Writing a good Product Outcome

Of all the parts of continuous discovery, people need help most with defining Product Outcomes. Landing on a good Product Outcome is crucial as it drives most of the activities of product thinking, from finding opportunities to discovering solutions and conducting customer interviews.

First, let’s define what a Product Outcome is. A Product Outcome is an actionable behavior change that will lead to business results. Now, how do you figure out the right Product Outcome?

Start simple.

Before you’ve had multiple customer conversations, don’t spend time trying to guess what the market needs. At best, it’ll just be guesswork. At worst, it will end up as confirmation bias that will be difficult to eliminate later.

However, if you already have customer conversations recorded, you may be able to find behaviors you want to target from the opportunities you’ve listed.

Start with a business objective lens.

The behaviors you want to target are the ones that will lead to business results, meaning they must align with your business needs. For product teams, “business needs” means that users/customers will use one or multiple features you have in mind.

For example, if you want to sell a new product to customers, start with “Users trust/use product X.”

Such product outcomes will need to be refined, and product teams will be required to stay aware that the feature/product may, in fact, not work. But this kind of product outcome is helpful to run the first few customer interviews.

Evolve it over time.

The Product Outcome is important, but it is not sacred. Like any first attempt, the first Product Outcome won’t be amazing.

Change your Product Outcome as you debrief your product interviews, review opportunities, or evolve your prototypes.

Small but ambitious

A Product Outcome should put you one step towards a product that customer love and use and a viable business model.

Typically, Product Outcomes need to be fixed in two ways.

  1. They are too generic. The lack of focus it will create when reviewing opportunities and solutions will invite delays in release and a bloated experience. Your first customers will have to deal with an overly complicated, unfinished first attempt—a recipe for disaster.

  2. They are too specific. This is the other end of the spectrum where you narrowed the Product Opportunity so much that the opportunities you will find in customer interviews work for such a thin slice of customers that the product will never create a viable business. Note: This is an easier problem to fix than a too generic product because the signs will be obvious.

There is no secret formula to write a perfect Product Outcome. The right Product Outcome sits somewhere between generic and specific and depends on many factors like your business size, industry, maturity of the market. A product manager’s intuition and experience will play a large part in how quickly they unearth a good product outcome.

If you’re a founder or product manager looking to build products that customers will use and love, you know how important it is to think about Product Outcomes. But instead of trying to approach it through perfection right away, see it as another step that you review every week or month to make sure you’re on the right track.

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