Product Focus


We’ve decided on an initial market niche and we’re now learning things about our ideal customer! So many things. Too many things. 🫠

How do we figure out which of our customers’ many pain points are the most important for us to address in the product, and how do we decide which ones to address first?

📌 Note: This exercise draws heavily from the work of Teresa Tores in Continuous Discovery Habits. Go read it!

Exercise: Review & Realign

Estimated time needed: One 90 minute session

Materials: Your previously created Assumptions Table and Market Segment Matrix

STEP 1: Revisit and update your Assumptions Table

Questions to Ask:

  • What have we learned so far? You may be able to “retire” some of your resolved assumptions. We like to put these in an Archived sheet.
  • What do we still not know? These are new assumptions! Add them.
  • For the things we don’t know yet, which ones pose the highest risk to the project?

STEP 2: Revisit and update your Market Segment Matrix

Make sure your team is still aligned on the specific persona in the specific market niche that you’re building for right now. You may find yourself wanting to do another pass at the Customer Focus exercises with all of the new information you have – that’s great! Do it!

Once the team has reestablished alignment on your current customer, ask:

  • What have we learned about them so far?
  • What do we still not know?
  • For the things we don’t know yet, which ones pose the highest risk to the project?

Exercise: Map the Opportunities

Estimated time needed: Three 60 minute sessions

Materials: Whiteboard and post-its or a whiteboard app like Miro or Figjam

What is a customer opportunity? There are tons of frameworks out there for these – Jobs To Be Done is one of our favorites, but there are also user stories, customer journey maps, the list goes on and on.

Almost all of them are tactics for uncovering customer pain points or desires. When we say “opportunity”, for us that is a shorthand way of saying “an opportunity for your product to make your customer’s life or work better in a meaningful and valuable way”.

STEP 1: List every opportunity we heard more than once from the specific people we’re building for – and only for them!

📌 You will almost definitely have heard something from other, non-ideal personas that sound and feel interesting. Keep a list of those for later, and remember: You’re not addressing that customer right now. If you let non-ideal customer personas distract you, you’ll end up with a confusing and uncompelling product – at best, it will be a “nice to have”.

Much like with the list of market segments, things on this list won’t be the same size or appear to have the same relevance. That’s okay! Just get them all out there to start.

For the dog walking app example we’ve been talking about throughout this playbook, opportunities might sound like this:

I want new clients to easily book me for walks.

I want dog owners to be able to find out about my dog walking services.

I want to organize my walks geographically.

For the data analytics platform example we’ve been talking about through this playbook, opportunities might sound like this:

I want a single dashboard to view my highest-value metrics.

I want help finding unique dynamics in my data.

I want my dashboard to update automatically and continuously.

STEP 2: Prioritize the opportunities

What we’re looking for is the best opportunity to pursue first (or next if we’re returning to this after testing something). Which things stand out as the biggest opportunities and why?

This is a great time to organize your opportunities on a matrix. At the opportunity level, we like to plot risk vs confidence. For each opportunity, ask:

  • How much do we know about this opportunity? (confidence)
  • What will be the impact on the business if we DON’T pursue this opportunity? (risk)

This should spark fierce discussion on the team and many misalignments will be revealed – that is good! If you’re feeling anxious about only pursuing one opportunity, remember:

  • We’re not saying “no” to everything else, we’re just saying “not yet”
  • Focus will help us know whether an experiment has succeeded or failed
  • Focus will help us maintain team alignment

📌 It might help everyone feel better about saying “not yet” to things if, for each, you define what conditions will make that thing the next best opportunity. Maybe there’s a growth metric you’re tracking and once it hits a certain threshold, you’ll know it’s time. Or maybe you’re listening for themes in customer interviews and once you hear about something a certain number of times, you’ll know it’s time.

STEP 3: Make an Opportunity Tree

For each opportunity worth pursuing, your next step is to identify possible solutions and ways to test those solutions as quickly as possible.

The goal here is to list LOTS of solutions and LOTS of ways to test, so that you can find the best ones. A great minimum for each opportunity is three solutions and for each solution, three tests.

We could go on, but really Teresa Torres is the expert on this process that she developed:

📌 Note that our goal here is to increase our confidence level in the opportunity and the solution, so not every test needs to involve making new software! Here are some examples of experiments you might do to test an opportunity or solution that don’t involve building custom software:

  • Undercover Competitive Research. Join other products to figure out what they're offering and where the holes are that we could fill
  • Ad funnel + market website that includes a beta signup. This is a great way of testing the desirability of an idea before designing or building much.
  • Surveys. Ask customers to rank opportunities and solutions.
  • Leverage existing platforms. If the idea involves community building, start on Slack or Discord.
  • Further outreach + interviewing with your community. Ask them what they are doing, how they are solving problems, etc.

Exercise : Product Experiments

The results of Exercise 2 should be a list of tests or experiments to run. For the tests that involve designing and building software, there’s already a great process for generating ideas:

Design Sprints »

Talk to one of our product experts about building success into your process.