New England Product Group Blog

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Avoiding Product Pitfalls

Image Credit: Vitaly Kushnir/ Pexels

Over almost 25 years of practicing product management, I have encountered a diverse group of founders and their products. Based on that, here are some common mistakes that I have observed founders make about products - although I have also seen these in more mature companies.

Building a product without fully understanding the market: Founders sometimes create a product based on their assumptions or preferences without performing proper market research. Understanding your target users’ needs and pain points before building a product is essential.

Focusing too much on features rather than benefits: Founders often focus too much on building a product with many features, rather than focusing on how the product solves a problem or how it provides a benefit to the user. The benefits are what your customers care about. It’s important to communicate that to them. Technology is just the enabler.

Ignoring user feedback: Founders sometimes get too attached to their products and can ignore valuable feedback from their users. It’s important to listen to user feedback and improve your product accordingly. Leading with a minimum viable product (MVP) and then iterating based on user feedback is a methodology that can work well. Using that approach also helps prevent the issue of too many product features.

Not having a clear value proposition: Founders sometimes struggle to articulate the unique value proposition of their product. A company needs to have a clear understanding of what sets its product apart from competitors and be able to communicate that to its target audience.

Overestimating market demand: Founders can be overly optimistic about the demand for their product, leading to unrealistic expectations and overinvestment. Before investing too heavily in a product, conducting proper market research will help validate demand.

Early on, one of the founders typically makes product decisions in addition to all their other responsibilities. At some point, the company decides to begin formalizing the product function. That could mean the company’s first product hire, or it may involve bringing in a resource to help in an advisory, consulting, or fractional/interim role. I have been both numerous times; the first product hire and an interim/fractional/advisory resource. The first product hire provides guidance and support to founders by leveraging their expertise and experience to formalize product management and implement best practices including;

Market research: Helping founders conduct market research to understand target user needs and pain points. This understanding will help founders build a product that resonates with their target audience and have a higher chance of success.

User feedback: Helping founders gather and analyze user feedback to identify areas for improvement and guide product iteration. Being data-driven will help founders build a product that meets the needs of their users and which drives engagement and retention.

Product strategy: Helping founders develop a clear product strategy that aligns with their business goals and differentiates their products from competitors. A clearly defined strategy enables founders to focus their efforts and resources on building a product with a higher chance of success.

Product development process: Helping founders establish an effective product development process that ensures the timely delivery of high-quality products. This can help founders avoid delays, reduce costs, and improve product quality.

Metrics and analytics: Helping founders define and track key metrics and use analytics to gain insights into user behavior and product performance. OKRs and KPIs can help founders make data-driven decisions and optimize their products for better user engagement and retention to drive growth and revenue. 

The first product hire, whether an employee or an interim, fractional, or advisory resource, can provide invaluable support to founders, helping to avoid common pitfalls and ensure product success.

Originally published in Bootcamp on Medium.