Startups need to understand their core product value

The Lean Startup teaches us to roll out MVPs (Minimum Viable Products) as soon as possible and to iterate based on customer/user feedback until we find something that people want. That is a great methodology, however how often do startup founders really understand exactly why users are using their product.  Founders don’t spend time identifying what their users are gaining from their product and what their core product value is. The answers to these questions are far too often skimmed over and missed in exchange for optimization of users, revenue, k-factors or even new product/feature creations. Understanding exactly where you fit in the market, what value you are offering to users and how they are responding to it are important metrics to be measuring.

It is often very difficult to measure true product or market fit. How do you definitively identify why users are using your product as opposed to a competitor’s? How do you find out what users are gaining by using/purchasing your product? The key here is to truly understand your users by implementing surveys, customer cohort analysis and even speaking to users directly.

The first thing you need to determine is who you should be talking to. You want to find out who your most engaged customers are and why they are so engaged. To do this you can ask them this question:

How would you feel if you could no longer use “this product”?

  1. Very disappointed
  2. Somewhat disappointed
  3. Not disappointed
  4. N/A – I no longer use it

For this purpose you are interested in the people who select “Very disappointed”. This means for these users, your company and product is doing something right and they are gaining real value from what you are offering.

Once you have run this survey and identified who your most engaged users are, now it’s time to identify why they are engaged and what is engaging them. Segment your users to only the users who selected “Very disappointed” and get them to answer this question:

What is the primary benefit you received from “this product”?

You can start with an open ended question where users enter in their answer. As soon as you see some trends turn them into multiple choice answers and change the format of the question so your data will be a lot more meaningful. This will provide you with your “must have experience” and “aha moment”.

Once you have identified what people love about your product you can then go into why that benefit is so important to them. Ask your users this question:

Why did you select that benefit as your favourite? 

Leave this question open ended and the answers you’ll get back will provide you with huge insight into what you should be optimizing. It will tell you what type of users you should be optimizing for and what product changes you should be making to ensure you improve and maintain the “aha moment”.