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How to Nail Your Product Definition

Listen:

Let's be honest, most product definitions suck. They're either packed with jargon that makes your eyes glaze over, filled with features nobody gives a crap about, or so vague they could be about anything. And most importantly, they totally miss the unfair advantage.

Wait, what the hell is an unfair advantage? 

Simply, it's the killer feature or a strategic edge that's so good, the others can't even copy it. It can be so simple as a dark mode, or an App Store feature to let competitors hook in. It's like building with Lego: you want that one foundational piece that's the base for everything else. Start with a simple square? Cool. But with the right unfair advantage, you can build it into a freaking skyscraper that everyone wants a piece of. Let me break down how I start to build new products.

Step 1: Forget the "What," Focus on the "Why" (and How It Makes Users' Lives Easier) 

Simplified: Customer Problem > Fancy Features 

If you can't explain your product idea in a way that gets your team and potential customers hyped, you've got a problem. Jeff Bezos quote: "If you can't explain it to a six-year-old in five minutes, you don't understand it well enough." Read more about Bezos' obsession with customer experience in this 2012 Forbes article.

Now, before you think and plan and iterate over features or fancy tech, answer always this: What problem are you solving for your users? Not the problem you think exists, but the one that keeps them up at night. And, as Steve Jobs emphasized, how does your idea make their lives easier? Here's how to dig into this:

  • Talk to Potential Customers: Don't pitch, listen! What are their pain points, frustrations, or goals they can't quite reach with existing solutions?
  • Observe and Analyze: Can you shadow potential users in their environment? See how they currently tackle the problem (workarounds, spreadsheets, whatever). This offers invaluable insights.
  • The "Ease of Use" Filter: Run your product idea through this: "How will this make my users' lives simpler?" Remember, as Jobs put it, it's about what the product does for the customer, not about showcasing technological wizardry.

Step 2: The Minimum Viable Definition (MVD) + Data-Driven Decisions 

You don't need a 50-page spec doc to get started. But always use data to validate and back product ideas. Here's a framework I use to combine clear definition with data-driven validation:

  • For: Who is your ideal user? Get specific (not just "busy moms," but "working moms of toddlers struggling with picky eating")
  • Who: What fundamental problem does this product solve for them?
  • Unlike: What are existing solutions (or workarounds), and why do they fall short?
  • Our product: What's the core way it addresses this problem? (Don't get lost in features).
  • The Ease of Use Factor: How will this product make the user's life notably easier or more enjoyable?

Data Validation: Here's where data analytics and market research comes in. Can you find existing data points to support the problem you're addressing? Market research reports, industry trends, or even social media sentiment analysis can all help validate your MVD.

Example: 

  • For: Working moms of toddlers struggling with picky eating
  • Who: Feel overwhelmed and guilty that their kids don't get balanced nutrition
  • Unlike: Generic recipe apps or complex meal plans
  • Our product: Provides quick, healthy, toddler-approved meal ideas with minimal ingredients
  • Ease of Use Factor: Focus on quick prep times, minimal, organic, local raw products, and easy-to-follow instructions.

Data Validation: You find research indicating that 72% of working moms struggle with meal planning for their kids, and a recent social media trend highlights dissatisfaction with existing recipe apps. 

* I might just gave you an idea for a new product or startup, so be at least so honest and point to this blog ;) 

Step 3: Don't Build in a Bubble - The Early Feedback Loop 

Get customer buy-in before investing heavily. Here's how:

  • Low-Fidelity Prototypes: Sketches, wireframes, or clickable mockups are enough to get initial reactions. Does this resonate with their problem? Does it seem easy to use?
  • The "Would You Pay For This" Test: Not a binding contract, but asking people if they'd consider paying for a solution shows seriousness of intent.
  • Iterate and Repeat: Don't get defensive about feedback. Use it to refine your definition and make your product even stronger.

Product Definition Isn't Static 

Your product (and its definition) will grow and maybe create new products out of this as you learn more about your customers. The beauty of this approach is that you start with a solid, customer-focused foundation, validated by data whenever possible. As you develop, it's essential to prioritize features and continuously refine your understanding of what the market truly needs.

Use MoSCoW Method for Prioritization 

If you want a structured approach to feature prioritization, the MoSCoW method is a great fit. It helps you categorize features as:

  • Must-Have: Critical for the product's core functionality.
  • Should-Have: Important but not essential for initial launch.
  • Could-Have: Nice to have, but lower priority.
  • Won't Have (This Time): Not important for the current product vision.

Using MoSCoW in conjunction with the customer-centric definition process we've outlined helps you build a product that not only solves real problems but delivers the most impactful features first.

Want to learn more about MoSCoW for prioritization? Check out my other blog post Rethinking Product Management: Flexibility and Customer Obsession for Success!

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