🔥 New Book: Solving Product, a GPS for Entrepreneurs & Product Teams

Solving Product – A New Book for Entrepreneurs & Product Teams

If you’ve read Lean B2B, you could reasonably be wondering: “What happens once I reach product-market fit?” Is everything fine and dandy after?

This, is one of the questions I aimed to answer when I began work on the book that would eventually become Solving Product.

To find the answers, I…

  • Spoke to some of the most successful technology entrepreneurs today including B2B veterans like Hiten Shah, Dan Martell, and David Cancel.
  • Spoke to growth and product leaders at organizations like Google, LinkedIn, and HubSpot.
  • Spent time testing and researching hundreds of customer research techniques and product and growth frameworks.

The more research I did and the more I learned, the more questions I was able to answer. Now, no matter where you are in the product growth cycle—at the idea stage, at maturity, or somewhere in between—you can use Solving Product to gain clarity and move a product business forward.

“A GPS for Entrepreneurs and Product Teams”

Solving Product isn’t your typical business book. It’s not a book that was written to be read front to back, then simply put away.

It was carefully designed to help entrepreneurs and product teams reveal the gaps in their business models, find new avenues for growth, and systematically overcome their next hurdles by leveraging the greatest resource at their disposal: customers.

Solving Product will help you:

  • Gain clarity by revealing gaps and blindsides in your product strategy;
  • Overcome blockers by laying out clear action plans to get your business moving;
  • Ignite growth by helping you find new approaches to get your product growing.

The book contains more than 25 case studies and actionable advice from hundreds of product leaders and customer research experts.

It’s a book you’ll find yourself going back to, time and time again.

What Early Readers Are Saying:

Here’s what product leaders and entrepreneurs are saying about Solving Product:

Samuel Hulick – Solving Product Testimonial for Entrepreneurs & Product Teams “Everyone knows that research is a requirement for improving growth processes, but very few people know which particular research practices are right for their current goals. This book collects the world’s brightest ideas on this topic, and organizes them in a way that makes it easy for anyone—regardless of company size—to know exactly which techniques will achieve outsized returns.” – Samuel Hulick, Founder, UserOnboard
Sam Shepler – Solving Product Testimonial “With Solving Product, Étienne Garbugli has written a practical and motivating primer on how to drive growth by leveraging the greatest resource at your disposal: Your customers. Étienne’s framework is incredibly valuable both for new founders looking to cultivate traction—as well as mature companies who need to launch new product lines and expand their services.” – Sam Shepler, Founder & CEO, Testimonial Hero
Nicolas Cossette – Solving Product Testimonial “Solving Product demonstrates how user-centered design and research are intrinsically connected to the acceleration of your business. The book provides a practical guide to leveraging customer-focused strategies, frameworks and tactics that will help you fuel your growth and move to the next stage.” – Nicolas Cossette, Head of Growth & Operations, Matador.ai
Amanda Robinson – Solving Product Testimonial “No matter where you are in the product growth cycle—in the early stages of sparking and shaping a new idea, fanning the flames of growth, or seeking strategies to stem complacency and loss of market share—Solving Product will meet you where you are and lead you out of the darkness. Each section and chapter is packed with immediately actionable tips and tactics. I highly recommend keeping it within reach at all times.” – Amanda Robinson, Product Manager, Salesfloor

Solving Product is now available for purchase:

📘 Get Your Copy of Solving Product Today

How to Use The Customer Discovery Process to Reduce Your Startup’s Risk

The Customer Discovery Process – Biggest Risks for Startups

According to research by CB Insights, the top reasons for startup failure are:

  • Lack of market need (42%);
  • Lack of cash (29%);
  • Wrong team (23%);
  • Too much competition (19%);
  • Pricing power (18%);
  • Poor product (17%);
  • Business model (17%);
  • Ineffective marketing (14%).

The biggest risks for your startup will then often be:

  1. Being able to sell the product and generate revenue;
  2. Being able to get it adopted and deliver value in organizations;
  3. Being able to effectively reach the buyers and decision-makers in businesses;
  4. Being able to differentiate your offering on the market and generate awareness to get the growth engines going.

These uncertainties stack up.

Although you’ll probably want to create an uncertainty map to understand your biggest risks and assumptions, you’ll also want to leverage a customer discovery process to learn about the riskiest parts of your model.

Using The Customer Discovery Process to Define the Product Value & Expected Business Outcomes

There are three parts to product-market fit:

  1. Revenue – being able to sell the product;
  2. Retention – being able to get the product used repeatedly over a period of time;
  3. Growth – being able to generate positive word of mouth from the product.
  4. The early steps of the customer discovery process are about capturing data on these 3 parts of your startup.

    But by far, the one that hurts the most teams is not being able to monetize the value created.

    To that end, you want to focus on finding balance between what your product does, the impact it has on organizations, and how much you charge for it.

    For this phase, your goals will be to:

    • Define / find agreement on the problem definition;
    • Define / find agreement on the outcome / expected return on investment;
    • Identify how to differentiate your solution on the market.

    Those questions will help enrich and re-validate your understanding of the problem.

    A lot of innovation issues stem from mis-alignments around defining what the problem really is. It’s best to get clear agreement on what the problem is as soon as possible.

    Defining The Problem Statement

    The problem statement is foundational. According to entrepreneur Lenny Rachitsky, it needs to be short, clear, reference a “need” that’s not being fulfilled, include a what and a why, and be agnostic of a solution.

    Here are good and bad examples:

    • ✅ Users are dropping off at too high a rate at the final step of the signup flow.
    • ❌ We need to build a loyalty program.

    Similarly, if your prospects have a different take on what needle the product needs to move, you won’t be able to build a clear solution.

    Understanding the Problem & Outcomes

    During the customer discovery process, you’ll want to do problem drilldown, define the whole product (the minimum set of requirements), and understand how the value will be calculated.

    Here are a few sample customer interview questions to help you do this:

    • How are you currently solving this problem?
    • How do you typically work around this problem?
    • What are the minimal criteria required to work with your company?
    • How did you decide on your current solution? What made this the best option for your organization?
    • What tells you it gives you a positive ROI?

    Get Started Fast – Download my Latest B2B Customer Interview Script for Free

    You’ll want to get to the root causes of the problem by asking why repeatedly. I recommend using the 5 Why technique for this.

    By the end of the interview series, you should have clarity as to what the exact problem is, a confirmation that this is a real problem you can solve, and have an idea of the expected ROI / what outcome needs to be delivered.

    • Problem: What problem is this solving?
    • Why: How do we know this is a real problem and worth solving?
    • Success: How do we know if we’ve solved this problem?
    • Audience: Who are we building for?

    These will go a long way in defining the pitch you use moving forward, but they also won’t be enough.

    To move forward, you need to confirm that, if you build a product that meets their needs, they’ll buy.

    Pre-Selling Your Product to Prospects

    At this point, and before going too far, you’ll want to make an offer and pre-sell your solution to get your first customers.

    You can do this over the course of a followup discussion – a solution interview – where you show a demo of a minimum viable product or a presentation, explain the value and the process for development, give a price and pre-sell it, by sticking to your price point and ask the prospects to buy your solutions.

    If they don’t buy, understand why before moving on.

    Pre-selling a product is the best way to confirm market need.

    I go into way more details on building an MVP, conducting solution interviews, and closing sales in the Lean B2B Course, but this should help you get started.

    How to Find Growth Channels & Refine Your Messaging With the Customer Discovery Process

    Once the buying process and the influencers are becoming clearer, take a step back. Look across the various organizations you’re targeting.

    Are there any patterns? What are the key roles?

    This information will help drive and improve your early sales process. But it definitely doesn’t end there.

    To move things forward, set up customer acquisition processes, and improve your close rate, you’ll want to understand the people behind those roles.

    Take the lead. Work with your buyer or your change agent to get warm introductions to the other influencers in their organizations.

    Your goal is to:

    • Understand their realities;
    • Understand their win results – what they hope to gain by working with your company;
    • Understand their doubts and evaluation criteria;
    • Find ways to reach them effectively.

    Sample Questions to Learn Business Objectives & the Buying Process

    You’ll want to ask customer interview questions like:

    • What are your objectives this year?
    • How will you be evaluated this year?
    • What keeps you up at night? Why?
    • What are your top three challenges?
    • How do you feel about the current situation?
    • What would be the impact of solving this problem?
    • How are you currently handling problem X?
    • What are the minimal criteria required to work with your company?
    • What will tell you that this solution’s implementation is successful?
    • Who are the visionaries you respect?
    • What are some of the blogs, websites or publications that you read?

    Sift through the data. Look for inconsistencies or clashes with your understanding of the business direction to find potential blockers.

    You can use this information to refine your pitch and handle objections.

    Reassuring the other buying influencers and meeting their expectations will improve the certainty that your solution actually gets used and adopted.

    Understanding what visionaries they respect and where they go for product research will help you find channels to scale your growth efforts once you’ve found product-market fit.

    There are a lot of things you can learn at this stage to improve your pitch and the fit of your solution within organizations, so keep at it.

    More on The Customer Discovery Process

How to Generate Valid Customer Insights From Customer Interviews (Complete Guide)

As you’re going through series of customer discovery interviews, it’s a good idea to write down your notes and impressions right after the interviews to make sure you’re not forgetting anything.

Then, with the benefit of distance, listen to the interviews.

By re-listening to the interviews, you’re able to:

  • Objectively assess your performance as an interviewer;
  • Evaluate the quality and validity of the information collected.

Share the recordings (not your notes or a summary of the interview) with colleagues and team members.

If you share summarized versions of the interviews you won’t be able to get feedback on your interviewing techniques or the customer discovery process you’re going through.

It will also limit your team’s interpretation of the customer data; they’ll have a hard time helping you identify lies and half-truths. You might also have a hard time getting them to buy in afterwards.

Let your team and partners extract their own customer insights. This will lead to better internal discussions and limit the risks of working off false assumptions.

If you’re a solo founder, you might want to get trusted advisors or mentors to listen to some of your interviews. This added step proved extremely useful for me when we were working on HireVoice.

Centralize customer interview data for rapid comparison and analysis by focusing on:

  • Qualification data (Role, Goals, Organization type, etc.);
  • Answers to your big questions (Business problems, priorities, etc.)
  • Next Steps/Follow ups/Referrals.

Categorizing Customer Interview Data

Fellow author Rob Fitzpatrick says that “You can’t build a business off a lukewarm reaction”.

To that end, you can’t simply average the response you got from the stakeholders you interviewed. If you were to do that, you’d focus on an opportunity that wouldn’t be particularly exciting for any of your prospects.

What you’re looking for is a problem…

  • In a business which is already aware of the existence of the problem;
  • That has already tried to solve the problem;
  • Is unhappy with the current solution to the problem;
  • Has a budget to get the problem fixed;
  • Knows how to evaluate the impact of a solution.

You want to be solving one of the top 3 problems of the organization. A problem that’s so visceral that they can’t live without a solution.

It’s getting harder and harder to get businesses to adopt technology from new, unproven vendors.

For this reason, if you’re solving a problem that’s business-critical, businesses will be more likely to overlook the costs of implementing a new solution (training time, risk, effort, etc.).

Home in on a core problem, park the remaining customer interview data and refine your segmentation.

Averages have no value here.

You’ll be better off expanding your segmentation to find more stakeholders with similar pain points, than building a solution to a secondary problem or building a nice-to-have solution.

Analyzing Customer Interview Data

It’s important to understand that business problems were not created equal.

Choosing which problem to solve is one of the most critical decisions you’ll make in the course of the customer discovery process.

So, how do you identify the problems that matter most?

As we mentioned, it’s very hard to build a business based on a problem outside of an organization’s top 3 priorities.

So, the first key part of the equation is a problem that causes a lot of pain:

We can tell that a problem is painful if:

  • The same person repeats it frequently with passion during the interview. Repetition is a sign that the problem is current and top-of-mind.
  • The company is actively trying to solve the problem or has assigned a budget to solve the problem. In that case, the company thinks it’s critical and they have a vision for the solution.
  • The problem is frequently listed in the top three of your early adopters. If it’s not part of the top five, it may be too far ahead of the market.

That pain, however, must be the pain of a buyer or someone who has access to a budget in the organization:

How far removed is the budget? How is that money currently being spent?

You want to make sure that your business can actually get paid for solving the problem.

You also want to make sure that you’re actually going to be able to build a solution that’s incrementally superior to the current solution.

So, what’s the current solution?

Excel? A manual process? Legacy software? Another product?

Replacement Products from Customer Insights

If they haven’t looked for ways of solving the problem already, they’re not going to look for (or buy) your solution.

Thinking Through The Solution With Customer Insights

You’ve maybe heard of the 10x rule stating that your product needs to be 10 times better than the known alternative.

Well, your product needs to be 10x better than the competition on a key evaluation criterion to get businesses to buy and switch over. Is that actually possible?

What kind of ROI can you expect if you solve this problem? What impact will it have on the organization?

  • Will it increase revenue?
  • Decrease costs?
  • Increase customer satisfaction?

Those tend to be the main reasons why businesses buy. It will be easier if you can frame the value around one of these three reasons.

The clearer the outcome for the customer, the easier it will be to create a powerful value proposition.

Lastly, you’ll want to make sure that there’s as little market education required as possible.

Is there currently competition? Would you need to create a completely new paradigm?

You want to build a business, not educate the market on the virtues of solving the problem you’re hoping to solve.

When you take a step back, which parts of this are clear and can be considered as validated learning?

Now, which parts would you consider gaps preventing from making a sound decision?

Is it safe to move forward?

This analysis will help create specific tasks for validation. It will also help you refine your customer discovery process.

More on Generating Customer Insights