Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

How you know you have a winning product

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In many ways, creating new technology based products and services has become much easier in recent years. With mobile apps, software as a service (SaaS) and other new tools, the cost of turning ideas into real products has significantly decreased. What has not changed is the significance of deeply understanding the market your product will serve.

What is the key to knowing you have a winning product?


Many companies spend big money hiring specialists to research and understand the markets they want to sell to. This tendency has led companies to invest more heavily in product management and marketing. While this trend has led to significant improvements, it can also create misconceptions about a product’s true value.

hockey-stick-principlesBobby Martin, addresses this quandary in his book THE HOCKEY STICK PRINCIPLES: The 4 Key Stages to Entrepreneurial Success. He suggests that a key reason many products fail is that potential customers want to please those who are asking the questions. Because they are not being asked to buy the product, they are less demanding and forthcoming. He goes on to say:

The bottom line is this: the best way to discover a market is by selling to it—not by only researching it. Of course, you should research a market before selling to it, but research alone won’t tell you enough. The best way to learn whether or not a market will adopt your product is to sell to it and learn from both the good and bad experiences of that process.

In a recent post I wrote about Clayton Christensen’s book Competing Against Luck. The core theory posed in the book—the Jobs Theory—seeks to find out what motivates customers to buy. It asks the ‘better’ question “what did you ‘hire’ that product to do?”

Understanding the job-to-be-done (JTBD)—the thing that a product does for its customers—is at the heart of developing winning products. Selling those products to your market—having customers buy them—is how you know it’s working. Executing on both is the primary key to creating successful company.

Questions: How focused are your selling efforts for new products? Do you know what job(s) your customer hire your products to do? Please leave a comment in the space below.

The Product Management Perspective: Bobby Martin makes another statement that caught my attention, he says: “Early customers are the best product managers.” While that statement is simplistic and incomplete, it speaks an important truth for real product managers: we must know our customers. To have products that consistently sell at high levels we need to know what job they are doing for the customers. The coolest product in the world will fail if doesn’t have a significant set of committed customer (remember the Segway?). Make sure you understand how to produce a winning product.

One thought on “How you know you have a winning product

  1. “…the best way to discover a market is by selling to it—not by only researching it…”. Cannot agree more. Research has become a easy tool to pet ideas out…

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