Using the Product Science Method to Develop Your Evidence-Based Growth Plan

There are 3 stages to developing an evidence-based growth plan with the product science method. These stages are the same whether you are launching a new product or looking to improve an existing one, although the techniques you have available may differ.

  1. Understand your customers
  2. Know your market
  3. Lay the foundations

Understand Your Customers

Great products and great companies are customer-obsessed. If you want to build something truly innovative, start by empathizing with your customer. The best way to do this is to talk to them – lots of them.

It goes beyond user interviews, though. In order to build something truly useful for them, you’ll need user science – the application of psychological and behavior science principles to understand and predict user behavior.

Using design thinking techniques, explore the problem space and the context that your customers inhabit when they are taking actions and making decisions. Plan qualitative, ethnographic research to help you better understand the customer. Focus on identifying their pains and ideal outcomes. Once you start to see consistency and patterns, draft your customer problem statement. What problem does the customer have that you are best positioned to solve?

Know Your Market

Once you’ve got a deep empathy for your customer, you can begin to quantify the most interesting areas. If you are looking to expand your audience, you’ll want to run some surveys with the target audience. Try to uncover how many people are like the ones you interviewed, and how deep their pain is.

If you’ve got an existing product, this is when you start to mine the data for golden insights. Key to this is segmentation. Don’t just look at averages – find useful ways to segment the data, and then compare the behaviors and metrics across groups. What stands out?

You also want to understand the competitive landscape. What are the key strengths and weaknesses of the other offerings. Where do you have a competitive advantage?

Once you’ve done this research, synthesize it into a form that will communicate the vision and goals to the people who will be developing the solutions. Focus on communicating the problem to be solved and the desired outcomes, rather than the specific features or designs.

Lay the Foundations

Next, you’ll want to lay the foundations for the product you will build. What do you need to know about the growth plan to get a team started on it? Run a design studio to identify potential solutions, and choose a couple of ideas to develop further. What designs or features might be involved? What technologies might be needed?

Then craft an outcome-based roadmap that delivers value by focusing on driving a particular outcome for a particular customer segment. This is essentially a series of product-market fits that defines a plausible plan to realize the big vision. Clearly communicate key metrics and make sure the team has the tools and support they’ll need to be successful.

If you’ve involved the team in the process up until now, they are probably feeling excited and motivated by the growth strategy that you’ve developed together. Now you’ll want to make sure they have continuous improvement processes in place to put them on a self-correcting course. Using lean startup and agile processes, the team should be continually talking to customers, testing hypotheses, designing usable and feasible solutions, and measuring outcomes.

Along the way, use retrospectives, design studios, workshops, and sprints to continuously refine the product strategy, design, and engineering plans. Involve stakeholders early and often, using Built Learned Planning Demos to build trust and show off your evidence-based product decisions. You’ll be on your way to a continuous product discovery practice, a learning-focused culture, and a high-growth product!

Want some help getting started?

I’ve put together a live online course to take product managers and startup founders through the process in as little as an hour a week. I’ll walk you through the exercises I use with my clients and give you a chance to work through them for your own product. Learn more about it here.