A new way to define Product Vision: In the form of a question.

We all know the entrepreneur who’s doomed to fail. The one that has a solution, but the problem doesn’t exist. So over the last decade, there was a valuable shift in defining the problem first in the form of a hypothesis and validate that both the problem exists and the solution addresses it.

Amazon has an exciting way to define its experimental product hypothesis. They write a press release oriented in a customer benefit angle. Then they build the prototype.

We also know that awareness is likely the biggest hurdle to startup success, both in consumer and B2B. Figure out distribution, and you are ahead of most competitors (and substitutes).

I want to build on those three ideas with a Jeopardy twist: Formulate your startup hypothesis as a question that users/customers ask themselves.

Consumer Engagement via Triggers

Find the problem, build the product, validate, figure out distribution and win! Wait. That works well in a B2B SaaS world, but for non-SaaS consumer products, you must keep them coming back. You have to keep re-acquiring your existing users. That’s why MAU and DAU are such important metrics.

The most common tactic employed by these products to re-acquire and engage their users is External Triggers. These are artificial events deployed to entice users to remember your product, come back, and engage with it again. These are the push notifications, drip emails, re-targeting on social media, text messages, etc. Partners can also help with External Triggers.

It works, but the return rate is tiny because you have to be lucky to reach someone looking to re-engage with your product when the message (External Trigger) reaches them.

Internal Triggers

Internal Triggers are the ones that you are not told proactively to engage with a product, but you come to that conclusion in your head.

For example, when you leave the house, see your umbrella, and you think of opening the weather app. That’s an Internal Trigger. The weather app didn’t geo-fenced your front-door and sent you an alert. You just associated X (umbrella) with Y (weather app).

That’s the most powerful type of trigger for a product to have. It’s when you think about buying a new power cord, and Amazon comes to mind. It’s when you dream of a vacation in Tahiti and Expedia comes to mind or when you see a beautiful sunset and Instagram comes to mind. These are Internal Triggers.

Creating Internal Triggers

An Internal Trigger is to user engagement what a brand is to company. You can say that Internal Triggers are the children of good brands. You can’t force someone to believe in something. You have to influence them. You have to create the experience that makes them arrive at that conclusion by setting an expectation and fulfilling it, over, and over, and over.

We can create external Triggers in days or weeks, and if done right, you can see a good result. Internal Triggers take years to solidify in people’s minds.

Existing Internal Triggers

It’s likely the problem your product is addressing has an existing Internal Trigger on people’s minds, but it’s not associated with your product yet. People needed power cords before Amazon existed, they booked trips before Expedia, and they wanted to share pictures of sunsets before Instagram.

Internal Triggers are the question people are asking themselves.

  • Where can I buy product X?
  • How much is a trip to place Y?
  • How do I share this picture with friends and family?

To drill-down on Amazon. If Amazon were starting today, maybe Jeff Bezos would write the Internal Triggers he wanted to create:

  • Where can I buy the book X?
  • How much does the book X cost?
  • What are the reviews for book X?
  • Are there other books by Author X?
  • Are there other books similar to book X?

Then, Amazon would go about building the product that answered those questions; the best, fastest, and most accurate way to answer them. Then, everything else would fall into place, including the press release, the product vision, the user experience, the messaging framework, and advertising copy.

You still need to prove that this is a problem people have (what if people didn’t care about books) and that your solution addresses it.


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Marcelo Calbucci

Marcelo Calbucci

I'm a technologist, founder, geek, author, and a runner.