How To Make An App People Love

The foundation of any marketing strategy should be a deep understanding of your customers. If you don’t like people, you will probably have a tough time coming up with a great app that people will love.

Amazon began with a mission to be the most customer-centric company on the planet. Customer centric companies identify their most valuable customers, develop a deep understanding of their wants and needs, and develop products and services for them.

How does a company like Amazon, that releases hundreds of new products every year, stay customer centric?

A couple months ago I read an article offered insight into Amazon’s product development process. What struck me was what Austin Carr (@AustinCarr) revealed about Amazon’s internal approach to product development. I thought that was really, really cool.

Bezos requires employees to write these pretend press releases before work begins on a new initiative. The point is to help them refine their ideas and distill their goals with the customer in mind.

Yesterday, Jillian D’Onfro (@jillianiles) published an article that confirmed this detail about Amazon development process via Amazon Web Services SVP Andy Jassy. Amazon Web Services (AWS) produced over 500 products in 2014 alone:

Before Amazon developers write a single line of code, they have to write the hypothetical product’s press release and FAQ announcement. Amazon uses this “working backwards” approach because it forces the team to get the most difficult discussions out of the way early […] They need to fully understand what the product’s value proposition will be and how it will be pitched to customers. If the team can’t come up with a compelling press release, the product probably isn’t worth making.

The working-backwards approach helps Amazon stay true to their mission of being customer-centric. But there are other reasons to take a backwards approach. Backwards thinking is a mental model that dates back to Carl Gustav Jacob Jacobi:

Carl Gustav Jacob Jacobi, the German mathematician said, “invert, always invert” recommending that “many hard problems are best solved when they are addressed backward.” This model is one of the most powerful thinking habits we can adopt. “Indeed,” says Charlie Munger, “many problems can’t be solved forward.”

Thinking backwards helps you avoid stupidity. Putting customers first is smart.