"Working backwards" to Build Exciting Products

Amazon’s “Working Backwards” is a technique to help you to form a solid understanding of what your eventual product will sound like - before you ever get to building.

One piece of this approach is the “press release” that’s written before starting work on a product. This document is a great thought exercise to help you shape up the product - not something that gets released to the public.

Working backwards helps mitigate risks right off the bat

When you’re starting a new product, you want to mitigate as many risks as possible within reason.

You want to make sure that:

  • You’re solving a real, clear probem

  • It’s something interesting to potential customers

  • The features that people will find most useful are included

  • There’s something that sets you apart from competitors

Using this Amazon press release technique will help you think through a lot of these questions and get some answers.

It’s going to help you find clarity about what it is that you’re trying to build and it’s going to ensure that you’re building something that’s exciting and compelling for your future customer. Heck, it may even give you a basic feature set to work from once it’s time to get started building the thing.

Sound good? Cool. Let’s talk about writing one.

The sections of the press release


Say what the project is about


Who it’s for and how they’re going to benefit

Main content area

The product and it’s value

First talk about what the product does and what kind of value it’s going to provide.

Problem and pains

Then you can talk about the problem you’re solving and the pains your customer may have associated with that problem. And this is also a good time to explain how your product is going to obliterate that pain that your customers may have right now.

Fake social proof

You can even go ahead and throw in a fake customer testimonial or a fake quote from the CEO about the product, and then you wrap it up with a CTA that describes how the reader can get started.

And that’s it.

Make sure you’re excited about what you just wrote

If you’re not excited about what you just wrote, keep iterating. No one’s going to be interested in a lackluster product, so make sure you’re hyping it up.

And if you are having a hard time hyping it up it may be time to go back to the drawing board and rethink how you’re approaching the problem.

What’s Next?

Once you’re done, you don’t actually have to publish this press release. It’s more of a though exercise. Now it’s time to start pulling some of the key features out and figuring out what they’d look like.