When you first start building your product there’s a strong chance you make your product to fit your local market.
For a lot of SaaS players or WordPress plugins that’s often American centric.
But there’s a difference between building a product for a target market vs building a product based on local bias or your own personal bias.
By building towards a bias you impact the end product and often end up with a product that talks to your needs not your market needs.
In this post we’ll take a look at product building bias and what you can do to help either yourself or your team build better products.
A key to any good product comes from a diverse team with a world of experiences and differences.
If you’re in a room and no one challenges your product ideas then likely you’re in the wrong room.
At Stellar we have a hugely diverse team (we’re hiring by the way) and the end output is we end up with better products through taking everyone’s experiences and opinion bias to shape better products.
Knowing Your Market
Most people make the mistake of building a product for everyone when you do that you end up building for no one.
A product that does a lot of things but none of them particularly well is never going to end up sticky.
If you’re a small team or a solo founder you still need to be crystal clear on your product vision.
If you target only America or only Europe, or only Africa, or only Asia, or only the Middle East that’s a perfectly explainable strategy.
What isn’t a strategy is targeting the world but building your product with a European only gateway that customers in Asia can’t use.
Or not making your product translatable meaning that the user needs to know English.
And that leads us to Bias.
Building With Bias
You build a product that aims at your local market (for the sake of a point of reference let’s say North America).
Then you decide before you start building that you hope to target the international market.
But in your planning everything is biased towards your own experience in building and that’s just human psychology. You build and do things based on your own experiences, your own challenges, your own location.
Yet when you build like that in a silo, you introduce your everyday bias into your product.
That’s why diversity is important, imagine you have a product that has a 60/40 split with local and international sales. Yet you only offer solutions to your local market, you’re alienating 40% of your users and will slowly kill your product.
5 Ways to Beat Building With Bias
1: Build in Public
One of the best ways to avoid bias is building in public. Twitter, Indiehackers, and other communities are great ways to get feedback as you build your product for users to make suggestions.
And it’s easy to dismiss suggestions from people that aren’t even customers but think of every interaction as a potential customer and it changes the whole outlook of the conversation.
What if you could spend 5 minutes changing copy that appeals more to your market and guarantees sales. You’d do it right? Right?
Public feedback is extremely useful to prevent building with bias.
2: Writing And Meetings
If you build your product based on countless meetings with nothing written down with plans, strategies or ideas you’re building with bias.
You might say “but the meeting has 30 people that participate?”. Ok, sure. But are they diverse? Even if they are, you’re building with bias with that group. If you have a C-Suite Exec or another leader in the call chances are the group will just agree with what they say.
By writing one-pagers, by writing strategy documents and by documenting everything you can share it with others in your company that aren’t in those meetings, to revisit, to get more input than a core central group.
3: Local Market Competitor Research
If you’re building a product for the North America market but target international sales utilize Google to do basic research on competitors in other markets.
Say you have a membership solution. Look at solutions in Africa, Asia, South America, Europe, everywhere. Understand what they offer the local market. Different payment gateways? Different user journeys? Why? Is there something about the market that makes users act in that way?
Once you understand the local market competitors you can take a look at the overall trends across the entire market and make more intelligent decisions and remove your bias by building only your part of your market.
4: Assuming You Know Best
A common theme in any team is “we know best” especially if that product is successful, even the biggest companies in the world aren’t immune to this type of bias.
It’s like a know it all that thinks they’re always right. Chances are they aren’t, they just don’t have the experience to make an informed decision and so assume they know best without having the proof. Which leads me into why.
5: Ask Why and Define the Challenge
Data is critical to building a world-class product. Without data it’s incredibly difficult to work out what changes have the biggest impact.
If you lack data then the next best thing is to ask Why? Yet to ask why you need to have the problem or challenge clearly defined.
You can define the problem with one sentence: “The challenge is X because we’ve had feedback from Y Number of customers which have asked or reported problems with Z”.
Then go one better and add the action into a paragraph:
“The challenge is X because we’ve had feedback from Y Number of customers which have asked or reported problems with Z.
“Because of this we’re going to add feature B which is expected to solve the problem by resolving problem Y in this way which directly addresses customers’ requests”.
The trick is keeping succinct. Time is short for everyone, one-pagers are an excellent way to define a challenge/problem to present to executives to align on objectives to solve a challenge without writing a huge 3,000 word document to address one issue.
In future posts I’ll talk more about building with bias and common mistakes in building product.
In short remember to clearly define:
- Your target market.
- Gather opinions before building.
- Document everything and share with as many people as possible.
- Use one-pagers.
- Don’t assume you know everything.
Next time we’ll dive into what a one pager is and how you can use it in your business to clearly define problems and solutions.