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Working Backwards the Amazon Way

Written by Neil on November 1, 2014


According to Bloomberg, the premier business and finance market news site, 80% of people who start businesses fail within the first 18 months!  That’s a big percentage. The number-one reason is because you have built a product that nobody wants or nobody needs.

Amazon’s approach to this big problem, is to create a press release outlining the value of the product to its potential customers, before the product is built , in effect working backwards from the customer.

New Products

For each new product, whether it’s physical or software, Amazon staff , start by crafting a hypothetical press release as though the product has been built. They outline what problem they are solving, the existing solution, and their solution that will hopefully persuade potential customers to buy the hypothetical product. The press release is not geeky or technical but simple and straightforward. If amazon employees find it difficult to explain then they don’t build the product.  Amazon management believes any product should be jargon-free and be able to the pass the Oprah test.

The Oprah Test

Imagine yourself sitting next to Oprah on her sofa, prime time TV with an excited audience and the worldwide millions. When Oprah reads the press release, will this be something that is going to excite the audience or sound boring? If it sounds boring then don’t expect anyone to buy it. You just need to work on your press release until it sounds interesting. You may think it’s the best thing since sliced bread, but you are not selling it to yourself but to complete strangers.

How To Create a Press Release

Here’s a quick guide to create a press release. Remember this can be an internal press release for you and your company and can be changed over and over again. I suggest four to five sentences for most of the paragraphs. If you need to create more information, then I suggest creating an FAQ (frequently asked questions) to go along with the press release.

A) Attention-grabbing headline — Intrigue the reader into reading the next line.

B) Who is it for and what problem does your product solve? — Also you can add the 5 Why’s — who, what, when, where, why.

C) What is your amazing solution to the problem? — Add your new idea of a product and also add the key solution features and why it’s different than the competing product. Make sure your solution is desirable by creating a case study.

D) A quote from you and a hypothetical customer — What benefit did the customer get from this? Did it save them time, money, make them more popular, etc.?

E) Have a call to action — What should the reader do next?


Over the last 20 years, Amazon has become the world’s biggest online retailer, selling everything from books to sunglasses. It offers a limitless selection at low prices. They have done this by working backwards from the customer.

If you have an idea for the next Facebook or Twitter or a business, don’t build anything yet. Work backwards from the customer and create a press release like Amazon. Then imagine you are sitting on Oprah Winfrey’s sofa in front of the audience and the watching millions around the world while she announces it to the world! Will it generate excitement or will people switch off?

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