Is your startup thinking about using a product consultant? Have these four pieces of information ready before you begin…

It has become common for young startups to bring in product consultants to spruce up their early MVPs and help define the next steps for the company. However, very few startups prepare and collect the necessary information required to make a partnership with an outside consultant successful. As someone who has been the consultant on numerous occasions, I’ve found that four pieces of information help a new partnership begin the right way…

1) User Information

What: User personas, user stories, user empathy maps and contact information.

Why: Most likely, your product consultant knows nothing about your users. Give them the background information they need to design for your user instead of themselves. Additionally, you can gauge how effective a product person is by how they use user contact information. Challenge them to reach out and set up a few calls to truly get inside your users head.

2) Day in the life:

What: Documentation that describes a day in the life of your user before and after your product was introduced.

Why: Most product consultants won’t admit this but in order to do their best work they truly need to buy into what your product does for the user. The day in the life map will show them how your product is changing your users workflow and help them get behind your mission. If you don’t have buy in from your product consultant, you can expect to receive nothing more than a nice polish of your UI instead of meaningful user driven suggestions.

3) User Problems

What: Document the problems your user has and how your product addresses them.

Why: This is similar to the day in the life map but you’re explicitly calling out the problems you’re trying to solve. Most first time CEOs will show the product consultant the existing solution and ask for feedback / suggestions. That approach can stymie a consultants creativity and suggest that they’re only there to put lipstick on a pig. Instead, start with the problems you’re trying to solve and show how you’re doing it today. By focusing on the problem you open the door for new ideas.

4) UI Maps

What: A full map of your current solution and where you want to go next. Read more about why UI mapping is important here.

Why: Your early product is most likely stitched together in a unique way. Even if you’re on v2 or v3, there are always some not so obvious flows that have been built in. By definition, product consultants are visual people. Provide a UI map so they can quickly get their bearings and understand how the product works today and how you want it to work tomorrow.

Have you worked as a product consultant for a startup? I’d love to hear what pieces of information you’ve found useful when working with a new company.