As someone who has an interest in business and the desire to create a product, you may struggle with knowing where to start.

There are so many directions you can go and things that need to get done that it all feels so overwhelming. It’s not surprising if this leads to a lack of motivation.

So, how do you actually get rolling so you can start shipping products as soon as possible?

Break things up

The easiest way to get over humps is to break things into smaller, more manageable chunks. Small, manageable chunks make things easier because the likelihood of success is incredibly high. Your mind is no longer focused on all the things that need to get done. Rather, you’re focused on a narrow set of tasks and goals.

Let’s assume the goal is to build and launch a software product. This is a huge undertaking so we need a map that will guide us through each of the stages and milestones.

  1. Discover who you can and want to help
  2. Identify opportunities you can seize
  3. Propose solutions and get feedback

1. Discover who you can and want to help

This is probably the most important step. If you don’t know who you’re creating products for you’ll never be able to create things people want.

Discovering who you can help is not that difficult. The easiest approach is to help people like yourself. Are you a Python Developer? Then help Python Developers. Maybe you’re a front-end developer. Well, help other front-end developers.

What’s great about helping people like yourself is that you don’t have to figure out things like where they hang out online or what their biggest needs are. Even if you don’t precisely know, you at least have the confidence and knowledge to begin having conversations with them.

These conversations can be in the form of online chats, blog posts, social media interactions, etc. Go to your favorite forum and start reading what people are saying and the questions there asking. Does it match your worldview? Do you identify with what people are saying and asking?

To learn more about understanding who your customer is, read The Customer-Identity Gap.

Once things start to resonate move on to identifying opportunities.

2. Identify opportunities you can seize

Once you’ve identified who you’d like to help, you need to start discovering opportunities.

Opportunities, in this context, are problems or needs that people want to be solved. Whether it’s a difficulty their having with an existing product or simply venting over the number of steps it takes to complete a task. It just needs to be concrete.

The way to think of an opportunity is as a customer goal. Customer goals are a destination. There’s the before and the after. In between is the opportunity. This is where you get to insert your solution. The better you can market it and the faster you can get people to their goal, the more likely you are to succeed.

But, where do you find opportunities? From the people who you want to help. And how do you get them to tell you their problems and needs? By observing the conversations they’re having as well as having one-on-one conversations with them.

When you’re having conversations with people, they tend to think in terms of solutions. You’ll ask them to identify an aggravation they’re having with, say, the way they use spreadsheets for tracking inventory, and they’ll launch into better ways to do things or software they want to be developed.

You don’t want this to happen. You need their minds focused on what it is they’re trying to do. It’s your job as an expert to come up with potential solutions. To get people thinking in terms of their problems and aggravations, read Do You Have a ‘Problem Queue’?

Here are some questions you can ask people:

  • How do you currently _________? (E.g. track inventory, find new leads, host your website, reduce churn, etc.)
  • What’s the hardest part about this?
  • What are you doing to make this easier? If nothing, why not?
  • What solutions or products have you tried?
  • How much of an impact would it be to have this solved?

Of course, you must identify the right opportunity to work on. To learn how to weigh an opportunity so you can prioritize your efforts, read A formula for valuing and prioritizing opportunities. It will help ensure you’re focusing on the right problems that people actually want to be solved.

3. Propose solutions and get feedback

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of opportunities you can start brainstorming potential solutions and begin presenting them to your market.

You do not need to develop a product at this point. You can start by writing a blog post or creating some simple mockups or just chatting with your audience. Don’t overthink this. Just start putting your ideas out into the world.

If you’ve spent the time to identify a real problem enough people are having–and the potential solutions solve that problem–then it’s only a matter of making fine-tuned adjustments.

When presenting a solution, it’s best to frame your offering in terms of its value. Use the jargon and terminology of your audience.

For example, if you identified the need for, say, a form builder, you would not say, “Hey, here’s a mockup of a form builder I’m developing. What do you think?”

This is flat. It does not engage people nor make them realize that you identify with their needs and pains.

Instead, you need to say something more along the lines of, “Hey! Have you realized how difficult it is to get feedback from your customers? I’m creating a form builder that increases response rates by 25%.”

This shows you understand the problems their facing. If you nail this then they’ll identify with the problem, which is the key part. If they don’t identify with the solution, that’s okay. This just means you get to have further conversations with people–you’re not having to go back to the start.

The overall response you’re looking for is a, “hell yeah!” What you don’t want is, “yeah, that looks okay.” This is how you know you’re headed in the right direction. If the pain your solving is minimal, people will not care. If it’s a major aggravation in their life AND the solution you’re presenting is close to being spot on, people will let you know.

Once you have a good amount of feedback–roughly 30-50 conversations–then you can start taking the next steps of actually building something.

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