is an approach called "working backwards" that is widely used at
Amazon. We try to work backwards from the customer, rather than starting
with an idea for a product and trying to bolt customers onto it. While
working backwards can be applied to any specific product decision, using
this approach is especially important when developing new products or
For new initiatives a product manager typically starts
by writing an internal press release announcing the finished product.
The target audience for the press release is the new/updated product's
customers, which can be retail customers or internal users of a tool or
technology. Internal press releases are centered around the customer
problem, how current solutions (internal or external) fail, and how the
new product will blow away existing solutions.
If the benefits
listed don't sound very interesting or exciting to customers, then
perhaps they're not (and shouldn't be built). Instead, the product
manager should keep iterating on the press release until they've come up
with benefits that actually sound like benefits. Iterating on a press
release is a lot less expensive than iterating on the product itself
I love this approach. The idea of working backwards has many benefits. First, it really causes you to sharpen your idea. You have to be able to communicate it crisply and concisely. If you can't, then you probably don't have a clear strategy yet. Second, it puts you in the shoes of the customer reading that press release. It makes you think about how they will perceive your innovation. Third, it helps you sharpen your understanding of the target market. Who precisely is the target? What do they care about? Finally, it provides a clear, compelling direction for your team - they will have a strong shared understanding of the vision they are trying to achieve.