this path. One of the things I think can be so daunting for tech teams is to understand kind of just the lay of the land of what is the product development process? What are we actually talking about? If you can kind of give me a scope? Is that? Is that just the moving pixels on a screen? Or are you talking about even from the earliest stages of like, I have an idea. When you talk to your clients? Where do you usually start with them?
Yeah, this is good. So we’ll describe it. I mean, one of our even innovate map taglines is Dream design and deliver. So it’s really from concept to go into market launch is really what some would describe the full product development process, I would say, two key pieces, even in the word product development, you’ve got product side, are we building the right thing, you’ve got the development side, or we’re building the thing, right? So if we’re talking about that process, we’re to typically engaging with an idea at one of those stages, either they build something and they need help, delivering it to market or launching it, love working at the idea stage, we get to kind of contribute all the way through that process. But when we’re thinking about that, or how even people should be thinking about it is from how do I get an idea? That’s even just just an idea on a sketch pad whiteboard to something that is actually able to be sold and bought and used by users that entire process.
I love that when you’re looking at this idea stage Christian, where does the design piece of this actually come come into effect? Is it your once you’ve decided on the idea? And once you’ve decided, yeah, I’m going to actually build something. Are you thinking about design, even in the earliest stages of deciding what idea to work on?
Well, I’m a designer. So I’m thinking about design from scratch. So that’s it’s a loaded question for myself. But I think that the design, I think a lot of times in digital products, we think of design as starting once you’re headed towards actual coding. So before it gets coded, you’ve got to have designs to help guide the developers to actually build it. But what we find a lot of times working with startups that have really early to stage ideas and aren’t even don’t even have anything out in the market, that design can really help at the concept stage. So if you have a great idea in your head, in the digital space, at some point, you’ve got to get something that looks real out there. And so for us, we would call that a concept design or vision, you know, Vision concepts where you take these big ideas. And yes, you do put, you know, pen to pixel as it were, and actually get something out there, whether it’s a prototype, or just a screen that goes inside of of a pitch deck. But really, I think design starts there, because it helps you start to understand how your idea will become real.
So let’s, let’s start there, if you don’t mind, Mike, when you’re looking at that product development process, whether it’s a startup or a scale up, and maybe there’s just pure ideas stage, let’s say there’s nothing else at a company. But we’ve got a couple of big ideas, we could go and tackle. How do you how would you suggest to that company, they start to rank order, you know, which it are you rank ordering? Like which idea to tackle first? Or which one is most valuable to customers? What is sort of that like beginning stages of the process? Yeah,
well, the beginning, first of all, you’re not coding anything yet. Yeah, that’s the first one, I would say. Don’t don’t run into that. There’s a lot of what I would say at this point, you’re in the of the phase who’s just at the idea, you are complementing business and design to really help vet we’re, you know, the constant, not just vet the concept. But if it’s an existing product, and the idea is really enhancement to it, you’re kind of be able to work with it an existing market that you can start having conversations and validating, you actually have existing ideas and roadmap to kind of balance it against. But if it’s, if it’s a literal startup, starting from scratch, blank page, you’re trying to start to think through the market. Okay, that’s a great idea. That’s fine. If you build it, they don’t come, you know, it’s, it’s, you’ve got to find our it’s a grand idea. But we see a lot of good ideas. Is there a market for that idea? Yeah. So and then, and then you’re gonna be on that journey, running that hypothesis, you know, the first several years, but what are they starting with?
What are some of the things that a startup would do to start to define? Is there a market for this? Like, what? What would be a good exercise for them to start with?
Yeah. Big, big believer in conversations. Yep. You know, so if you’re, if you’re going to build, you know, if you have an idea to solve software product idea for surgeons, whether it’s for the insurance industry, start talking to what would be the potential market, having conversations about current pains, workflows, I wouldn’t go feature hunting, you know, don’t go and say, If I built this, would you use it, especially at a concept phase they’re going to, and why wouldn’t you do that? Well, for starters, you don’t have anything to really I mean, you’re still it’s really pretty unbaked at this point, yeah, you know, and you’re just running an idea. And a lot of times, you can get false positives by excitement, and energy. So and we conversations with potential market will start to say you’re
not a believer of, I’ve got this great idea. I need to protect it and work on it in my lab, until it’s ready for the market. So I don’t tip anyone off. I don’t want anyone to steal my idea. Do you run into any of that with any of the companies you’ve you’ve talked to whether their clients or outside of innovate, man,
I would say a little bit when I agree with you. First and foremost, yes, I’m not an advocate of that. Yeah, you’ve got you’ve got to get it out there. And honestly, in the digital space, it’s very different. If you’re doing a physical product, like a new combine engine, or a new shoe or something like that. I could see where you want to have patents and keep that tight lipped. But in the digital space, you can change things in flight, that really getting that out there faster. validating that is too important.
It all comes down to execution is too important. Yeah, less about the idea, and more about the actual process of vetting. Is there a market for this? And if there is, can I take that product?
Yeah. And the Wonder thing, I’d say this. So that’s just kind of venting? Do you have a market? Yep. A parallel thread to that is I would start thinking through the design, to just kind of piggyback on Chris’s point from earlier, we’re thinking about design the whole way through. So if I’m going to share my idea with someone, it’s great to share it, it literally can complete the story more quickly. If I have a concept design, yeah, say I this is this is what I’m seeing it actually it almost forces a rigger on the entrepreneur to start thinking through their vision and what it would be and what it’d be like to interact with it. You know, getting that started from an early stage. It’s a good point
to well, and I’d love to talk to Christian a little bit more about this, because you even helped us a little bit with one of our mock ups that we got early feedback on sort of the platform that we started building last year, was just a very preliminary product design, with the intent to just get put enough into the design where you can start getting feedback. And it was amazing from just one screenshot, one mock up screenshot, how many different things we could get feedback on as opposed to, you know, in this particular example, we’re like I don’t know that we would actually want to display the information quite like that. And this was great guidance by you guys. Because when we did take it out, there was so much potential design aspects for people to interact with that we could talk about that one slide for 15, sometimes 15 minutes to an hour, as opposed to if we were just looking at, you know, profile page or something like that. You’re not gonna have that much conversation about it.
Yeah, I mean, at one particular thing. Well, we we talked about, especially in the early stage for design, it’s a communication piece, especially if you’re, if you’re a visionary founder, I mean, don’t have to be Steve Jobs to be considered visionary, but meaning? Yeah, well, I mean, if you get a black turtleneck, you’re like, halfway there. So you get that first girlfriend. So if you if when we say visionary, we’re really mean that, you know, to Mike’s point, if you’ve got an idea for surgeons, or for insurance for any, any domain that’s underserved by technology, and you’ve got a vision that’s different than where the market is today, you have to start communicating what’s in your head into something that other people can understand. So in the end, you’re going to design a product that’s usable, that people understand how it’s using, but really, in that very beginning, that’s not even where you’re worried about, well, here’s what you’re talking about, we’ve worked with with you. And when we’ve worked with with a lot of other clients at that stage, where they’re pitching to investors, or going into pitch competitions, or sometimes they’re just coming like, I got this great idea, but I have no idea if it’s got any legs. So we start with design, we do market research, you know, potential customer research to figure out what’s out there. But we start designing at that point to just communicate what’s in your head. And sometimes it’s like, if you’ve ever written anything, a blog, or a five paragraph essay in grade school, sometimes the idea in your head, once it comes out, you look at it like oh, that’s not, that’s not great. Or sometimes you look at it, and you uncover something that you didn’t know is there. So if you put in mock ups of a design, you might start saying, These are the things I want to put in there, you put them in there and find out some of these things don’t work. But you start seeing that, as I start laying this out, I see opportunity for something totally different. And you can now start to take that to prospective customers to see what their reactions are to see if it even accomplishes any of the goals you set out to do. It can also spur new thoughts from the market that they wouldn’t have otherwise given you with just, you know, going and asking them questions,
when you’re having those conversations. How do you have those conversations in a way that you’re gonna get the get the kind of feedback you need, as opposed to the kind of feedback you want to hear? Does that question make sense?
Oh, yeah, I think I think, I think initially, when you do something, I will be totally honest, you just tried to go get positive reinforcement. So let’s just put that out there. I’m not gonna sit here and say, like, from the jump, everybody goes, and gets the harshest, like most critical feedback, I think we all have a tendency to show our friends show people that know us. But eventually, when you start to, like, get a little bit braver and think, Alright, I want to get some, like actual feedback out there. I think one of the things that you’re trying to do, even at this at this stage is you still got to set it up with with asking pain oriented questions about what they’re trying to achieve. You can’t to Mike’s point, you can’t just sit there and show them something, show them some design for a product without leading them down the path of pain. So if you think about a pitch deck to investors, we do decks the same way for evangelizing ideas, and they work a lot of the same way you’re really trying to like, validate that there’s a pain that exists and then take you down this journey to say, Okay, I’ve got that pain, and then you start showing them some of your ideas and they start to see you there. See some, you know, people scratching their heads or people nodding their heads, you start understanding that, okay, I believe that there’s that problem you’ve established. And now I believe looking at this design, you’ve got something really compelling here. That’s okay.
Anything you’d add to that, Mike,
one thing that we just make a distinction, even at in a map and recommend people is, when you’re dealing with design the story, there’s a big difference between and we liked it, I like UX for pitch versus UX for production. And at this point, you’re actually just worried about UX for pitch, you’re trying to get as many of your ideas out there to something to Christian’s point, that’s communication vehicle, it might suggest multiple features, yeah, future features. And really, you’re using that as the vehicle and the tool in these conversations to talk about the product, okay, as opposed to just having to be mysterious and count on your rambling to get the point across.
So let’s say that I’ve done some of this early pitching with design. And I’ve gotten some feedback. And now I’ve got some validation, to say I want to go down this path of product design, in terms of product development. What’s that next step? Is it is it to kind of come in and say like, what are the features?
Yeah, this is where you start. You know, and a lot of product managers would be the ones on point for this display. You can think like any ideas really started with a product manager in the US complemented by the UX designer, and they’re just really starting to think through the business side and the design complemented and UX at this point I mentioned is being used to help bring you know the concept to life but Well, after you’re getting the feedback, this is the time that you’re really starting to think through what’s first. You know, so if this if this mock up, if your idea is big, you know, it could be what, you know, it could be 30 things over the next five years, you’ve got to start using those feedback conversations to help influence the priority of maybe what to build first. Yeah, yeah. I mean, and it’s not time to stamp an MVP, you know, to define what is the MVP, but it’s, it’s time to start thinking about what’s priority. Okay, you know, and a real healthy one is love backlog and stuff can move up down change in order
to talk to me about backlog. For those that maybe aren’t steeped in Yes, product developed,
I mean, in anything digital, you know, is done in agile fashion should be okay, I should say that.
What it was an agile fashion, meaning
it embraces change, okay. So traditionally, this person only physical products will be done maybe in traditional project management, you know, where it’s, you know, you have a plan, and the deviation of the plan is change, change is bad, and so forth. In a digital world, it’s, it’s very different. You want to embrace change. So that’s what happened additive advantage, right kind of advantage. So what to manage that project, you actually use backlogs. It’s a different way agile project management is using a bachelor, which is basically, you imagine here, all the things that I want to get done, and they’re stack ranked, okay? I mean, so if I’ve got a mock, if I’ve got a vision, I just use loose numbers that suggest 10 features I’ve got in my cup that kind of suggests or clearly conveys how I might approach those 10 features give you a nice vehicle to someone absorb. If I’m getting positive reaction to it. That should be influencing wherever I’m going to start. Yep. You know what I’m like, I’m seeing the first incarnation of this include these top four features. My vision is grand, I’m not attempting to do all 10 Don’t Don’t Don’t product developers do not start any quest. I describe the quest as any product project. It’s over 12 months. Those Those don’t exist anymore, either. Yeah. Right. some semblance of, you know, a lean, minimally viable product should come to market. So after this feedback, you’re really going into the Okay, now what’s the priority? Right? And then
and how, what, what variables? Are you usually looking at? To define what gets priority?
Yeah, so big one is business goal. Like what are you trying to achieve? Yep. Cost and feasibility are going to start to come. These are the the other great thing about a consequent microbiome, it’s a great vehicle to start having a conversation with the technologists in the room. Yeah. Okay. So you should at this point, whether it’s a, you know, your your your head technologist CTO, whether it’s the architect to start, like, validating the feasibility of this. Yep. Yeah. I mean, and then that matters, like, Don’t number one feature if it’s a must have, and it’s a lot to build. And you have to take that in consideration.
And I think it’s important to note at this point, I started my first software development agency over a decade ago now, just how important it is to have reliable resources that you know, that when they say this is the estimate for, for building this thing, that they’re probably at least 80%. Right? On that thing. And that wrong estimates can really throw off a product development process.
Yeah, for sure. And I think if we go back to what we talked about to this point, with all the design work, and even as backlogs, and maybe even a three, six and 12 month roadmap that gets you a lot better estimates, whether you are bringing development in house, or you are trying to outsource it to development when you’re just trying to get sort of that first customer, all of that stuff that Mike was just talking about all the prioritization, all the feature definitions, all the designs helped bring down the cost of DEV because it brings much more accurate estimates. You know, a lot of times, a lot of times I’ve talked to people that have great ideas, they have some money, so they think I need to go get somebody to build this right away. Well, that’s to me, like I’ve got a grand vision for a new house. So I’m just going to walk to this open plot of land and just start dictating how we want the house to be built. Nobody would do that people would go to an architect, they would go work through with with people are going to handle the plumbing and who are going to handle the infrastructure. It’s the same process here, the more details you have up front. Typically, you’ll end up with lower costs, but but more importantly, you end up with a more accurate picture of timelines. So I think if you do all this pre work that we’re talking about, that’s really impactful for once you actually start to build the product.
I love that metaphor. And it’s definitely definitely a good one to think about if you want the right end product as opposed to some like Frankenstein hodgepodge. I’m trying to think of the right word for the metaphor, just you know, like combination of buildings that have been cobbled together with hallways and and hodgepodge plumbing.
And just to stay on that because I know by the House analogy is a fantastic love must be must be it involves the reason it’s nice, even though it’s not a digital product. The concept about the approach is one that people can resonate with when it involves a lot of design. There’s a lot of business constraints And it’s, you know, technical engineering involved as well, you know, but if you think about it, when I was using the criteria of what’s the business goal, this is what I mean by this. So if I’m going to build a dream home, and my big number one question, am I gonna live here forever, I’m going to flip this home and a month after it’s built, okay? Based on that answer, you design a very different home, I’m just gonna tell you, you pick different features, like translate this to something, you pick very different features, you’re gonna design them very differently. But if you can envision then having the conversation with trying to socialize, this is the home I want to build, you would want the pictures of the home, you would want the blueprints, that’s kind of the concept mockup equivalent yet, right, and you don’t know all the detail, you know, what sinker, you know, you know, where the sink is in the kid, you’re gonna get to the production level design, you’re gonna get to at some point, if you prioritized the goal is less, I’ll stay on this analogy. If the goal is I want to build this house, I want to be able to move in by the summer. Yep. Okay, you can finish the basement later. You might want to have that in the mockup, you can pour pool later that might be in the mockup MVP is I got to have a kitchen, right? So you might start prioritizing the kitchen. This this same mechanic actually starts applying to the products moment process. You mean, get get your idea with design, get it to print, socialize it, have the conversations before you’ve poured concrete, right? Have the conversations you’re giving, you’re totally giving a design lead deliverable to the technologists in the room that the engineers and architects love it. That’s the functionalities been thought through design approach of thought through? Honestly, they’re excited to code that, knowing that that has that pre work has been done. Yep. You know, and they’re going to make it bulletproof. You know, so anyway, just a lot of that house analogy, if someone hasn’t done this process, conceptually, is good to think about, you know, yeah, I mean, there’s yes, there’s digital nuances, but people would get that.
So let’s, let’s say that we’ve, we’ve identified, we want to build, especially in the startup stage, a lot of times you are building that house to flip, right, you’re you’re building your MVP, to prove that there is a market for this to prove that you built the right features. And if people want these features, let’s say we’ve identified and this could even be at a at a scale up or an enterprise. If it’s sort of a skunkworks, project that or product that you want to kind of stand up, you might not say, alright, well, this is gonna be the dream home right away. You might say, well, let’s just kind of put something together where you can start getting feedback. What is, let’s say we’ve identified the four features, we’re going to build into this, what’s the next step and the product development process? And how do you make sure as you build that you’re doing it with sort of iterative product development in mind?
I would say one of the things, I don’t know if it’s next are happening a little bit in parallel, I think a lot of the stuff we’ve talked about might little bit happen in parallel. But I think,
yeah, definitely put me back on course, here because we will. So at
this stage, so product, the development in iterating, on the features is happening right now, at the same time, you’ve got to get out on the marketing, front marketing, and sales have got to be happening at that point, too. You don’t wait until the product is perfect. You don’t wait till it’s even finished getting built. Some sometimes you don’t even wait until they started building, you can sell a product before it’s even ready, although other people watch the fire fest documentary or a little bit shy about doing something like that these days. But the fact is that the reason why you start mark and getting the product marketing in line is because you have to figure out how you’re actually going to communicate what you have to the market, you have some initial potential customers that you’ve probably been talking to at this point. But now you have to figure out even if you get those, how are you going to get more of those people? And that’s going to come through messaging. So you got to figure out what is the position you’re going to take in the market? And then how are you going to message this to those to those users. So a lot of times we there’s a lot of different vehicles for this, depending on the type of application you’re building. If it’s a b2b, back office, SaaS product, or it’s a consumer based app, the product marketing varies, but a lot of times it will start with getting the product site out there to start communicating what the product is who it’s meant for. That process starts to help you figure out not just who you’re targeting, but who you’re not targeting initially, and that needs to happen in parallel with a feature development to make sure that while you’re validating that the product might be valuable, you also need to be validating. Are you talking about it in the right way?
So one thing I even added I mean, literally, if I kind of were to say there’s a dream design delivered a market stage that’s what do when you’re in in the dream stage, you should be things that you should be equipped with, you should start to be thinking about a strategy sales strategy and marketing strategy, you should have a splash page up. Okay, product you should have, what’s that splash
Like it’s capturing, you know, it’s teasing out the you know, think of it as coming soon think of it is when you want to grab the domain but think of is coming soon think about is starting to draw attention as you’re out socializing. If people want to check if this thing’s real, it kind of clicks the credibility factor. You’re also equipped with at this point, probably a socialization deck. That’s kind of revealing. Here’s my plan to build it. So some of the roadmaps there. Here is my concept. Here’s my market. Here’s my problem. Okay, here’s my just starting to test messaging, probably inserting your concept mockups into that to help socialize the idea. And then in addition to that, so if you’re equipped with, you know, you got your deck, you got your splash page, you got your preliminary messaging, you’ve got your content, mockups. And then in the parallel thread that you’re starting, is you’re having the architecture conversations, and you’re about to start the real product development process. Okay. Yeah.
Yeah. So the talk to me about the design of that pre marketing, pre selling landing page, let’s say there’s beyond the teaser, coming soon, sort of page when you start actually saying, here’s the pain point we’re solving and just walk me through that structure. Yeah.
What are we good, right. So one thing, one thing that will typically recommend, I just, I love to say this and have people at peace with this, all digital products are eating, living, breathing things, and they’ll always be evolving. And that includes your website, that includes your PowerPoints, and definitely includes your actual application. You know, as you’re, as you’re thinking about your initial pitch deck, as you’re you’re going to test what messaging is working, you’re going to test with how the story is, and that will evolve. Yep, the site is the same thing. I mean, so if you’re, if it’s, let’s just say a brand new idea, and you’re zero to six months, you want to get it to market in month, six, M one, zero, you’ve probably got a splash page at month three or four, when you have some semblance of what the product is its feature set how its approached, you’ve probably turn that splash page into more of a product site. Someone can come there and clearly understand what problem you’re solving for who what is the product? What’s its place in the market? And you feel better about the messaging there? Yep, you wouldn’t pay to have that site developed if you didn’t know exactly what features were in. And so I’m loosely describing month three or four, you’re probably refreshing your company’s website to now be more of a product site. And I go ahead,
can we slow that down a little bit, and maybe break down that month three or four, like some of the best product pages that you’ve seen whether there are ones that you develop yourself? Or there are ones that you have seen? What are some of the things that take that separates a great product marketing site from a just good or Okay, check the box product? Yeah,
to us. Our litmus test of good product marketing is good. I love that one it.
Did it. Love it? Want it?
So if I can, it’s just one page. You know, you’re not, you don’t need a 15 page, corporate website at this stage. But you need your product very quickly, to come across where it’s very understood someone hits your page and like I get it, I understand what problem they’re solving. I understand the product solution they have I understand the unique approach to it. And at the highest level. I get I get some someone’s for the functionality. Yeah, don’t give them vomited 30 features in a boltless. That’s not that’s bad. Yeah, you know, but you get it, you get the market, you get the product. And really your site at this at this phase is pretty product focus. Your company is a product at this point, very little people care about. You know, where you’re located. You don’t need things that you might see on a more traditional corporate website. Sure. Yeah,
sure. That’s really good feedback. Anything you’d add Christian from a design standpoint?
Oh, we haven’t mentioned the the B word which is brand. So I think a lot of the the enabling glue, can you have enabling glue? I don’t know. Well, there’s glue that enables all this. It sticks everything together if you’re holding something together that enables it to Yes, glue enabler. Yeah. So I think everything Mike said one thing that we kind of that underpins a lot of that is strong brand. Now, that being said, I don’t want to scare everybody to think that you’ve got to be all I mean, we’ve mentioned like a billion things at this point, I think it’s you have to do, just under a billion. Yeah, just just shy. But I think to Mike’s point, we use the word preliminary a lot again, because these digital products are living and breathing, especially their AI robots and all that. But we’re they’re always going to be growing. So a brand in this world also can grow as well. Now, we definitely advocate having some sort of brand established. And when I say brand is not just the logo mark, it’s not just the color palette, it’s the way that you’re talking. It’s the it’s the way that you communicate what you’re going to be delivering to somebody so they know what to expect from your product when it’s out there. Or if it’s already out there, once they download it or start start using it. So I think brand is a key piece of this. But in the very beginning brands can evolve as well. We’ve worked with companies and just brushed up their brand, a preliminary brand that was I don’t know three to three to six months of runway with knowing full well that once the product is getting developed, and they hit some of their key milestones, they might be going to trade shows. We’re going to do a massive revamp of the brand, okay. And a lot of times it’d be totally honest. Some people get cease and desist letters at some point. So they’ve got a rebrand. I think that happens more often than people maybe talk about on the outside but a lot of times people just get a name out there that makes sense. You get some success and you’ve got to sort of update the brand. So we also talk about At least just having a perspective on the brand to begin with, even if it’s not the brand that you’re going to be using in a year, you should be getting some thought around that so that it drives the way that you’re talking through all the other product messaging.
And if I can add one more thing, just on the products brand, I mean, preliminary is a good word in this stage, because you need to look professional, you need to have a brand that resonates to your market, that’s very key as a b2c, it’s going to be a very different than if it’s an enterprise b2b play. I mean, that’s your brand, your brand should exude that. But at the same time, you’re only working in hypothesis land at this point, right? You don’t you don’t fully know you’re you have a hypothesized market, right? You have a hypothesized buyer that you believe will buy your market, you’re hypothesizing about the functionality, and the person that will be using it. And your brand should reflect reflect that vision and hypothesis. But I will tell you a year later, if you’ve hit some semblance of product market fit, you’ll you’ll refresh and fine tune that brand to be something that’s probably going to scale and be your brand for the next you know, three to five years. Yeah. But it’s at this early stage, you’re not looking for a scalable brand, as much as you are a very true authentic brand, right, knowing that when you hit product market fit at a later time, you can revisit and have the scalable brand that you know is going to be exactly who you are, what you’ve built, resonate with the audience of who you want to serve, and so forth.
So really a great perspective to have and I think actually segues into something I really wanted to talk to you about, which is, you know, brand is one of those things that can be very subjective. And you, you talk to founders, or you talk to executives, and it’s like, this is what it is. And I feel very passionately that the brand is all about this. But there’s not necessarily that like validation that that’s what the brand is. Same thing can happen with feature sets, no, like this is what it is because I was our target customer five years ago. And that’s what I would have wanted. And sure there’s a time and a place for that. But I know a big piece of product development or good product development is testing and validation. And we haven’t talked too much about testing and validation once you’ve actually shipped features, or once you’ve actually shipped brand. What are some of the best ways that startups scale ups or even enterprises and innovation departments and enterprises can do a better job of testing, getting feedback and validating their assumptions around brand or features.
I think one way that I’ll bring up that’s maybe not an obvious way, and I’ve learned by just talking to a lot of heads of product for startups is how important other functions that are. Louis back up it My background is in interaction design. And so a part of that is usability testing. So usability testing, is you take designers or people trained in design, and then go test the product to make sure that it’s functioning well or they find areas of improvement. But when we talk about validation today, it’s not necessarily always usability testing, and you’re probably not always going to have a bunch of extra resources that can just their sole job is validation. So I think what we find a lot of successful product companies during the early stages rely on other functions to help provide that validation. So you can find it if you’re if you’re heavily outbound sales, and you’re having a lot of conversations, that can be a really great validation point. So long as your sales team is talking to your marketing team, and talking to your product team. On the product side, you have a lot of customer support. So really strong CS groups, people that are out there, like talking on the front lines of existing customers all the time, are feeding that back to the product team. So
if you’re what are some great tools or processes for making sure teams are doing that? Well,
a tool is there’s there’s a billion tools out there. I mean, there’s there’s tools like Pendo, that you can plug into your app, you know, right away, or user voice and those sorts of things. In terms of process, I’m not going to ever claim to be the master of process here. But I think what I’ve at least observed, it’s less about process and more just about everybody getting in the same room. So you’ll hear salespeople that are sitting in on customer support calls, or you will hear about product teams going out in the field, with with the product manager and going out to visit customers, you’ll hear about product managers doing sort of ride alongs with sales. So a lot of it, at least from my observation when they’re in the early stages is less about the process. But just to make sure that when you’re a team of under 10, you’re all product people with a digital product. So it doesn’t really matter whether you’re in you know, quote, unquote, in sales or, or in marketing, when you’re that small, you’re all working to get this product out the door, which means that you’re all going to have to sort of like go across the walls to learn what’s going on on the other side. So a lot of times that’s really just what we see is just like flattening the organization on the product side to make sure that everybody is is learning from customers or prospects through the proper channels and that’s getting shared back to the product team.
I really love that you bring that up because it’s something we’ve actually started doing here at powderkeg. We have a standing morning meeting. One of our core values is to practice mindfulness. So every day starts at 815, we do a little mindfulness practice, you know, 510 minutes, and we spend the next 510 minutes. story sharing, I had this really great conversation with, you know, almond Brar from Canvas yesterday is a real story. And you know, he had this great product feedback based on what he saw in the HR tech space. Does that resonate with anyone else? And then Casey, on the sales side can say, well, actually, I was just talking to this XYZ enterprise, and similar but different in this sort of way. Do you have any sort of feedback of how teams can better have those kinds of discussions or encouraged that kind of product feedback beyond just having a meeting?
Yeah, I think the biggest one is, you have to write the as a product group, and any product conversation getting at the why, while this feedback is a very important thing, you know, just because they asked directly for it to do something, or they didn’t like, what do you like about it? What problem Would that solve? How are you going to do that instead? A lot of open ended questions. And so if you’ve at least equipped the organization, with kind of that, that approach, the feedback is gonna be much better. So I’m
open ended questions open and close to? You’re telling me what you like. Yeah.
Well, I mean, that’s that’s leading, but you know, or do you like this? That? Yes, that doesn’t you can’t do much off of that. Right.
Better question example would be, what would be a great like product question?
Well, if I bring it back to what Mike was talking about, what you’re typically going to find is somebody’s going to come back with feedback and say, this customer asked for this, say they want to have this new admin screen. So a lot of times, alright, cool. I’m gonna go design that and we’re going to code that screen. But a better question to say why do they need that screen is really basic question. I mean, you’ve you’ve heard probably about the, you know, five levels of wines, those sorts of things. And you don’t always have to go that deep. I don’t know that I’ve ever made it to five, except with my kids, they get to five levels pretty quick. But I think if you just if you take a statement, like what I just said, that’s a pretty common example, it’s a what if I need this, or a customer needs this. And some mistakes that get made a lot have to do with trying to satisfy existing customers, or you’re trying to win a deal, and just taking the things that they’re asking for in a product and just coding it right away? Well, what you’ve missed there is what’s really driving why they actually need that. And if you can get to that, why you’re gonna find a lot more similarities amongst that prospect of that customer and a bunch of others. But when you get to some specific request, they’re just thinking about what they need, the customer thinks, Why need this, they’re not worried about everybody else. Well, guess what, as a product person, you have to worry about everybody else. So when you get feedback like that, that comes in the form of a of a what, in a declaration of what you want in the product, the team has to come back and ask why not aggressively to the to the customer, necessarily. But if a salesperson comes back and says that you get the salesperson in room and get the team to start meeting, say, why do they need that, because that’s going to uncover a lot of hidden opportunities for product development.
Yeah, just just to give a more tangible example, just one that I’ve what I’ve seen, like, new idea, we’re gonna we’re gonna focus on desktop, you know, we’re gonna worry about it being fully responsive or have a mobile component at a later time. So the MVP doesn’t include mobile, right? Just to give an example. And then we’ve got a sales team out selling it might be in a sales conversation that says this is work on mobile app, a finance or that point by the sales rep would be say not in the MVP, where that’s on the roadmap, that would be a fine answer. If that feedback is handled, incorrectly, sales rep comes back to the product person says we need to have this workout mobile for the MVP. Yeah. Okay, the Y was completely lost there. And by the way, the Y in that example, may have just been curiosity. If you were to even if sales ever, you’re gonna go back to the to the request and say, Why do you need to work on moment? Oh, I don’t know. I’m just curious. It could be that Right. Right. Why do you need it to work on mobile? Is there a set of workflows that you need to do in transit? Are you you I mean, yeah, you get to the bottom of this, if you just take the feedback straight is, it can really be jerking around, where you’re really trying to take this product,
I want to dive just a little bit deeper on the personal side on the magic that innovate map has in product design and product development process. You know, I see you here with your notebook out here on the table. How are you capturing some of this information? And do you have any own personal sort of rituals or process of capturing some of this product feedback or capturing some of the testing notes or at some of the ideas that come to you that that you want to test in market? What are some of those more nuanced things to you? Personally, me
personally, so I mean, your stamp I know because I always have a feel note in my back pocket, and then I can know why. I either write down an idea that comes to me, honestly, sometimes scratch scratching screens. Pen scratching screens. Yeah, that’s starting to make no sense. So it but you know, I mean, I don’t know. Yeah, I’m just getting the idea out. I gotta get good. Did out. What? Why do you need
to get it up? It’s three.
It’s three way that was completed last time. I get the thought it’s see it. Yeah. Be able to remember it later. So I can socialize it with someone else. Yeah, you know, I just capture the feedback. Honestly, if you if it’s conversations, be prepared to take notes on it. So you can translate it back if it’s if you have the means to record. Yes. Great to
Yes. You mean like an actual voice record or video record? where appropriate? Yes. Right. Yeah. Obviously with permission. Yeah. Right.
But yeah, so if you’re asking me to some personal tricks, is I’m trying to vet an idea. Yeah. I’m a big believer in having design there to socialize the idea.
And then the design is my own chicken scratch recipe. Correct. Just and then and then I think sometimes the word design, and I’m standing in the presence of a master Yeah. I also don’t want to offend. But like, it also shouldn’t necessarily always be put on a pedestal to the standpoint of like, oh, I, I can’t draw this because I won’t do the idea. Justice. Right. You’re You’re believers of get it out there early. Get it out there. Ugly. I’m probably
irresponsibly. Mike and I both I think are probably irresponsibly. Get it out there early. We, Mike has a scratch pad because he’s thinking of ideas all the time. I’m the same way Mike and I are too similar in that regard. So we talked about how we helped build innovate map. So I said in my background, in my in my training, human computer interaction design, a lot of that is all about research as well. And I learned early on that research is not my forte, and it’s probably when, when I’m when I’m in a user interview, a lot of times my brain just starts going off and thinking of the solutions. That’s not great. So why is that? Not great? Well, because yeah, exactly. Yeah, you’re missing out on what they’re telling you right there. And a lot of times, I just start solution icing, right there. In my brain. It’s like, it’s just like daydreaming and my brains gone at that point. And I’m not listening for more nuggets, they’re in great research means that you, you’d literally don’t synthesize in the moment you synthesize later. So I think my brain typically just kind of starts thinking of, oh, this is great, I’ve got a great idea for this. And then it’s just gone. So what we’ve done is complemented our team with with a research org. So Anna Eaglin, who’s who heads up our research practice. And then people like Lacey, ladies that sort of head up our product management. There are complements on this side, as I said earlier, that you can try to get validation from from other roles, just because not every company, startup company has got the luxury of having dedicated roles like that, we are lucky enough to have that. So we have a team that really specializes in research and what their specialties are, is actually getting out there. Remaining objective going prepared with with sort of semi structured interviews where you say I have an idea of the things that I want to learn, but I’m not going to dictate at all, I’m going to let the conversation sort of flow. And then after that, we’re synthesizing if I’m going to do any pitch for a product. It’ll either be Dropbox, paper, or air table. And airtable is like the Microsoft Access that anybody who had to use that growing up like that we all wish that we have and flashback, it’s it is like everything that that was supposed to be but a lot better. So we use air table to collect a lot of these data points and you’re theming them, you’re figuring out where the most important points are, you’re seeing how many times something comes up, and you start flagging it. So you go through those notes later. Because a lot of times your brain is untrustworthy, in the middle, clearly minds, very untrustworthy. But even a good researcher is going to have to go back and look at all that and actually make sense of what that is, and sort of bubble up the key themes that are coming out. Those seams that come out of good research, these can be 45 to 60 minute interviews with with people, when those start to get themed those seams end up driving the product innovation, that’s where like the really good, hidden opportunities lies not in the stuff that you thought, even if you know 90% of what you want to bring to market, that other 10% that you didn’t know that you found out through research is really what’s going to be the innovative secret stuff.
I appreciate you sharing some of your own personal secret sauce here. You know, what innovate, Matt offers in a lot of ways is like product development team as a service. And so in a lot of ways, I look to you as the experts at product development, and that potential outsource product development team. Can you maybe share on here kind of what you consider as like that, that? Who needs to be on a product development team? Like who are those key players? We talked about them today? Yeah, but but not necessarily. Like as a whole? Who is the product development? Yeah,
I’m not trying to pitch into a map with this comment. But what we kind of exist to be and even why we’ve been founded was to be a full a caliber virtual product team. When you can or at a point you can’t W to it? Yeah, I mean, and that’s and that’s why I mean, if you’re a Christian point, a team of five or 10 roles that you ideally would have product, a product management organization that strong and product strategy as well as product owner best practices to really quarterback the roadmap, but also the development of it to work with the engineering team. Yeah. You also ideally would have excellent product researchers were asking all these questions about how do we get feedback, there are people that are excellent edited, typically in a product management function, you might have people that have skilled in in how to conduct these conversations, well, how to address feedback kind of theme and how to analyze it, how to prioritize it. Ideally, you’d also have UX design, you know, and UX design is a variety, there’s, you know, strategic design, people that can start from zero, and there’s high end production design, once the patterns have been established, they can carry forth, you know, some of the features. So UX design, we exist as well, we haven’t spent a lot of time on product marketing, and product brand, not in this show, on this show. But you know, as we as we get to the launch of the product, I mean, we do get to a little bit later in this, you ideally have great product marketing, so and that’s, you don’t be you’re not able to W to those eight roles, when you’re you gotta, you gotta build and sell first you got to protect, it’s got to be technical excellence. So but if you’re looking at building out a good product competency, those are really the roles you’d be looking at.
Okay, yeah, well, let’s, let’s briefly dive into that, because we’ve talked about most of the stages of product development. Yeah. And that whole process, let’s talk about that product launch.
Yeah. So the biggest thing I like Christian said, Is this thread, I’m gonna use a fake. I mean, use that hypothetical timeline have an idea is zero to six months, okay. You know, month, month one, and two, you’re really conceptualizing and validating and planning, you know, and then you’re probably sprinting for the next, you know, months three to six building it. Yep. in month two or three, you need to really start thinking about your marketing and your sales strategy. So you need to be strategizing. Because that needs to be a parallel fed. That is not a last minute thought. And I’ll just give you two examples. What I mean by that, if it’s a b2c product, that thing launches with the marketing plan ready to execute? Yeah, okay, you because it, you only get one chance I’ve never found out and about an app, doubt been so compelled to try it, download it. And if it stinks, I’ve never given it a try six months later. So you know, you’ve got a hole in it very involved. attention grabbing marketing strategy that has a lot to think about. If it’s b2b, you’re probably complementing a marketing strategy with a very strong sales strategy. So things that you got to be thinking about in month three or four is positioning, messaging, demo, packaging, pricing, sales tools, marketing content, for the product that you’re now building. And that’s it. That’s it, just
start thinking about that stuff. Yeah. That’s why you need to start thinking about it. Really? Yeah. And
what’s what’s tough is you can’t It’s the reason I’m saying it’s not really, you know, have a strategy, start thinking about the strategy at the early phases, but the product is so it’s so morphing at this moment, you really can’t fully like, bless the market ready, sales, content, and market and content until you know what’s actually in the product. Yep. Yeah. I mean, so a lot of the features haven’t actually been enveloped in, you know, but by the time you send him on four, or five or six, you’re ready to actually launch a sales plan, you’re able to and equip sales team, with the hypothetical and preliminary messaging that you’re hoping is going to work. But once again, you’re going to be learning on that, too. Yeah, you’re equipping the marketing team to refresh any content any with with the product functionality. But that stuff, should what I’m getting is that stuff should be thought of in parallel in the middle stage, but it really starts to be activated. At the launch your product,
this goes back to this concept of being agile throughout the whole process and being able to react to what you’re learning, as you’re learning it.
Absolutely. I think you have hypotheses, I think even when you launch, I think there’s still a lot of there’s still a tendency, I have this tendency myself to view the launch has like a grand opening of a restaurant like this is it. And then this restaurant is going to be like this for the foreseeable future. But in the digital product world, it’s very exciting to get it out and everybody should rally around a launch day. But ultimately, all you’ve done is just made a public announcement that here’s your first like, broadly publicized hypothesis. That’s it. And that’s on everything that’s that’s from every single thing that you put into at this point, it’s still just a hypothesis that you’re testing out. And some things are going to work really well the product features might just like catch fire right away. But you start finding that you’re not resonating with people on the website, because your messaging is off, or you had a distinct user base in mind, or you had a very broad one saying we’re going to be for every HR professional and then you start realizing that doesn’t make sense to anybody. We need to start honing it. What we’re finding is that, you know, our product is really used by this particular segment of recruiters or something like that. So you go back to the messaging, you update your messaging to be targeted on recruiters. So everything is sort of is sort of agile at this point, but it’s also just a mindset that when you launch, be prepared that this is just getting out there in that it’s not undesirable to go back and change, you should be welcoming that and just always sort of pulling different levers on the product side to sort of match what you’re hearing.
You know, that’s good.
And one thing I’d add that I just a common thing I see wrong is, you’re gonna want to start to, to audience threads, the product needs to resonate with the user and needs to resonate with the buyer. And if you can even make that mental separations, sometimes very often, in a way, in a b2c world, same person, most often the time, unless it’s a child after you got to sell to the mom or something like that. But in the b2b world, it’s often very different audiences, you know, so you’ve got you know, you got your product manager in UX three, very much worried about his resonate with the user. But you additionally need to make sure that that product is feature set the problems that solving the messaging resonates with the buyer. And very often those are different. And I see too often a lot of companies, preliminary product marketing is all product speak. Yep. Meaning it’s they’re very proud of what they’ve built. And their their product site is going to show off all the features they have. And that might be great. You’re I’m glad you’re proud of it, but it’s not selling to the user in some circumstances, right? It’d be to see that side, in which case, you really got to think through as you’re testing out. It pay attention to sales, pay attention to mark, where’s it resonating? Why’s it resonating? What’s the pain that’s being solved? What’s the feature that’s resonating, and you’re really fine tuning that along the way?
I could probably ask you four or five, six more hours of questions here. But I don’t think we have enough beer to make that happen today. So what we’re gonna have to have you back but in the meantime, I heard you guys have a new podcast we do. I actually, I know that because I’ve been just been binge listening to it. I’ve actually got your better product sticker right here
on my title, verify the I’m looking at it. So it’s very, very appreciated. This is
my daily reminder to focus on better products. As if I didn’t need it enough reminder from my my team and my investors. But But I really love. I really am loving that podcast. And you’ve had some amazing people on the show. I mean, talk about some of the guests that you’ve had.
Oh, gosh, yeah. So we’ve so so far right now we’ve had Kyle Lacey, who heads up marketing at lessonly, which people in India should know really well. We’ve had miles grody and Tyler Hill who head up product and design at upper hand. We’ve had Dan Hanrahan, who is the product my product minded founders, Mike like to say, at SR and a lot of product shops as well. We’ve got Chelsea lender as well, g beta, the G beta accelerator here locally, we’ve got a lot of product, people still coming out Dan Moyers with 120 water audit. So we’ve had a lot of people in different like product facing roles, whether it’s on the marketing side on the design side, or just product management.
So if listeners like this conversation, they’re gonna find a lot more and a lot more detail in those conversations. Yeah. And
if I might say, I love that you said that man, because you hit on what we what we’re trying to accomplish. And this is we’re big podcast people, and there’s tons of stuff on how to raise, you know, how to build a company, tons of podcasts where a company can showcase who they are and tell their company’s story, how to raise funds. There’s not we did not see anything out there. That was product level conversations, you know, and we, you know, we’ve had this luxury of being a part of these conversations, being with founders, heads of product, great stories to be told, you know, felt that the better product podcast could get to the depth of that those stories. And
if people want to check that out, where do they find it?
You can go to innovate map.com/podcasts Or you can look for the better product podcast anywhere you listen, he’s literally on every single platform from Spotify, to Apple to Stitcher, wherever.
Perfect. Well, and we’ll link it up in the show notes. If people want to follow you on Twitter. What are your Twitter handles? Why is that very
active? It’s pretty much just, I don’t find much use and using Twitter anymore. Just get in trouble. Where are you? I’m working on Twitter. You can find me at CNBC K underscore, but I’d probably pick that up too. Yeah, you can go ahead and do that. It’s all it’s all fine now. But you can you hit us up on innovate map on Twitter as well, we, we all kind of chip in on that account. So if you ask us questions there, we’ll we’ll reply. And on LinkedIn, I’m getting a little bit more active. Okay,
that’s it. I’m the same way on Twitter, I’m Emerson’s. But as well LinkedIn is great one but I really the Innovate map brand to Christians point. We’re all contributing on that. If you’re intrigued and just hearing, we’re more active on that than personally on
Yeah, well, and I love the articles you’re sharing from there. We’ll make sure we link that up. Thank you both for being here today and sharing your expertise.
Thanks for having me.
We’ll have you back soon. I’m your host, Matt Hunckler. And thank you so much for tuning in today to be among the first to hear the stories about entrepreneurs, investors and other tech leaders outside of Silicon Valley. Subscribe to us on iTunes at powder keg.com forward slash iTunes. We’ll catch you next time on powder keg igniting startups.