Customers don’t need products

Zigmars Rozentals
3 min readMay 20, 2024

There are product managers who really love their products. They also love their ideas and the solutions they implement in their products. Some product managers think they know better than their customers what they really want and need. They are obsessed with their product.

From the description above, it may seem that they are good professionals. They are passionate about what they are doing. Their managers (CEOs, CPOs) trust their expertise, guidance, and advice for the product development.

However, there is one component that is often missing from their priority list: the customer and their feedback.

This is something I have seen in especially technical products. Technical products sometimes gain traction by tapping into some hot market need (often quite accidentally) and build their future hopes of success just by making a better product, realizing their own vision into the product, and just keep adding new features. But the customer is forgotten.

For some time, such product may succeed, and if it becomes widely known, it can attract new users, which is fine. However, the world keeps spinning and every day presents new realities, situations that are reflected in their customer behaviors, needs, and goals that they are trying to accomplish by using the product.

At the end of the day, the product starts loosing its traction. One may say this is a normal phase of the product lifecycle — every product has its growth, maturity, and then the decline phase. However, this is not the case. This time, it is just a lack of proper product management. Product management where the focus is not the product itself but the customer and their problems.

Instead products should be built having customer in the center. Products should be built and developed to solve customer problems.

People do not need products. Customers don’t need products. They just want to accomplish their goals, and the product is the way to do that. It is also called the “Jobs To Be Done” (JTBD) framework, where the underlying principle is that customers “hire” products to accomplish certain jobs. For example, customers don’t need a hammer as an object, but when they need to hang a picture on the wall, they need the hammer for a certain job.

“What the customer buys and considers value is never a product. It is always utility, that is, what a product or service does for the customer.” ~ Peter Drucker

Good product managers are obsessed not with their products but with their customers and their problems.

Good product managers “love the problem, not the solution.”

They know their customers, speak with them, and gather data about their behaviors. Then they are equipped to “step into their shoes” and design solution and propose customer value in the form of a product (prototype or MVP) to start testing their assumptions to move forward.

That is the path to creating products that customers love.

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