Brian Casel
Brian Casel

Thinking in Products

by Brian Casel on November 1, 2023
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Some entrepreneurs think in sales, others in operations, and some in marketing.

Me? I think in products.

The product is the sale. Your customer doesn’t buy until you show them a product.

The product is the marketing. Your customer doesn’t pay attention until your product speaks to their need.

The product is the operation. Your customer doesn’t get value unless your product can deliver.

15 years (and counting) of thinking in products (a.k.a. being an entrepreneur) has taught me that success with products boils down to honing your approach.

Your approach is yours. You hone it. You learn from it. You fail and win with it. You veer off course then course-correct. You grow with it.

I boil my approach down to 3 core principles. I’m in my sweet spot when I’m doing these well.

  • Scrutinize ideas.
  • Ship fast.
  • Do more with less.

Let’s unpack.

Scrutinize ideas.

Ideas for new products are everywhere—scratching your own itch, spotting customer pains, noticing market gaps, and your latest shiny object idea. The skill that I constantly work to develop is my ability to scrutinize—and then decide—on what to do with product ideas that fly into my view… I ask:

  • Where did this idea come from?
  • What is it? What isn’t it?
  • Who should this help?
  • Why should that person care?
  • How is it different? Does that matter?
  • What does it look like? How does it work?
  • What does it take to ship it? How long?
  • What does it take to sell it?
  • Why am I interested in this?
  • (and a thousand more tiny questions in between those…)

What’s interesting is that the better I get at the skill of scrutinizing ideas, the more ideas show up with a higher chance of making it through my scrutiny.

In other words: More yes’s than no’s. Interesting.

Ship fast.

Yes, speed matters. But also, speed happens.

Speed matters because your customers are waiting. Because you and your team feed off the momentum. Because time is money. Because less is often better.

Speed happens because the best ideas come fast.

Great ideas are so simple that they don’t take much. So clear-cut that you know exactly how to ship it. So resonant that customers get it, immediately.

Products that ship fast. A thing of beauty.

Do more with less.

Most founders with a great idea for a product wouldn’t know how to spend an extra few million dollars in investment.

In fact, it would probably slow us down.

A smaller crew, with chops and a positive, constructive attitude, can ship incredible products that customers love. And feel the rewards of their craft while they’re at it.

Yes, finding ways to keep costs down is critical when you’re building a profitable business.

But eliminating complexity and bloat is even more important when you’re shipping a great product.

These make up my approach to product strategy and how I steer my career in entrepreneurship.