How Product Discovery Reveals What Brands Really Need

“We need a new website.”

Brands almost always come to us with this “simple” request. And we totally get it! As websites become more interactive and personalized, many companies see their sites as obsolete and out-of-fashion. Surely sales performance could improve if the website was up to snuff, right?

Websites, custom-built apps, and many other digital products are often seen as this “fix-all” for brands—an obvious, client-facing way to inject new life into a company. Unfortunately, that’s a serious oversimplification of what these products can offer (and many companies spend a lot of time and money finding that out).

These companies are on the right track, they just took a wrong turn. They recognized a problem in their current makeup and tried to identify a solution that would solve that problem. This is the basic beginnings of product discovery. But before we get into that, let’s clarify what we mean when we say “product.”

What Is a Product?

Products are items or services that are created to meet a specific customer need. Most people would immediately think of products you see on store shelves—a physical exchange of goods. 

Our work mostly deals with intangible products, like a brand new website, a customer portal, or even an app. So when we talk about the discovery process, have these types of products in mind.

What Is Product Discovery?

Product discovery is the process of researching, defining, and validating product ideas before starting the development process. This is meant to cement several ideas before jumping into development:

  • Ensure the product idea aligns with the company’s goals and vision.
  • Identify the target audience and their specific needs.
  • Reduce the risk of developing a product that fails to meet customer expectations.
  • Save time and resources by avoiding unnecessary development efforts.
Why You Should Care

Let’s think back to those companies who just want to build a website. What happens if they don’t do any product discovery? Chances are they’ll end up right where they started, with a solution that doesn’t entice, engage, or inspire the target audience. They simply remain stagnant.

This is the primary risk of not conducting product discovery. And not only will your wheels keep spinning out, you’ll have a much harder time finding a solution that genuinely speaks to your desired audience and waste oodles of resources along the way.

When you employ product discovery into your product development strategy, you will create products that solve real problems for you and your customers.

As a general rule of thumb, the larger or more complex the project, the more you will benefit from product discovery to keep you from walking too far down the wrong path.

The Product Discovery Process

At Mabbly, a holistic product discovery process requires three phases:

  1. Research
  2. Define
  3. Validate

Consider the following as a basic product discovery template you can use as a launch pad for your endeavors.

Research
  • Describe the problem
  • Research the market
  • Analyze customer needs
  • Identify product opportunities

Whether you’ve just recognized the problem or want to vet potential solutions, you should always start with research. Home in on the true problem, analyze customer needs and market trends, and identify areas of opportunity you could leverage to create a unique and useful product.

Define
  • Develop a product vision
  • Create personas
  • Define product requirements
  • Prioritize desired features

With a clear picture of the problem and needs to be met, it’s time to develop the vision of the future. What are the desired product requirements and features? What is the mission of the product? Who are you targeting with this project? 

Developing customer personas during this phase can help guide you toward features and solutions that speak to real needs. You may also develop multiple pitches for product visions that guide you to ideas that truly reflect your mission.

Validate
  • Create a prototype
  • Test the prototype
  • Analyze feedback

Validating means incessant testing. Start by creating a prototype. Then test that prototype, seeing how well it delivers on the vision you established in the previous step. Send the prototype out to a few trusted individuals outside your development team to get an outsider perspective. Gather feedback, assess changes that should be made, and implement feedback where appropriate.

Rinse and repeat. After a couple of iterations, the final output should be a clear image of the product you set out to build. 

Product discovery is measuring twice and cutting once or looking before you leap. At the start of the product phase, you will see every potential solution as an opportunity. By the end of the discovery phase, you should have a crystal clear understanding of the who, what, when, where, and how you will solve the problem at hand. 

How to Get It Right (the First Time)

The product discovery techniques we’ve outlined should be enough to craft an operational blueprint for your discovery process. But with any outline, there are sure to be gaps. To help you fill those, here are some additional tips that can help you stay on the right track.

  • Gather a diverse team: Your discovery team should not be all from a single department. It should be a mix of UX designers, key stakeholders, creatives, and anyone else who might be involved with the final product. These different roles bring unique perspectives to the problem you wish to solve. A UX designer will have a firm hold on how the product should look and feel, while a stakeholder can help identify technical risks.
  • Welcome feedback with open arms: Whether it comes from users or the discovery team, every piece of feedback deserves consideration.
  • Balance customer needs with business goals: One should not outweigh the other. Besides, your customer needs should be fairly aligned with your present goals. If they aren’t, you may need to reassess whether your goals are actually geared towards client success.
It’s Time to Ask the Important Questions

If we’ve kept your attention for this long, you’re likely looking for some concrete guidance to inspire a productive journey of discovery. The advice we’ve shared can get you where you need, but how do you start? We’d recommend beginning by asking yourself some critical product discovery questions.

  • What is the core problem you’re trying to solve, and how does it address the needs of your customer?
  • What unique needs exist among your customers?
  • What are the gaps between what you offer and what your customers need?
  • What resources do your customers need to move toward your product confidently?
  • How can you provide a uniform experience that adjusts for individual needs?

We’re happy to help you find the answer to these questions. At Mabbly, we love diving in to discover pivotal problems and establish a roadmap to get your brand where it needs to be. Reach out today to start the process.