@brentlarue on Nov 14, 2014
Alright folks, welcome back for week two of San Francisco’s General Assembly Product Management course. Last week we all came up with product ideas that we would develop throughout the course. We had ideas all over the map from a children’s toy discovery app to a panic attack prevention product. For my product, I will be re-visiting an idea that was put on the back-burner while working with my pals over at Mediately (formerly Modra Jagoda). The product, Jog of War, got its roots from Health 2.0′s Berlin Code-a-thon back in 2012, where it took first place and made it to the grand stage to be presented by our very own Jure Triglav. I’ll get into the details of the product on another write-up, but for now I want to focus our attention on the course. This week was all about Users and Customers (yes, there is a difference)!
“We are not smarter than the collective intelligence of our customers.”
Part 1: Customer Development
The objective of this class was to identify our target users, learn how to conduct successful user interviews, and understand the user’s needs, behaviors, and current ways of working. We kicked off class with a short clip from Steve Blank, a Silicon Valley serial-entrepreneur and academic recognized for developing the Customer Development methodology, which launched the Lean Startup movement.
What Steve is trying to teach us is that before pursuing any wild ideas, we need to test our hypothesis and assumptions with potential customers. The aspect of this which resonates in my mind is “get out of the building.” Part of our homework assignment was to do exactly this. First we had to identify our target customer. Once we felt we had a grasp on this, we had to identify where we could locate these individuals. And finally, we had to actually go out and talk to them. This is the part that can be the most uncomfortable, but also the most rewarding. It isn’t until you actually go and talk to potential customer’s do you begin to remove yourself from the picture and understand the actual problems people are having. After all, a solution to a problem which doesn’t exist, isn’t really a solution at all.
Stay tuned for another post where I share my findings. This was an awesome exercise which fundamentally changed they way I would approach my product moving forward.
During the class, we had a visitor and former GA student Chris Dyball Noble, Head of Product at Blinq, share his first-hand experiences with interviewing and walk us through a mock interview. Through the interview, Chris talked us through a few key lessons:
- Make sure you are not introducing sample bias or a self-serving bias by selecting too narrow a customer profile.
- Let the interviewee know that you are building the product in question so they take you seriously.
- Let them know up front how long it will take and offer some incentive if possible (Amazon gift cards work great).
- Some things you can’t solve, but being empathetic helps build trust and a conducive interview environment.
- During early stage interviews, broad, open-ended questions can help you learn the fastest.
Part 2: Personas & Empathy Maps
The latter portion of class was focused on what happens after the interviews — translating your interviews into personas, creating empathy maps, and learning how and when to apply these tools.
A persona is an archetype of a group of users. It does not represent one person. It is created by identifying trends in user research. While these are fictitious people, they are still rooted in reality. Personas help UX designers, marketers, product teams, and executives think and make decisions like their potential users, not themselves. It is not always the case that you will be your own target user. Within a persona, you should capture goals, needs, behaviors, pain points, scenarios, biographical info (name, age, gender, location, income, etc.), and maybe even personality traits. Finding a picture to go along with the persona can help make it more memorable and real. We also learned how to create and use empathy maps, though truthfully, it does not sound like these are used as frequently in everyday life.
To wrap up class, guest speaker Cheryl Yeoh, CEO of Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Center and formerly Walmart Labs via Reclip.It, talked to us about her product experience. Cheryl walked us through some of her early mistakes including working too long on ideas without first validating them with customers. It was refreshing to hear her talk about her “stupid idea” and the struggles that she and most founders grapple with. Eventually, Cheryl and her team would turn around the company and later be acquired by Walmart Labs — well done! Identifying and collaborating with Mommy bloggers (after discovering some traction through analytics) was a big part of growing the product. Another really interesting event which took place was bringing in two users, one old and one new, every Friday to test the product. Overall, she really helped us understand that this was not academic bullshit, but this was the real deal.
Another great class under the belt! Until next time, over and out.