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Amazon is known for creating many successful products, and the reason may be that its product developers know how to think backward.

On, Ian McAllister, who leads new traffic initiatives for Amazon, says the focus is on working backward from what the customer needs by writing, at the start of a new initiative, a press release announcing the finished product. They focus on the specific target audience, detail the customer problem being attacked and how current solutions fail, and describe why the new product will devastate the competition.

"If the benefits listed don't sound very interesting or exciting to customers, then perhaps they're not (and shouldn't be built). Instead, the product manager should keep iterating on the press release until they've come up with benefits that actually sound like benefits. Iterating on a press release is a lot less expensive than iterating on the product itself (and quicker!)," he writes.

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The press releases follow the normal pattern, with heading and sub-headings to dramatize the product, target market and benefits; a summary; a focus on the problem addressed and the solution; quotes from the developer; an explanation of how to get started with the new offering; and a quote from a hypothetical customer. He also suggests writing it in what he calls "Oprah-speak," as if you were on her couch explaining it to her mass audience, rather than in geek-speak.

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About the Author
Management columnist

Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. More


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