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Product discovery – How to?

Discover a product that is not shit

Before we embark on the task of building our game changing birthday reminder app. We’ve got to get crystal clear on a few things.

As we learned in my article “What is Product Management”, the purpose is to discover a product that is valuable, usable and feasible.


But what does valuable, usable and feasible really mean?

1. Valuable – “Will they choose it?”

During the discovery phase we find a solution that solves a clearly defined user problem and brings value to the user.

2. Usable – “Can they use it?”

We may have a clear understanding of how we can add value to the user. But if we don’t build this in a way that users like, we might as well flush it down the toilet.
Users want our product to be easily accessed, in the right place at the right time.

3. Feasible – “Can we build it?”

Once we’re clear on what we’re building. We need to think about the technicalities of building this product. Do we have the resources to create this produce and generate this value? Does the technology exist? Do we need to be rocket scientists to bring it to life?

4. Achieves our business goals – “Does it achieve our business goals”

We should get clear on what we’re trying to achieve and make every effort to check our solution against this.

An important side note:
If you don’t have the luxury of working on your own idea at your own pace, for fun (e.g. you’re working in an established business), the reality of the discovery phase is that you’ll have a lot more to do. For example, you’ll have spend more time on question #4 – “Does it meet our business goals?”. A key assumption with this writing is that we are NOT bound by these additional constraints so things are slightly more simple. Don’t worry – I DO work for a large global corporation for my day job. So I am usually in the same boat.

I work through 4 clear parts of the discovery phase. For each of the 4 steps, we’d look to examine the following:

  • Users and/or decision makers
  • Subject matter experts
  • The market

The goal of the discovery phase is to get your idea to the point where you can start to build a real product. You increase your confidence by gathering evidence you’ve got a good idea.
The first ‘product’ would typically be a minimum viable product (MVP). The minimum set of features required to deliver value to the user. This way, you can get even more market feedback.


Discovery step 1: Clarify

Get clear on what we want to achieve. Being clear up front helps keep us on track.

Questions to answer:

  • What is a high level vision for what we want to build?
  • What are the goals?
  • What is our measure of success?
Lean canvas The lean canvas will help you set the goalposts for your discovery phase, and provide some initial hypothesis to test. Completed lean canvas.
“Back of napkin” sizing Is there an opportunity to make any money here? Rough analysis on a napkin (or spreadsheet).
Expert interviews Are there any experts that you can consult with to supercharge your learning? e.g. For the birthday reminder app – I would reach out and meet with professionals who work in the gifting/reminders space. n/a
Just the invaluable knowledge that you would gain from meeting experts in your arena.


Discovery step 2: Build empathy

They say empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another. In this step, we begin to understand the user and the landscape in which they operate.

You may have some ideas about your user and their pain points. But until you answer the following questions, you’ve only got a hypothesis.

Questions to answer:

  • Who is the user?
  • What is the current landscape for this user when it comes to remembering birthdays?
  • What are the ‘jobs to be done’ and associated pain points?
  • If the user could have any tool to help them with remembering birthdays, what would it look like?
  • What tools is the user already using?
  • Are there any market trends?


You might not use all of these tools. There are also many more tools you could use that aren’t listed here.
It’s about using the right tool to tease out the answers to your questions.

Create personas You’re clear on who your user is and you know all about them. Persona map.
Empathy Mapping In addition to understanding who your user is (personas), the empathy map gives an insight into what the user thinks, feels, sees, hears, and does. Empathy map.
User interviews User interviews are a chance to get to know your users. You can ask anything you want, but what is important is you understand what their needs and pain points are. Transcript and synthesised summary of interview findings. A prioritised list of pain points. A prioritised list of features.
 Surveys Surveys are great if you wish to sample a larger group of users.
  • Transcript and synthesised summary of interview findings.
  • A list of pain points.
  • A list of desirable features.
User journey map What does the user journey/s look like for your personas. User journey map.
Data analysis What data exists to help learn more about users? Data supporting your understanding of the customer.
‘Jobs to be done’ analysis
  • What has the user ‘hired’ your product to do?
  • What are the decision making forces (functional, social, emotional) that go into deciding to use your product?
  • List of jobs to be done. This is a lens you can use for decision making.
    Competitor analysis
  • Who are your competitors (e.g. direct, indirect, incipient)?
  • What do they offer?
  • Competitor matrix
    Market trends analysis
  • Market size?
  • Who owns market share?
  • Buyers perceptions?
  • Pricing / pricing sensitivity?
  • Porters 5 forces map
  • SWOT analysis
  • A list of insights about the market.
  • Discovery step 3: Test assumptions

    Now that you know your user inside and out, you’ll be budding with ideas that will help your user and solve all their problems.
    This next step is to get clear on any assumptions and solutions you may have. Particularly relating to any solutions you may have thought of. I sometimes call these ‘Solution hypothesis’.

    Questions to answer:

    • Of all the ideas you’ve got, which would provide the most value to the user?
    • How do users classify each of the features?
    • Which features are important to the user?
    • What (if at all) would your user be prepared to pay for this product?
    Lo-fi prototypes demonstrating your concept You get high level feedback about the ‘concept’ or ‘idea’. This could be a drawing on a piece of paper, an elevator pitch or even a pipe cleaner model of your product (pipe cleaners might be a bit weird though). Lo-fi prototypes with feedback.
    Co-creation prototype Co-create a prototype with your users in real time. Co-created prototypes with feedback.
    Design sprints In a short period of time e.g. 3-5 days, get a group of people together to create prototypes and test with real users. Validated prototypes
    Kano Survey and analysis Once you’re clear on the features you’re thinking of building, interview users to understand how they classify features. Groupings include:

    1. Delighters (features that delight users)
    2. Performance (the more you add the happier they are)
    3. Must haves (they’ll be disappointed if you don’t have these, but indifferent if you do),
    4. Indifferent (don’t care if you do or don’t have these features).
    Prioritised list of features in each category.

    Discovery step 4: Plan

    This step sees us planning the implementation as well as answering any final questions.

    •  Are you going to proceed with this idea? Or is it time to kill it?
    • Are there any regulatory, legal or administrative tasks to complete before you can build this MVP?
    • Who’s going to help you build this?
    • What does your MVP look like?
      • Which features will you build and get to market?
    • More in-depth analysis of the financial opportunity including:
      • Cost projections
      • Revenue projections
      • Pay back period
    • Metrics for the MVP
      • What success metrics are important initially?
      • How will you track these?
    • Marketing
      • How are you going to take your MVP to market?
      • What channels will you use to access your audience?
      • What is key messaging for your MVP?
      • What will this cost?

    When are you done?

    Whoa, what a trip. That’s a lot of work! To make it less daunting, just remember that you can move through these steps QUICKLY. Done is better than perfect.

    The discovery phase is done when you’re clear that your idea is valuable, usable and feasible to the customer. You understand what your MVP looks like and you’re ready to start implementation.


    What’s next?

    The discovery phase for the Birthday Reminder app is kicking off now. Stay tuned as I work through my discovery phase and provide all the details to you along the way.



    Marie xx


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