Working Backwards

This is a short breakdown of Amazon’s approach to thinking about the value of a product idea for customers before the idea is even been worked on.

Amazon's Future Press Release

The idea of a future press release is to make the entire team, and specifically, the Product Manager, craft a compelling story about the product, what problem it addresses, how the solution should work, and why it would succeed. As the name suggests, the whole story shall be told in the style of a newspaper article and formulated for the target customers.

Rather than listing features or technology, the press release has to start with the customer in mind, with the benefits they will gain. This will help the team to align on the purpose of that product idea rather than only thinking about feature delivery.

In a nutshell, the future press release must contain

  • a name of the product idea as well as a brief scope of what it does
  • an explanation of how it helps customers to do their jobs better
  • some measurable observation, or metric, that proves the success of the idea
  • the business benefit for the company, so explaining the viability
  • some fictional quotes both, from an internal team member as well as a hypothetical customer stating how this new product made them more successful
  • potentially some call to action, such as providing a download or suggesting an upgrade to a customer

A key concept here is that it is a future press release – so Product Managers ideally craft this messaging before the work is started. 

According to our experiences, this helps massively to sharpen thinking – even when the actual release notes, as published when actually releasing the product or feature, will be revised.

Customer Letter

Think of a customer letter as a variation of an Amazon Future Press Release: imagine you just shipped a feature and a hypothetical customer writes a letter to your CEO thanking you for that recent release and explaining why they are so grateful and how it has improved their business.

While similar to a press release, the focus here is even more on the customers, on their pains and gains, how they feel, and why they will benefit from this great new product update.

See also the Amazon Six Pager.

Further Reading

Working Backwards

A New Version Of Amazon’s “Press Release” Approach To Plan Customer-Centric Projects.

Jeff Gothelf | LinkedIn

Amazon Press Release

How to smartly create a different kind of business plan and increase your chances of success for your product idea.

Andrea Marchiotto | Medium