Imagine you are a CEO of a product company. You started out just hustling – you and your co-founder built and marketed your product yourselves. Then, you raised some money and hired a full team of engineers and a product manager, as well as a UX lead. Your product hits some sense of product-market fit, but you start to notice that your growth rates are slowing down. Maybe your MRR growth rate is dropping, or your transaction volume is still growing, but growing more slowly than it did for the past year.
Your customers are still loving the core product, but they have all sorts of demands. So you start interviewing them and you find some patterns in what they are saying. So you build some user stories, validate the UX with a cohort of end users, and then spend a bunch of time building the features they want.
Then, you release your new feature and it’s met with 4 consistent weeks of even worse growth.
What the hell just happened?
You justified a build based on no data! Yes, you had a cohort of users who you talked to and figured out they shared some common pain points, but how many did you actually talk to? Were those users your power users? Were they new users? Were they the early adopters who love anything you do? Were they free trial users?
Each of these users are different personas with different needs based on where they are at in their own struggle to find a solution to the problem your product is supposed to fix.
Did you actually build what your entire user base needed? How did you validate the build process? Did you start small and test your way to the results? Probably not…
At product organizations, this process above happens literally every day. The teams hired to build stuff want to build stuff – and they are great at building stuff!
And the teams that are hired to build stuff can easily justify building stuff – that’s what they are hired to do!
However, the justification gets shattered when the company looks back in 6 months and realizes that all metrics are south – retention is down because the product is too complex, new user signups are up, but activation is horrible because people are unsure what action they should take every step of the way. Your shiny new feature gets their attention but doesn’t solve an actual business case that gets them in or keeps them from churning.
This is a problem. There is too much justification for feature development and building going on in the product industry. There is too much role creation happening, and there are too many opinions floating around for what teams should actually focus on. It’s become too easy to build.
I see very few companies taking on a growth lead product strategy and using the step functions of growth to build their product roadmap from. But hopefully this will change soon – as it’s no longer about building great products – that’s become table-stakes – it’s about producing value for both the end user and the business itself. If we follow the right approach we can happily keep product teams engaged and building great products, while solving real end user pain points.
I put some resources together on how to start attacking this problem. Here’s a quick video that may help: The way we build features is often broken