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πŸ“¦ PRODUCT

These are my selected, opinionated and very condensed thoughts on developing, growing and managing Product. If you would like to discuss these topics in more detail, I'm eager to engage.

⚑ Products are useful

When developing a product, usefulness is the primary β€” if not only β€” concern to focus on. If it isn't useful, it is not a product. You may be able to sell a useless thing to others, but I call that a scam rather than a product.

A useful way of quantifying usefulness, is the popular product/market fit β€” or in other words, β€œHow essential is this product for your customer?”. If they can't live without your product, it solves essential problems for them, and you have found perfect product/market fit.

Make sure you have a robust and iterative approach to determining product/market fit throughout all stages of the product lifetime. Robust β€” as in ensuring that testing always happens, and can't be tainted or subdued by other less-critical concerns, such as brand value, budget or scheduling. Iterative β€” as in running a constant cycle of assume ➑ build ➑ test ➑ adjust. You assume something will improve product/market fit, based on former iterations and current knowledge. You build based on those assumptions, and quickly test the validity of the assumptions. Finally, you can adjust based on your tests, and make new assumptions for the next iteration. Useful iterations create useful products.

πŸŽ‰ Useful products are popular

Products can become popular for several reasons β€” some more ephemeral than others. A mention by an entity with a large following, can lead to a great rise in popularity β€” or awareness at least, but that doesn't always result in recurring revenue or even usage. If it isn't useful, it will not hold the attention of an audience without a constant (and likely massive) spend on marketing efforts. This leads us into a widespread dichotomy in marketing: paid versus organic. Paid marketing is traditional ad-spend on commercial messaging such as Google search ads, Billboards and TV-commercials, while organic marketing can be defined as a grass roots or user-initiated word-of-mouth campaign. People telling other people positive things about your product, without being paid to do so!

A common misconception is that organic marketing is 'free' - understandable as it is always presented opposite to paid marketing - but also untrue in almost all successful cases. Good things costs something. The primary cost behind supporting a successful organic campaign is of course creating an actually useful product in the first place. If something is useful to someone, it's easy to get them telling other people about it. The second significant cost, is a group of everything that comprises the framework supporting the organic spread of your product's virtues. This includes simpler things, like making your content easy to share, to more complex matters, such as regularly creating stories and other good opportunities for your fans to spread the good word. Making sure that the quality of your content is pristine - don't ever embarrass your fans in front of their audience - and striking the right balance between push and pull also requires a constant investment of time, focus and effort.

πŸ’€ Good products go bad

You've made a useful product, you've helped make it popular, and now you get to the tricky stuff: managing a successful product without ruining it.

Your product/market fit might be off the charts, MRR growing triple-digit percentages YoY, healthy bank account and the team is growing with lots of super-smart new hires. Good stuff all-round. But this isn't the time to kick back and relax β€” on the contrary. As Soccer Olympian and World Champion Mia Hamm is credited with saying, β€œIt is more difficult to stay on top than to get there”, and that also holds true when it comes to managing a successful product.

Do not succumb to well-intentioned terrible ideas - a pervasive issue in most organizations over a certain size. Well intentioned terrible ideas are often birthed by very smart people, which can make the idea seem superficially well-reasoned, while in reality they might pose existential risk to your product. I won't write an exhaustive list in this paragraph, but some typically treacherous examples follow here: β€œCompetitor X has added functionality Y β€” we should also add Y!”, β€œWe can save X amount of money if we do Y instead of Z” and β€œA user suggested we implement X, because they believe that would very useful to them”. If these examples seem, in fact, sensible to you, do not fret β€” that is why they are called treacherous. The dangers lie in our reactions to these statements, not the statements themselves. It's how we use them. It is ill-advised to use these examples as reasons to make changes, as you would be heading towards certain chaotic inefficiency. Diverging from the path that drove your initial success: a laser-like focus on making the product essential for your users. Nothing else should matter. Conversely β€” all of these examples are excellent triggers to start investigations. Find out whether they hold opportunities to improve product/market fit. Most won't, but some will. Your ability to recognize and differentiate between reasons and triggers is critical towards getting efficient return on time and effort.

Managing Product at this stage is thus primarily managing and investigating both risks and opportunities. Managing risks such as adding the wrong features to an already successful product, which can be catastrophic β€” completely alienating your most loyal supporters in one fell swoop. Alternatively, being a bit late with a useful feature might just incur a small increase in opportunity cost. Investigating opportunities such as competitor feature sets or user suggestions, to determine if they actually make the product more essential for your users, and if not β€” then thrown in the pile of well-intentioned terrible ideas. When managing an already successful product you will spend more effort on determining what you shouldn't do, rather than what to do. This means saying no to many people with very well-intentioned ideas. This is a non-trivial exercise to get right in any organization, and isn't as easy as just saying yes all the time. Most organizations will fail at this stage, unless they make a focused effort to codify how to give and receive a 'no'.

⌚ TL;DR

Develop useful products.

Make it easy to spread the love.

Be very selective on how the product evolves.