Practical Product Ep 10: ChatGPT and AI: The latest applications and what they mean for PMs feat Lazar Stojkovic

Are you following what’s happening in the world of AI? Have you been asking questions of ChatGPT and trying out the various text to image AIs?

Whether you are new to the field of AI, or an eager follower, you’re going to love this episode of Practical Product.

In this episode, my good friend and fellow product-minded founder, Lazar Stojkovic talk about all the exciting things we’re seeing in AI. We talk about what we’ve liked and not liked, the controversies and opportunities, and most importantly, what every PM should be doing to think through using AI in their job, and at their company going forward.

The most exciting developments in AI + what product leaders need to be thinking about

On this episode, we dive deep into the latest developments in AI. Lazar and I have both spent a bunch of time trying various AI powered tools, so we’re able to provide a realistic evaluation of them, and help point you to the best ones to check out.

We also tackle the most important questions for you as a product manager and leader:

  • What should PMs do to prepare for a world with AI?
  • How can PMs get their teams involved in discussions about AI?

Highlights of the episode include discussing:

  • (1:09) – Introducing Lazar
  • (3:05) – Thoughts on ChatGPT
  • (8:19) – Is AI actually taking people’s jobs?
  • (18:44) – The pictorial side of  AI
  • (30:31) – 10x-ing AI, applications and potential negative outcomes
  • (46:27) – What to look forward to with AI
  • (53:44) – How will the costs of AI impact pricing and how you can use them in your product?
  • (57:51) – How should Product Managers be thinking about AI in their products?
  • (1:21:12) – What could the future of AI may look like?

Key Show Notes & Further Reading:

We covered a lot of ground in this episode, so we have a ton of links for you to check out.

The AI basics:

  • ChatGPT – A chat based system by OpenAI that can provide written answers from a text-based prompt
  • GPT-3 API – An API by OpenAI that allows you to bring GPT into your product or service.
  • Replicate – Open source cloud API for running AI models
  • Lore AI Newsletter – A free newsletter discussing business and creative applications for AI

Tweets and Threads on AI discussed:

Articles and Blog Posts about AI:

Examples of AI tools you can try:

Learn more and connect with Lazar Stojkovic

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Practical Product Ep 9: The Harsh Truth of Interviewing & Hiring Product Managers

Unfortunately, the product management interview process at most companies is poor. Navigating the interview process, or creating a good one at your company is a tall task.

In this wide-ranging interview we cover both perspectives to help you think about both the perspective of the interviewer and the interviewee. You’ll learn how to prepare to run a great interview process, when a project is appropriate and how to make it effective, as well as tips for your resume, and how to handle imperfect interviews for your next job.

This episode is with Willis Jackson, a long time friend of mine who has been the first PM at recently IPO’d Grove Collaborative, as well as VP of Product at Apto. He’s now hard at work on his own startup, but he took some time to share a lot of hard earned knowledge on the interview process in this episode of Practical Product.

The Product Management Hiring Process: How to thrive as the interviewer or interviewee

On this episode, we cover terrible PM interview practices, the key fundamentals of hiring you need to follow, how to ask behavioral questions the right way, making good PM assignments, and how to build your resume like a pro.

Highlights of the episode include discussing:

  • (0:44) – Introducing Willis Jackson 
  • (2:18) – The different types of Product Management and how they affect interviews
  • (8:09) – Recommended resources to learn to be great at hiring.
  • (17:15) – Handling ridiculous hypothetical questions and what to do instead.
  • (26:51) – The importance of networking, reputation and interviewing stories
  • (38:33) – How to make good, fair PM assignments for your interview process
  • (52:43) – Whether you should include company problems in your interview process
  • (59:13) – Resume crafting do’s and don’ts for PMs
  • (1:22:45) – Finding the right type of PM roles and filtering opportunities to save all sides tim

Key Show Notes & Further Reading:

We covered a lot of ground for both the interviewer and those seeking their next job, so some key takeaways are grouped below for each.

For the interviewer:

  • If you know you’ll be hiring down the road, start planning now. Think about the skills you want, the values you want, and the process you’ll follow. 
  • Interviewing is a skill. Spend time reading and learning how to do it well. 
  • It’s much easier to create your interview plan in small, incremental steps leading up to when you need them than being buried, desperately needing help and spread too thin.
  • Avoid puzzles, brain teasers, and hypothetical situations that are nothing like the job they’d have. Research shows it has no bearing on evaluating candidates effectively.
  • If you’re going to make an assignment, make it:
    • A reasonable time request (a few hours, not days worth of effort)
    • Consistently applied to everyone (don’t give one person a day and someone else 2 weeks)
    • Involves what the job would really include. (Willis’s example is a plan after an experiment / launch fails) 
    • Extremely clear what you’ll evaluate them on and what you will not. (Like whether you care about design or format)
  • Be proactive in communicating with your recruiting team. Enlist their help and expertise to find & close great candidates.
  • Remember that hiring the wrong person is extremely expensive in time wasted by your team, cost on your budget, and setbacks on your projects. 

For the interviewee:

  • Make your resume succinct and include data & numbers as much as covering skills and actions
  • If you do not have numbers now, start working on it now. Get in the habit to look up numbers and see what work you did has moved the needle.
  • Your resume becomes talking points and great questions in the interview.
  • Prepare good questions to ask an interviewee to make sure the company does the kind of product management you like doing.
  • Reflect on your current job regularly. Willis recommends weekly journaling on subjects like:
    • What wins have you had recently? What happened?
    • What did you learn from a project that recently didn’t go well?
    • What do you enjoy about your work and want future jobs to also offer you? 
    • What’s changed over time in my notes?

Helpful links mentioned in this episode:

Learn more and connect with Willis Jackson

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Practical Product Ep 8: How to Write Product Specs Your Team & Executives Actually Want to Read

Are your product specs high quality? Do they succinctly and clearly convey what you’re working on, why you chose them, and what your engineering and design partners need to do their jobs well?

Or are they kind of random, with each one different than the last?

I’ve helped dozens of PMs improve their product specs, and I’ve been lucky to learn from one of the best how to make a great product spec. Which is why I knew I needed to do an episode on the subject to help everyone improve their product specs.

Today, we cover:

  • The most common mistakes PMs make in their product specs
  • How I learned the right way to make a spec
  • The key, fundamental concepts underlying good product specs
  • and most importantly: Exactly what goes into a great product spec (aka- Product Thesis)

How to Write Product Specs Your Team Actually Wants to Read (AKA – The Product Thesis)

Everyone writes product specs regularly in their job as a PM, but few do a great job with them. These poorly constructured specs then cause all kinds of problems on product teams including:

  • Engineers and designers confused and uninspired about what they’re making
  • Delays in shipping due to misunderstandings and miscommunication about priorities
  • Disappointed execs who don’t get what they expect

And a lot more. Yet, it keeps happening because PMs don’t realize that the root cause in their specs that:

  • Do not cover the right topics
  • Are wayyyyy too long, and filled with fluff
  • Tend to be overly prescriptive on the solution instead of collaborating with your team on it
  • Lack data to back up your decision
  • Fail to share an inspiring WHY to motivate your and convince your team
  • Are inconsistent spec to spec making it harder to read and digest

That’s why we need to hit the reset button and reshape how you make product specs with something called The Product Thesis. Listen in to learn more about it:

Highlights of the episode include discussing:

  • (0:49) – Mistakes made on the average Product Spec
  • (3:17) – Introducing you to The Product Thesis 
  • (10:06) – What goes into a Product Thesis?
  • (12:05) – Section 1: Why are we working on this next?
  • (14:57) – Section 2: When and how do people use this feature? (Aka – what are the use cases?)
  • (18:24) – Section 3: What problems do we need to solve, and in what priority?
  • (24:19) – Section 4: How much time is budgeted for this project? When does this need to be completed by?
  • (25:56) – Section 5: What are the future considerations that must be accounted for?
  • (27:28) – Section 6: What is our KPI or metric for this thesis?
  • (29:59) – Optional: For larger companies: Who are the stakeholders and how/when do they need to be involved?
  • (31:14) – Optional: What kind of launch or marketing/sales efforts go with this feature?
  • (32:27) – Section 8: Further Reading

Key Show Notes & Further Reading:

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Practical Product Ep 4: The Curse of the 1st PM – Part 2: The PM View with 4-time 1st PM, Hostos Monegro

Why is it such a struggle for 1st PM hires to succeed? What are the challenges from the perspective of a product leader who has done this before? How can you avoid being a casualty of the 1st PM curse?

Today, we answer those questions and a lot more.

A chance meeting…

Back in 2019, I was living in New York City. I was meeting other PMs in town, and by chance was connected to Hostos Monegro. As it turns out, we had a lot in common, as we’d both been a 1st PM multiple times at startups.

As the conversation continued, we realized there was *a lot* in common between our experiences. It helped me realize that the situations I experienced were possibly less about me, and more about the nature of the job. It ultimately led to the inspiration for the now oft-discussed post, “Why you want to be the second 1st PM.”

Knowing how much credit Hostos deserved for inspiring and helping craft the ideas of that post, I knew there was no one better to talk about the product manager perspective than him. When I started planning this podcast, he was one of the first people I asked to come on the show, and this week’s episode is the product of that discussion.

The Curse of the 1st PM – Part 2 w/ Hostos Monegro, 4-time 1st PM

If you haven’t read it yet, the best place to start is reading my 2019 post, “Why you want to be the Second 1st PM” to get context on this unique role that comes with special challenges, and sometimes a lot of baggage. You can also check out Part 1, with a CEO who hired (and fired) a 1st PM recently here.

Today’s discussion with Hostos dives into lessons learned on having made the majority of his career being either the 1st PM, or as our original post called it, the *second* 1st PM (who comes after the first one didn’t work out).

If you’ve ever thought you wanted to try being a 1st PM, or already are one, this is a great episode for you. We cover key topics like how to screen for the right founders to work with, why this role can be awesome and fulfilling, and how to avoid some of the common pitfalls that come with the curse of the 1st PM.

Highlights of the episode include discussing:

  • (2:14) – What is it like being a 1st PM the 4th time around?
  • (5:53) – How did you think about filtering the Founder when looking for a 1st PM role?
  • (9:14) – What are the awesome parts of this kind of role?
  • (15:07) – What are some of the hardest lessons you’ve learned as a 1st PM?
  • (25:17) – Advice for someone interested in taking on the 1st-PM role
  • (38:40) – What should potential PM’s look for in a company to determine if it’s a good fit?
  • (46:52) – Recommendations if you think some of these 1st PM pitfalls apply to your situation
  • (48:11) – Advice for founders thinking about hiring their First-PM
  • (54:00) – How the First-PM be set up for success

You can also learn more about Hostos or get in touch with him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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Practical Product Ep 3: The Curse of the 1st PM – Part 1: The Company View with Pulkit Agrawal of Chameleon

Why is it such a struggle for 1st PM hires to succeed? What are the challenges from the perspective of the CEO who hires them? What do founders learn in the experience when seemingly inevitably, the 1st PM they hired with the best of intentions didn’t work out?

Pulkit Agrawal mentioned me and my post on “Why you want to be the 2nd 1st PM” when he lived this challenge firsthand:

And knowing he had just gone through this, I knew we had to talk about it on the Practical Product podcast. That’s why this week’s episode is all about it.

The Curse of the 1st PM – Part 1 w/ Pulkit Agrawal, CEO of Chameleon

If you haven’t read it yet, the best place to start is reading my 2019 post, “Why you want to be the Second 1st PM” to get context on this unique role that comes with special challenges, and sometimes a lot of baggage.

Today’s discussion with Pulkit helps answer the question you may have from the post, “How does this happen?” Pulkit read my blog post, new the risks, and yet it still happened.

Are all 1st PMs doomed? Probably not, but the challenges and unique factors of being an early stage startup do make for an ever-changing set of circumstances that can make someone who was the right choice when hired no longer the right person 6-18 months later.

Pulkit and I have a really candid conversation about what happened, what he learned, and most importantly what he’ll do differently with the second 1st PM (who he just hired).

Highlights of the episode include discussing:

  • (5:35) – How has your approach changed for hiring PM #2?
  • (6:27) – What got you excited about the person you ultimately hired for the #1 role?
  • (13:52) – When did you start to realize things may not be working out?
  • (18:28) – How did you handle the transition of a PM leaving the team?
  • (25:13) – Is it inevitable that the first PM will never be a perfect fit?
  • (34:02) – How are you thinking about changing your hiring process the second time around?
  • (35:44) – What advice would you give a founder who’s considering hiring their first PM?
  • (43:17) – How can the founder set the PM up for success?
  • (45:03) – What advice would you have for PM’s interviewing for a first PM role?
  • (48:52) – What are some red flags candidates need to look out for?

You can also learn more about Pulkit’s company at Chameleon.io, and check out their blog to learn more product management and user onboarding tips.

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Practical Product Ep 2: The “Impossible” Product Manager w/ Jason Cohen of A Smart Bear + WP Engine

A great product manager is… 🧵 ” <- You’ve probably seen more than a few threads like this on Twitter. The challenge is that the whole list is impossible to be in one person; even if you did somehow manage all the skills needed, you’d still end up with not enough hours in the day to do it all.

Jason Cohen, cofounder and CTO of WP Engine knows this tradeoff well. He wrote about the challenge in his blog post, “The Impossible Product Manager, a.k.a. the “Great” Product Manager.”

Reading it resonated a ton as I’ve seen in my career and coaching other PMs, so I knew I had to reach out to Jason to talk more about it on the Practical Product podcast.

The “Impossible” Product Manager w/ Jason Cohen of A Smart Bear + WP Engine

The demands of a product manager can be overwhelming. You can often be expected to be more things to more people than any one person can truly master. And even if you can do those things, there’s not nearly enough hours in the day nor the week to do all of them. 

Read Jason’s full post here. Today’s podcast discussion is focused on the consequences of the post and what to do about it.

As a quick summary, there are 4 key areas of responsibility that can fall under product managers that Jason outlines:

  1. Strategist
  2. Customer Whisperer
  3. Scrum Product Owner
  4. Orchestrator

The key to those for is that as Jason puts it, “a “Great PM” is excellent in one area, good in at least one other, and doesn’t have time for more than two.”

So today we’re diving into what that means for product managers.

Listen in the player above, or you can find all your favorite podcast platforms with links to them by clicking the “Subscribe” text in the player.

And as you search for that balance of the right areas to focus on, keep in mind this great visual from Jason on finding your ideal situation:

When you find this intersection, you’ll maximize your happiness *and* thrive in your career.

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10 Things I Love About Superhuman

As a product person, it can be hard to use software. While you understand how things work (and can be great tech support for your family), you also see all the flaws (and potential) in the software you use.

That means it’s more common to use software and think, “I wish they’d just…” instead of enjoying it.

Yet, every once in a while, an app comes along that really gets it…

RIP Sunrise

Years ago, I had a tribute post drafted to my favorite calendar app ever, Sunrise.

Unfortunately, before I got around to fully writing and posting it, they got acquired by Microsoft and shut down…

With this in mind, today, I’m writing about an app that’s great now, so we can all enjoy and recognize what makes it great while it’s here (and at its best).

Thankfully, I think Superhuman is here for the long haul given their major fundraising, and the fact that unlike Sunrise, they’re charging for their product, so have revenue to keep going long after VC money runs out.

With that in mind, let’s dive in…

10 Things I Love as a PM About Superhuman

If you spend much time on tech Twitter, you’ve probably heard some people professing their love for Superhuman. I’ve contributed my share to that.

Now, it’s no coincidence that this amazing, inspiring product isn’t just a good product. They’re also a company that is great at building products, as it shows throughout everything they do.

That’s why these 10 things aren’t just features, they’re also inner workings and approaches I’ve noticed as a customers for the last 2.5+ years.

1) Their survey at signup

Before you even get access to Superhuman, or talk to anyone there, they have you complete a 12 question survey.

Now, your first instinct may be, “that’s crazy! How many leads are you losing by making them do that?!?”

And you’d be dead wrong.

This actually works hugely in their favor:

  1. Their onboarding people can make sure everything is set up for the customer’s success before they even schedule a call.
  2. They have a consistent data set they can use to segment & analyze their customer base (conversion rates, churn rates, retention, LTV, etc)
  3. They can disqualify bad fits, focusing on those they can help most, while also understanding how many of those bad fits there are (a boon for prioritization)

And most importantly, it does *not* have a significant impact on their conversion rate.

How do I know?

  1. If it did hurt, there’s no way they’d still have the survey up many years later.
  2. We do a survey for all signups for my startup, Lighthouse, and the vast majority of signups complete it

Yet, a good survey would mean nothing without action to go with it, which they nail as well.

I had to wait 6 weeks to get access after the Survey as they worked to support Airs better

2) Awesome Onboarding

One of the challenges of SaaS is understanding your audience. Some people *really* want to talk to someone before buying, while others just want to get into a product and explore.

Superhuman is targeting busy, email-heavy users, so time is precious. They had the foresight to realize that by onboarding everyone with calls, they save a ton of questions, headaches, and missed opportunities later.

Now, I’ve seen some companies try to emulate this, but throwing someone on a call is far from enough to make this a worthwhile use of time.

In the 30 minute onboarding, the person on the call did the following which really made a big difference by doing all of these in this *exact order*:

  • Reviewed my survey answers beforehand so that they didn’t have to re-ask those questions
  • Asked me a variety of followup questions about what email tools I use, my biggest pains and frustrations around email, and how I thought I might use Superhuman
  • Showed me the most important features to me, then some general power ups they thought I might like
  • They had me try out the features, because they had already asked me to install before the call

This had an immediate huge impact on me:

  1. I felt heard, not sold to.
  2. I was immediately ready to cancel a few other tools I was individually paying for (like Yesware), because I knew how to do it in Superhuman
  3. I knew how to use the product for the most important features to me, not just what they assumed I’d like
  4. Their onboarding person was super friendly, which gave me a positive opinion of Superhuman as a whole, while putting a name and face to the company

All of this made the “put your credit card in” a no-brainer, and I was tweeting how great Superhuman was within a few weeks.

If you want to have similar results, you need to start by asking if your product fits an audience who wants to talk to someone. Then, be very careful to create similar steps around the prep, questions, and how you demo the product.

Your demo will absolutely fail if you start with jamming features down your potential customers’ throats with little or no considering for what your customers want.

3) They take referral programs to another level

Now, many products will let you invite a friend. All bottoms up (aka- product led) SaaS, and any network-effects driven consumer app will ask you to invite your friends. Some will even be outright predatory asking to grab your whole list of phone contacts.

Fortunately, Superhuman is a breath of fresh air in this regard.

Now, as the tweet above explains, they started with a simple email you cc to the CEO, but now have a nice, simple, and fast workflow (just like so many other things in Superhuman):

Note: Grey boxes are added by me for privacy.

Here the referral flow lets me start typing anyone in my contacts I want to invite, and then it also recommends people they think would be most interested:

  • Friends and contacts that are on the waitlist
  • People on my team and in my company

Those suggestions are a great bonus, which led me to not only invite the person I had in mind, but also to add a few people on the waitlist I was happy to help get off the list.

But it doesn’t stop there. With the referral, it generates an email they both get, which allowed me to give their onboarding specialist more helpful info:

Always nice to get a thank you for the referral, too

As I’ve been a customer for a couple years, I’ve seen how they iterated to this. It started with just the email to the CEO, but now they automate big parts of it, while still keeping some of the personal touch available. Paul Graham and his “Do things that don’t scale” post would be proud.

4) Feedback done the right way

One of the key things about everything that Superhuman does is that it personalizes. While some of their onboarding survey asks multiple choice questions about devices and operating systems, much of it is open ended.

The same is true for their Feedback.

All you have to do is click a little button in the bottom right corner and shoot them an email:

Now, if you read my recent post, you know I hate feature voting apps. The key takeaway from it is you don’t really get the voice of the customer that way, and you frustrate your customers in a variety of ways.

What Superhuman does here is so much better:

  • It gets my feedback in a clear fashion in my own words.
  • Because they actually reply to every message, as a customer, I feel heard.
  • Their replies often ask for more context, bringing further understanding and information.

Now, you may be thinking, “Jason, that’s sooo much work! We can’t do that.”

And you’d be wrong.

All product feedback on Lighthouse gets passed to me, and through a simple tagging system, I’m able to keep it all organized despite spending less than an hour per day on all support requests for our small team.

And at scale, Superhuman has managed to stay organized, as recently tweeted by their CEO when they had a new GPT-3 application analyze all the feedback they’ve received:

It’s initially a bit more work to set up this process, but as you can see in the quality of the Superhuman product, it’s well worth it in building better features, and having more passionate, engaged customers.

5) Teaching you as you use the product

Before Superhuman, I was not a keyboard shortcut guy at all. The only things I knew were CMD+TAB and CMD+` which allow you to change windows on your laptop.

With Superhuman I now daily use:

  • e – to archive an email
  • c – to compose a new email
  • esc – to leave a window I was composing an email in
  • cmd + enter – to send an email
  • cmd + k – to do a million magical things
CMD + K: The magical shortcut to everything…

And what I like most about Superhuman is how they keep teaching me more keyboard shortcuts. Basically any time I hover, or do something manually, they’re letting me know, “hey – there’s a shortcut for that!”

This is really clever product development, and it permeates all over…including in their catch-all CMD+K:

Best of all, their catch-all, command is forgiving, as if you can’t remember it’s called “Compose”, enter “write” works instead.

This is the definition of product craftsmanship.

Building new habits is hard, but this approach makes it easier as you get reminded over and over what the correct name of the command is and what the shortcut is.

And since Superhuman is a native app on my computer, they know what I’m typing there, which likely means they were able to analyze mistaken/frustrated entries in CMD+K and figure out what misspellings and alternate words to support.

Now, not all products lend themselves to this kind of hotkey-driven approach, but it’s a very healthy exercise to ask you and your product teams:

  • Where are our customers getting confused or lost? How can we help them arrive at the right place anyways?
  • When do people need our deeper features most, and how can we present each deep feature at just the right time?
  • What shortcuts, integrations, and special actions does our product have, and how could we teach our customers about them when they need them?

6) Awesome, simple product emails

Product updates are the kinds of things many companies either don’t do, or shortchange the effort.

Or they may outsource it to marketing, who then trumpet it off to non-customers who often care a lot less than your current ones.

You’re leaving so much opportunity on the table by doing that.

Superhuman gets a lot of things right in their updates:

  1. Frequent: It feels like they’re always launching new, interesting things. This builds brand affinity.
  2. Brief: Because they send them often, none feel overwhelmingly long, so you’re more likely to read them.
  3. Reply-able: You can react and reply to the updates, which is great for understanding customer questions, hearing what people love and hate, and seeing
  4. Interactive: They make these awesome Gifs that show how features work like this recent one below:
Superhuman Zoom integration
Straight from a Superhuman product update

If you’re not doing product updates, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to prevent churn and delight your customers. You can learn more about how to send great product updates here.

7) That magic sidebar

It was a sad day when Rapportive stopped working. That alone was incredibly valuable.

Whether confirming you have the right email address for a customer or getting helpful context quickly as you write an email, this sidebar is a massive value add. I was interested in trying out Superhuman for it alone.

At first glance it may seem pretty simple, but there’s huge depth and valuable information in that sidebar:

  • You can see the last 4-5 emails you exchanged with someone with their subject line listed
  • You can click on the “Mail” icon to see all emails between you and that person
  • All the links you could need to find their internet paper trail are right there, no need for searching

And that’s just the default.

Automagically, if you start typing a date, it will change to a calendar view, which makes it easy to make sure you suggest times or days that actually work for you:

And you can see in their most recent update in my previous point, they now also let you schedule meetings in that sidebar as well.

It toggles seamlessly and rapidly to whatever you need that sidebar area to be.

Any one of these sidebar details alone would probably be “nice to have”, but there’s a reason that when I timed myself before and after starting using Superhuman, I found I was getting through email 30% faster. The fact is all that convenience and friction removing adds up to a “must have.”

This sidebar is a great example of the key product lessons to find your points of magic for your customer and double down on them.

8. So many awesome little big details

Building products can feel like an assembly line sometimes, especially if you’re building things like Settings or Admin panels. Yet, true craftsmanship can show in a variety of ways when a team is truly committed to delighting their customers, and has the resources to perfect that last 10%, or add a little touch of joy.

There’s even a website dedicated to these that I love getting lost in: Little Big Details.

Not surprisingly, Superhuman has this in spades:

  • As pictured above, when you hit Inbox Zero, they show you a gorgeous, random picture to celebrate with you
  • You can also see that along with the picture, they’re teaching me the keyboard shortcuts again, and give a convenient way to undo an action.
  • If you hover over an email you sent, they show you when it was opened:
  • And if they haven’t opened the email, only one of the checkmarks is checked, so after you learn the indicator, you don’t need to hover to see if it was opened:
  • While I love their updates email, they also keep those tucked away in case you want to review it:
  • And when you reveal the updates, you see they denote if it’s for your phone or desktop app, and use emojis to differentiate updates:
  • If you have a person’s name and email showing in the right sidebar, when you hover on one of the emails listed that they have sent, you can see when it was sent:

And they add all these little, helpful details and tiny delights while delivering on their promise of speed and convenience. Because no one cares about your witty quotes you show on your load screen if it takes 2 minutes for the page to load.

What little delights can you add to your product to bring joy and timely information to your customers*? (* assuming you have the fundamentals of a fast, functional product covered)

9) Their mobile app is truly mobile first

Too often, products make a decision of whether their primary use case is for mobile or desktop. They then double, and triple down on one or the other, and make a half-hearted effort to have something useful for the other platform.

Superhuman has not only built a great app that covers most of the functionality of the desktop, they took a mobile first approach to the design and use cases.

A few of the helpful tweaks:

  • Rather than tabs like on the desktop, it’s one tap on an icon to switch between your different inboxes. Conveniently that icon is in the bottom right corner of the screen so it’s easy to tap with your thumb while holding your phone, which is right next to how to switch sections of your inbox (like “News” and “Other”, below).
  • Pulling down when looking at your inbox reveals Search, which they put the cursor in the Search field, call up your keyboard, and give you a variety of hotkeys and recent contacts to one-tap choose from to make it faster/easier.
  • Replacing the contact information sidebar, which there’s not enough room for, a summary version is at the top of the screen
  • Once you tap on the summary version of the person you’re emailing, Superhuman brings up the additional information that would normally be the sidebar, while optimizing for the screen space:

Once again, these are small things, but they add up. It’s clear their team has put a lot of thought into everything.

As I was writing this, for instance, I noticed that each email in my inbox view was almost perfectly the width of my thumb. That makes a lot of sense given that swiping with your thumb is exactly how you clear out your inbox with one hand. With that sizing, it’s also less likely you’ll hit the wrong email or action.

It’s all these little things that make it so that Superhuman feels both desktop first and mobile first. They treat both devices as priorities to be great, and create an experience that rivals most apps that are only one or the other.

10) They’re teaching all of us how to do it

When you do something exceptionally well, it can be tempting to keep it as a secret. Just look at Apple.

It took a decade for anyone to share much about how the iPhone was built. (Note: I highly recommend Creative Selection for that reason). And this post on how Steve Jobs liked to do product is so little known, I’ve yet to meet anyone else that knows it exists besides those I send it to.

Yet, Superhuman is sharing their insights along the way, helping a whole wave of product-led, customer focused startups.

Two of my favorites such posts are:

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve sent those links to others, because they’re such good and helpful posts. And there’s more like it if you look at their Dribbble or blog.

They’re just as thoughtful in their posts and public persona as they are in their product, which is an awesome value add to the startup world.

Conclusion:

There’s a lot we can all learn from Superhuman and how they approach building products. Whether borrowing inspiration for a user interaction, trying to create a similar workflow, or treating them as the aspiration of the kind of product you want to build, they’re a great shining light for other SaaS products.

Of course, all of this comes with a caveat: Superhuman comes with *massive* funding. They’ve raised over $33 million, which you may not have.

However, did you know that Superhuman has been working on this since *2014*?

They built very quietly and in private beta for *years*. They worked painstakingly to add all of those things I shared in this post, and many more like them.

Even with infinite resources, you can’t turn your product or idea into a great product like Superhuman overnight. However, if you’re like them and spend a lot of time getting to know your users through surveys, interviews, concierge onboarding, and truly listening to feedback, you can start bringing more delight to your customers.

Building customer driven products is hard, and rewarding work, and there’s nothing quite like the feeling of building something your customers truly *love*. If you want help doing that, I’ve done it before, and would love to help you do it, too.

You can learn more about how I help companies, or schedule a free call to talk about your challenges here.

Why Feature Voting Creates Poor Products (and what to do instead)

“Let’s see what the highest voted features were on our feature voting site.” – Said no great product team, ever.

Whether a company is using the new hotness of a Canny, or the old clunky of a UserVoice site, public feature voting systems are an example of terrible product management practices.

Feature Voting is not talking to customers

I’m a HUGE fan of founders and product managers talking to customers. In fact, I’ve written a variety of posts to specifically help more people confidently and effectively “get outside the building” to learn from their customers to build better products.

Unfortunately, feature voting apps are the kind of shortcut that make some people think they’re getting customer input, when really they’re making a mess.

Just looking at this page makes me 🤢

I’ve had a personal disdain for these tools for many years, as I’ve tweeted about issues a few times, and had many conversations with other founders and PMs about it. And today, I’m finally pulling together a comprehensive case for:

  1. Why great product teams would never dream of using a Feature Voting tool
  2. All the reasons feature voting leads to a worse products and bad decisions
  3. What to do instead to be truly customer driven and deliver real customer value

With that in mind, let’s dive in…

Why Great Product Teams Avoid Feature Voting Tools like the Plague

There’s more than one way to build a great product, but there are a few traits that great product teams have in common:

  • Data Informed: They measure the results of their work and use analytics and data to help them focus their efforts and see where they need to ask questions.
  • Customer Driven: They think with the end user in mind, whether they understand it innately because they are it, or they deeply dig in to get to know and speak with end users of all types.
  • Detail Oriented: The details are what separate okay and good from great when it comes to products. One of my favorite sites is dedicated to them: LittleBigDetails.com
  • Product Sense: This obviously takes time to develop, but the best product teams include people who have and enforce having taste; they don’t fall for every fad, and bring a stamp to their work that people can see a bit of their fingerprints on.
  • Collaborative: The Holy Grail of great product teams is being able to operate with the Cauldron approach that Steve Jobs used; everyone brings their best ideas, no one cares whose idea was what, and everyone focuses on creating the best possible solution.

These are all hard to build and can take time to develop. If you’re trying to level up a product org, you likely can only improve one at a time, but that’s a post for another day.

When it comes to feature voting, it works against all of these:

  • Data Informed: As we’ll dig into more below, the data from feature voting is trash. Bad data is worse than no data.
  • Customer Driven: It may seem like it brings some customer voice in, but feature voting is so distorted and warped, it represents a bastardized version of listening to and understanding your customer.
  • Detail Oriented: When people vote on a feature, what are they really saying? You don’t know. You just know they clicked an up arrow, not the nuance of their needs.
  • Product Sense: Feature voting tries to turn your customers into your product team. Don’t. do. that. You build a product team so your PM, designer, and engineers can create the best solution, which customers usually haven’t thought of.
  • Collaborative: There’s nothing collaborative about a wall of feature votes on a screen. And without the real context of the problems to be solved, there’s no way to talk tradeoffs and iterate to something great.

Yet, despite all these being true, these are minor issues compared to the biggest issues with feature voting: They are fatally flawed from the start.

Let’s talk about why.

How Feature Voting Fails

Let’s deconstruct all the failed parts of using a feature voting system. It starts with a faulty foundation, and falls completely apart from there.

1) You get *features* not problems.

If you look at the average results of feature voting sites, what you’ll see is a lot of people asking for a feature. Typically posts say things like:

  • Make a CSV export
  • Build an integration with X
  • Add tangential feature Y

Here’s the thing: Any of those requests should be the *start* of a conversation, not the answer by itself.

For instance, with a CSV export, all of these questions come to mind putting on my PM hat:

  • What specifically do you want to export?
  • Why do you need an export? How will you use the export?
  • How would you like the export formatted?
  • How often would you expect to need the export? Why that frequency?

All of these questions can lead you down a rabbit hole that realizes any of the following:

  • A new report in your product would be better, and more up to date, than an export.
  • The export is for a key weekly meeting for the customer, so automatically emailing the numbers would be even better.
  • The export is only needed once a year, and needs to cover multiple sections of your product to really meet their needs.

The only way to get these kinds of insights is to talk directly to customers, and a feature voting site does not allow you to have those 1 on 1 conversations effectively.

2) People get easily sidetracked…

You’re using a product. Suddenly you notice something annoying, confusing, or missing. You decide you’ll share the feedback that their stacked bar chart that only has two shades of blue is very difficult to read and you’d like more control and granularity.

You notice they have a feedback button, or a link to their feature site and eagerly head over.

When you get there, you’re greeted by a list of dozens, if not hundreds of other options.Without meaning to, you start reading the other options, maybe clicking on a few. “Oh that sounds interesting…” you think.

Without meaning to, you start reading the other options, maybe clicking on a few. “Oh that sounds interesting…” you think.

But then you forget why you came, and either never get around to sharing the feedback you meant to, or giving only a partial explanation of your original thought.

Either way, the product team loses, as the feedback that motivated you to come to the page is much more valuable than a random upvote or two.

3) …Too many votes for something discourages future posting

While distraction is one problem, the sibling of it is people flat out giving up. If you look and see the top upvoted item was posted in 2017 and has 400 upvotes, what makes you think your new idea will ever get any attention? And do you think that anyone at the company is even really listening?

When feature voting apps were first getting popular about 5-10 years ago, I used to dig into them to try to get an idea of how product teams used them.

It was depressingly rare how often I’d see someone from the company actually active.

Even worse, when they were active, it was usually trying to explain why they’re not going to build the most popular items.

Now, feature voting sites can try to help with this by building some kind of algorithm to show “trending” or “most recent” items, but that’s really lipstick on a pig; this is just one of many significant problems.

(Fun aside: At a past job, I looked at our competitor’s UserVoice and noticed a number of posts from people asking for features we had that they didn’t. I passed this to our VP of Sales who then figured out who these people were and got some of them to switch to us.

So your Feature Voting page not only hurts your product, but makes it easier for your more ambitious competitors to steal your frustrated customers.)

4) Nobody wants yet another log in

One of the most famous stories in e-commerce history is the discovery that you can make *millions* more, and have double-digit improvements in checkout conversion by allowing people to check out as guests:

No one wants yet another log in, yet in many feature voting tools, the first thing you have to do is create another account to upvote or leave a suggestion.

As anyone who has worked on growth teams or on e-commerce conversion rates knows, adding steps to a process will always lead to more drop-off.

So let’s think about it…which is easier:

Feature Voting:

  1. Leave product you’re in to go to feature voting site
  2. Land on the overall page filled with existing suggestions
  3. Click on an item or to post your own feedback
  4. Sign up for an account (or if you’re a masochist, sign in with your account from last time)
  5. Find the way to add your suggestion and post it

Or, the direct way:

  1. Click on Intercom, a Feedback button, or link
  2. Send your message

If you’re measuring the rate of customers having feedback to actually sending, the latter option will far outperform the former.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves on the solution, so let’s continue with the problems of Feature Voting.

5) Not all votes are equal.

Let’s look at two different Product Managers and see what they have:

PM 1: Talks to customers directly, gets feedback passed to them from other teams, and with help, organizes it all.

PM 2: Relies on the feature voting page, when convenient, to show how many people are asking for something like what they dreamed up.

PM 1 has 25 logged conversations where they or a colleague they trained asked some follow up questions for context, and understands this is “very important” not just a “nice to have.”

PM 2 has 50 upvotes for a feature that kinda sounds like what they’ve spec’d out.

Question: Who has more real data to back up their decision making?

  • Answer: PM 1 in a landslide.

Upvotes != real customer feedback

The number of upvotes a Feature Voting submission has does not mean all of those people want the same thing.

Let me repeat that: The number of upvotes does not mean every upvote wants the same thing.

Here are some of the reasons someone may upvote it:

  1. “I want that feature exactly as described.”
  2. “Well, this has 25 votes already, and it’s close enough, I’ll upvote that instead of post mine.”
  3. “Oh that looks interesting, I wouldn’t mind that. Click.”
  4. “I think my coworker wanted that…”
  5. “I could have used that a few months ago” (and haven’t needed it since)
  6. “That sounds cool.”

All those upvotes and you don’t really have a quantitative count of customer input. Something could have 250 upvotes, but it’s the least important item. Or they could want different functionality or features as part of it.

You don’t know though, because all you have is an upvote, not a conversation, or even a few sentences from each of those people.

QUICK PM QUIZ:

You’re a SaaS PM that has a mix of SMB and mid-market customers. Which feature should you build:

  • A) A feature that all 5 of your biggest customers say is critical to their workflow
  • B) Dark Mode, because it’s highly upvoted on your Feature Voting tool

If you choose B, please think about a career change

6) Customers forget what they wanted if you wait to reach out

Do you remember what you were thinking a year ago? How about a month ago? A week?

For the vast majority of people, ideas, and feedback, are fleeting. When you’re in the moment doing something is the time you’re most in tune with the situation.

If I come back to you a year later asking, “Hey – I saw you upvoted Feature X last year. We’re finally working on it. What were you looking for?” Unless you have continued regularly experiencing the issue that prompted the vote, you’re unlikely to remember the request well.

You might have also changed jobs and be unreachable, gone on vacation when I reach out, or not even remember voting for something.

That means following up with all those upvoters when you finally get around to a feature, you’re unlikely to get nearly as many useful insights as you would in the moment.

Feedback is like milk…it goes bad quickly when raw.

That’s why it’s so important to talk to customers regularly, and ask them in the moment what the underlying problem is and why it matters to them. That’s when they’ll remember the context you need to truly understand their request.

Just because you can’t build something right away does not mean you can’t talk to customers about their needs and save it for later. You do that by talking to them (in chat, email, calls, etc), not by collecting votes and checking your Feature Voting app once a quarter for ideas.

From distractions to lost feedback, and murky data to blurred meaning, Feature Voting is fundamentally flawed from the start, and only gets worse the longer you use it.

Now, let’s talk about what to do instead.

What to do instead of Feature Voting:

By now you understand why it’s a terrible idea to add feature voting to your product, but that’s only half the battle.

You need to then focus on what to do instead.

1) Source feedback where it naturally occurs

Done right, your company can be a customer / feedback gathering machine. We did it when I was the 1st PM at KISSmetrics.

There are great sources of feedback available all around you:

  • Sales Teams: They know what deals are closing and what deals they’re losing. And the best sales people know the difference between good losses (not a great fit) and bad losses (could have won and the customer would be happy).
  • Customer Support: They deal with the angry, the frustrated, the annoyed, and the confused. Tap into their knowledge and fix their biggest problems…and you’ll fix your customers’ problems, too. They also will get feedback, so give them a way to pass it to you.
  • Account Management: They’re in charge of keeping customers and making them successful, so they see the gap between the promises your sales team made, and the reality of using your product. Another gold mine of feedback and insights, and even a potential source of future junior PMs.
  • UX Researchers: As they do usability testing and test new features, they likely hear customer gripes, questions, and feedback. Make sure that gets captured.
  • Data Teams: Ever wanted to ask a specific subsegment of your audience a question? Your data team is your best friend in helping create all kinds of great segments to analyze, survey, and reach out to for customer interviews.
  • You: If you’re a PM and not regularly talking to customers, what are you doing? Make the time, and build the habit both for features you’re actively thinking about and to generally get feedback.

Now, that sounds like a lot, and it is. Which is why you need to dig into one of the key, unheralded jobs of great product managers: Relationship Building.

Have Peer 1 on 1s with key people on other teams.

Choose some of the best people, or those most related to the part of your product you work on, and have peer 1 on 1s with those people in customer success, sales, and account management.

If you’re new to these, this post dives deep into how to have awesome peer 1 on 1s as a product manager.

As you meet with them every 4-8 weeks or so, remember to teach them how to fish! What this means is that you will:

  • Explain to them your goals of gathering feedback and understanding customer needs they’re hearing, so they get what you’re trying to accomplish.
  • Teach them how to ask a good followup question or two (“How important is this to you? What is most important to you in this request? Why?”) before passing information to you.
  • Involve them in prioritization by telling them the threshold for passing it to you (i.e.- “Once you hear something 10 times, let me know” or “If it’s a customer >$N per year, pass immediately to me.”), thus keeping your signal to noise ratio strong.

You can also then share back with them how you’re listening and acting on what you hear from them. 

Nothing puts a smile on the face of customer success like hearing “Yes, we’re finally fixing that bug you have been dealing with for months” or telling a sales person about a hot new feature you both know they can sell like crazy.

When you start sourcing information from all across your company, you’ll see that feature voting is so incredibly low quality compared to all the ways you can get detailed, context-filled, specific information from your peers.

2) Choose your focus

Feature Voting apps don’t know what your company’s priorities are this quarter, and neither do your customers. Yet, as far as a Feature Voting app knows, all requests are created equally.

That’s why it’s important for you to narrow your efforts as a PM by starting with a focus.

Some examples of proper focus would be:

  • Retention: You need to improve retention and resurrection of old accounts for your social app.
  • Churn: Your SaaS app is leaking too many customers, bringing a drag on growth.
  • Growth: You need to create more organic growth through an improved viral coefficient.
  • Conversion: Customers are adding to cart, but not buying. You need to find out why, because it is crushing your CAC.
  • Activation: Why are customers signing up, but not completing the setup process?
  • New Bookings: Your company is trying to go up market, and needs to identify the features that will allow for more medium sized business deals to close.

For each of these problems, a different segment of your customer base would be your target to talk to. Along with this, different problems and features would be most important to focus on.

By starting with your focus in mind, it narrows down your efforts significantly, and can help you ask the right questions of all your peers you’re now meeting with and talking to semi-regularly.

This context helps you make better decisions, and changes who you talk to and what you ask them.

3) Get Quantitative, too!

While ultimately the goal is to understand who your users are, how they use your product, the problems you solve (or need to solve in the future) and how you fit into their world, you must balance that qualitative information with quantitative data.

Being customer driven also means understanding the numerical side of your customer base. You likely have a few different personas and company types who use your product. You need to understand how that translates numerically to your business with answers to questions like:

  • What % of our customer base is each type of business? How much of our total revenue do they correspond to? 
  • What customer types have the highest LTV? 
  • How do our core metrics compare when we slice our customer base by various properties (like company size, business type, various demographics, plan type, device, location/region, etc):
    • Churn rate
    • Rate of expansion 
    • Referral rate 
    • Conversion rate

And I’m sure you can think of many more. This kind of quantitative work is a priceless exercise, especially if you haven’t done it before. 

When I was at KISSmetrics we dove deep into these and discovered that company size didn’t really matter, but when it came to business model, SaaS and Ecommerce businesses converted 2X as well, churned half as much, and thus had a much higher LTV.

Do you think that impacted our future product decisions?

Surveys are your friend, too.

Now, ideally you’d have infinite data you could easily query across your product to answer every question. However, that’s neither feasible, nor really desirable (it would be too costly, hard to maintain, etc)

For snapshots in time, and to jump-start efforts, surveys then become your friend.

This allows you to then take input from your customers (especially those interested enough to take a survey) and segment it based on the questions you ask.

That’s why for instance with my startup, Lighthouse, we ask people what department they work in. Certain departments convert better than others, while one department has proven to be a massive time waste. We automatically filter out the latter’s input, because we know it’s not useful.

However, surveys are not a guaranteed silver bullet. In fact, most people make a ton of mistakes using surveys by making them too long, asking too many open ended questions, or using confusing language.

That’s why I regularly revisit this awesome post from Profitwell on how to do product surveys.

The TLDR is simple:

  1. Keep it short
  2. Make as many questions multiple choice as possible
  3. Ask customers to mark the *most* and *least* important things instead of rating everything

Now, taking a step back, not only are you building an engine to gather all your feedback and to better understand your customers, but you should also be using your analytics and other quantitative data (sales & marketing numbers, conversions, custom queries from your data team, etc) to help prioritize what metrics you want to move.

And once again, this kind of data informed approach gives you much better information than the random, muddy data of feature votes. Here you’re understanding problems, not starting with features.

4) Make people feel heard!

I hinted at this above in the problems with Feature Voting section, and it bears repeating: your customers want to feel heard. 

Posting or upvoting on a Feature Voting site is like the Suggestion Box in a Dilbert Comic:

The real way to make customers feel heard is for them to get a response from someone on the product team to things they ask for, and to occasionally see things they ask for fixed or added.

It could be its own post on how to do this, but for starters, here are 3 of my favorite approaches:

1) Tell your customers about new features launched

Any progress is good progress in the eyes of customers. It gives them hope you’ll get to some of their requests, and can really make their day when you finally build something they really wanted. 

That’s why I’m a big advocate of sending semi-regular product update emails.

Doing so let’s them know you’re listening, gives you a place to thank those that gave feedback, and reduce churn as people recognize you’re improving the product regularly. 

2) Make all your product emails have a real reply address so you can talk to people

I’m always stunned when companies send announcements and product emails and make them noreply@company.com. That’s a big missed opportunity.

Instead, make it a google group that sends to some of the product team. You’ll get fewer emails than you may be worried, but those that do really care.  Your customers will appreciate being able to respond (often saying positive things and showing gratitude!) and with a simple, quick reply, you (or a coworker) can make them feel heard. 

3) When you launch a feature based on feedback from a customer, email them personally.

How do you feel when you get personal notes from friends, family, or people you work with? Pretty good, right?

You can do the same for your customers simply by sending them a quick thank you note when their input is acted on. 

If you’re a small startup, then this should be pretty easy. Sending 10 thank you’s to those that hopped on a call should take you 5 minutes.  

As you scale, this can scale too. If need be, pull the names and emails of those that submitted feedback, had a flagged support ticket, did a usability test, etc and do a mail merge to send all of them a similar form note thanking them. Anything is better than nothing. 

You can also enlist your coworkers, like for instance asking your Account Manager to reach out to their customers involved and let the AM share the good news. 

This is win-win; it’s less work for you AND the Account Manager looks good to the customer, as it shows they can effectively pass along feedback that gets acted on by the product team.

Doing this not only makes people feel heard, but it also helps you build relationships that create power users and customer advisory boards. The more people feel heard, the more they’ll reach out and make your life easier as a product manager seeking out feedback, problems, and insights.

Isn’t this a lot of work?

Yes, this is a lot of work, but you’ll notice quite a bit of this is collaborative. That means you’re sharing the workload. And best of all, your hit rate on features built will go way up, so there’s less drama, more excitement, and you overall become more efficient.

All because you roll up your sleeves and do the work.

Take the time to be a product person who truly cares about their craft and builds processes and paths to directly learn from and speak with their customers. You’ll find that feature voting is then the last thing you’d want when you have all this direct, quality customer insight coming in.

Thanks to Ray Wu , Adil Majid, and Willis Jackson for feedback on this post.

Need help for you or your product team? I can be your coach.

I’m doing a limited number of engagements now helping with getting your first customers and early adopters, overcoming churn issues, and validating new features. You can sign up for a free intro call here, or learn more about what I do here.

 

How Being Customer Driven United a Startup & Doubled Feature Engagement

What’s your proudest moment as a product manager?

For some, it’s shipping a massive feature that really struck a chord in the market. For others, it’s navigating a really complex challenge and finding an elegant solution. Or it could be any number of things like:

  • Amazing ROI on an opportunity you identified.
  • The moment you know you’d guided the product to product market fit.
  • Recognition from the CEO or a mentor you really respect.

After over a decade working in product, I have quite a few of those, and the story today definitely ranks way up there.

One of my proudest moments at KISSmetrics

Way back in 2012, I was the second, 1st PM at KISSmetrics. When I joined, it had been almost 4 months since the original, 1st PM had departed, and at that point, things had gotten pretty messy as no one was really doing what a good product manager does.

For instance, there wasn’t a lot of process, or commitment to talking to customers regularly, nor a way to channel feedback from those that were talking to customers into something actionable for the product team.

Over the course of my first 6 months there, with Hiten’s support, I slowly worked to turn the ship in a variety of ways to get us to be more customer driven. We were already product-led, well before “product-led” was a thing, but as an analytics company, we found it far more comfortable to rely on quantitative data in our KISSmetrics reports than qualitative data from our customers.

That’s why it was a really proud moment when the story you’ll read below describes when every single employee (over 30 at the time) talked to at least one customer that week. It led to one of the biggest morale boosts we had while I was there, and had a huge impact for our customers.

A big win for customers and us

When the KISSmetrics blog sold and some posts were no longer up, I had to rely on the Wayback Machine of the Internet Archive to reference the story of this moment when we got everyone in the entire company to talk to at least 1 customer in the same week.

To ensure this story is preserved going forward, I’m reposting this story as told by my coworker, Chuck Liu, back in November 2012. Everything between the lines is his writing.


Getting Things Done: How Moving Fast Doubled Our Feature Engagement

As a SaaS business, we regularly make improvements in our software product because we care about our customers. We also want to give our customers a competitive advantage with our customer data so they can make better business decisions.

When we started working on our new version of Live two weeks ago, we had a lot of discussion about whether we should rewrite the whole thing or just improve the visual designs. I’ll dive more into that a little later, but one of the big influencers for a rewrite was that we wanted to make a dramatic improvement in reliability and uptime — one that wouldn’t be possible with just a simple design upgrade. What’s a new design worth if it doesn’t work?

Funny thing is, when we finished building Live, our customers said it was fantastic…but still there was something missing. We were not getting the engagement or adoption levels we had hoped for.

What went wrong?

Instead of going back to the drawing board, we kept it simple. We figured we’d waste time making decisions and changing a lot of things. It was going to take too long to plan everything out again. We learned that, a lot of times, all it takes is small changes here and there to get that bump in engagement.

In our case at KISSmetrics, we increased our engagement by making small alterations in design thanks to our customer-driven data. Test quicker, faster, and get more things done. Here’s our story:

Building the New Version of Live

KISSmetrics Live lets you monitor top activity trends, filter for specific activity you’re looking for with a new launch or campaign, and see information for individual customers — all in real time.

When we set out to improve our Live tab (which provides people with a real-time data stream of customer activity), we first looked to our secret sauce — customer feedback.

Thanks to our awesome customers, we were able to define a list of requirements and use cases that our Live tool needed to help customers get their jobs done better and faster.

Some key requirements included:

  • Reliability*** — Flash was causing all sorts of trouble
  • A way to drill down on specific people, events, or properties
  • A better way to view your own activity AND monitor the live stream
  • Getting into individual customer profiles more obviously

Flash was a big offender. It caused loading problems. The different versions caused different errors. It crashed. Customers were not able to see it at all because of their device. Customers lost their whole session.

The old version of Live, complete with annotations, after customer feedback was summarized by Jason Evanish, our product manager. Oof.

Before we got to any visual design improvements, we started with the back end. If our customers couldn’t use our feature, there would be no point in updating the visuals or functionality. Our engineers did the hard part by building a robust back end that didn’t depend on Flash anymore. They were able to deliver the behind-the-scenes magic that powers our new Live tab now.

With reliability improved, we could confidently move forward and implement the rest of our improvements.

Getting to Customer Needs

What do customers actually need? To help answer this, we started with sketches, mockups, and wireframes.

One of the earliest sketches in our design phase from Eric, our support engineer.

We wanted to work with something low fidelity to show customers’ rough user experiences so we could see if our ideas were actually helping them solve their problems. This allowed us to focus on the jobs customers were trying to get done without having colors and major layouts get in the way of the feedback. It allowed us to differentiate what they needed (ways to filter, search, etc.) from what they wanted (button colors, perfect alignment, etc.).

Another idea from one of our designers, Jason Caldwell, with UI notes.

As a company that helps other businesses get to know their people, it was obvious to us that we needed to keep in close contact with our customers. And we did just that. After several cycles of interviews and testing, we were able to get to a point where customers agreed that they would be able to do the jobs they wanted to accomplish with our new improved tool. So we started building.

Problem Solved! …or so we thought.

Final design that was made by our lead designer, Ian, and implemented. Huzzah!

A job well-done, everyone! Let’s move on to the next thing, we thought.

Not so fast.

When we launched the feature two weeks ago, our feedback box started filling up with messages.

Some feedback messages all about stream activity being too big. Yowza. Thanks to everyone who sent in feedback!

A lot of the initial negative feedback focused on how the stream items were so large that it was impossible to scan for customer activity. Some people even wanted to switch back because it was not valuable without the ability to scan easily!

Luckily, we received positive feedback with regard to reliability, search filters, and trend monitoring. All the jobs were accomplished (yeah!), but we had a design issue to solve.

Here’s How We Got The Crazy Boost In Engagement

Yes, this is the actual metric chart with the huge jump. Since our data is tracked on a per-person basis, we knew something great happened.

The small bump in the middle of the graph was when we originally launched the new version of Live. We saw about a 50% increase in that week alone after an email to our existing customers to check it out and use it over the course of the week where it leveled off.

After the feedback wave, we hustled. We didn’t waste any time trying to come up with a quick change that would alleviate the main problem: customers wanted to see more activity and data in the stream.

What we rolled out a week later as Version 2. We increased how much activity you could see, while maintaining some Version 1 design elements on hover.

In the old design, you could see two customer activities, maybe two and half activities, in the stream. In the new design we came up with, you can see ten activities in the same resolution.

Here’s how some of our customers responded:

Valuable feedback turned into fix. Thanks Pejman!
Happy customer with the new fixes and improvements. Thanks Evan!

Best part? We didn’t do any additional marketing or launch emails when we implemented the new version. Our customers organically started using the feature A LOT.

So What Did We Do?

1. We started with tracking customer data. We made sure we established tracking for our Live tab with KISSmetrics. Tracking on a per-person basis steers you away from dangerous vanity metrics and makes you start analyzing the behavior of real people. One event each from a million people is very different from a million events from just one person.

We also got customer feedback data and made sure their problems were solved by our solutions.

2. With customer data, we were able to look into the whole lifecycle of our engagement patterns, all the way back to the first occurrence, as well as drill down into specific customers, if necessary. We were able to benchmark our performance to measure against dips, or in this case, gains.

3. We made small design changes according to most common customer requests. And we did it fast. It’s hard for any business to get everything right the first time. Or the second time. And so on. If you iterate quicker, you’ll learn faster about what worked, what didn’t work, and how to prioritize what’s next.


What a great story!

Because the company had become really in tune with our customers across a variety of methods (as you can see above, it even included tweeting at Hiten), we were able to understand our customer’s frustrations and quickly engage the whole team in a fix.

As I’ve learned over and over again in my career, if you get engineers and designers hearing the words straight from customers, it motivates them deeply to do their best work that customers love.

And this situation was no different as we quickly fixed the feature to be exactly what customers needed.

With that win under our belt, it became commonplace for everyone to ask what was best for the customer, and to go talk to customers if we didn’t feel we knew the answers yet.

You can do this, too.

Wish your company was more product-led, or your product team was more customer focused? I can help you.

I’m doing a limited amount of product consulting helping product-minded founders and 1st product managers learn and apply all the best product skills I’ve learned from some of the greatest product people in Silicon Valley.

If you enjoy what I’ve written here on my blog, then you’ll love when I get into the specifics of your business to help you accelerate your learning and take the actions that have a big impact…without the years of painful trial-and-error.

Want to see if there’s a fit for us to work together to help you? Then sign up for a free call by clicking here.

100 Lessons and Spicy Takes on Being a Software Product Manager

It’s hard for me to believe, but I’ve been working in the software tech industry for 10 years now. For the vast majority of that time, I’ve either been a product manager, or a founder with a heavy focus on product.

With the trend on Twitter of 1 like = 1 insight or spicy take, I decided to jump on board the trend and do one on product management. It appears to have resonated:

So 100,000+ impressions later, it seems that it really resonated with people.

With the ephemeral nature of Twitter, I wanted to preserve those takes for easy future reference, so this post represents them.

100 Insights + Spicy Takes on Software Product Management

There’s some great discussion around many of the tweets, so I encourage you to check out all the discussions here.

The trick to tell if there’s a reply to a tweet is to look at the speech bubble in the bottom left corner of each tweet:

look to the number of comments to see if there's a response to that tweet

If the tweet says 1 in that area (like Tweet 2/), then the only reply is my subsequent tweet in the thread. If it’s more (like  Tweet1/) then there are replies to click on and see.

Anyways, let’s get onto the takes:

1/ Being a PM is a job of influence. The best PMs are the mayor of their area of work. You need to be able to build coalitions, and get buy in from a wide group of people.
That doesn’t happen by accident. It takes work.

2/ The best PMs are autodidacts. They’re constantly curious and always learning.If you don’t like learning lots of new skills from sales, to marketing, to negotiation, to EQ, to design, don’t be a PM.

3/ PMs are also like a point guard playing basketball. Done right, they set up many others to look great.A strong collaboration makes your designers create better designs, and the engineers ship a better product faster. Those assists don’t show in the score sheet but matter.

4/ PMs also are limited by their team. If you are missing key players or have weak players at other positions, it will often look like the PM is weak, because they have to cover or fill in gaps.Two of the toughest are PMs w/o good design help or lacking a good tech lead partner

5/ There are many ways to become a PM. You cannot major in product management, so everyone gets their start different ways.If you think you want to be a PM, look into how people you follow did it. You may be surprised how varied it is.

6/ The best ways to become a PM:
A) Excel at a growing company & ask to transition (seen it work great for marketers, customer success, design, & engineers)
B) Do a side project or startup to show you can PM (this eliminates the chicken or egg problem of having never been a PM)

7/ Getting an MBA won’t help you become a good PM.It won’t make you a better PM if you already are one, either.If you want to become a GM at a company, an MBA makes sense, but it doesn’t help product managers.

8/ I’m sure the previous tweet is going to get some replies from a Sloanie, HBS grad, or Stanford MBA.As is always the case on Twitter, exceptions always get mentioned, but do not disprove the general statement. Save $200k if you love PM and don’t get an MBA.

9/ Most of the worst PMs I know or have heard about are either former engineers or MBAs.
– MBAs often bring ego + don’t want to do the real work (talking to customers, iterating, etc)
– Engineers can struggle with the interpersonal & relationship building side of PM’ing.

10/ If the sales team is at war with your product team, or people try to go straight to your engineers for pet requests, those are your fault.The #1 mistake that good PMs make is not building relationships across departments. Fix it with peer 1 on 1s: https://jasonevanish.com/2015/09/24/product-managers-peer-one-on-ones/

11/ The #1 mistake mediocre & bad PMs make is not talking to customers.It’s scary getting outside the building, and they instead choose to be master BS artists.If this is you, change your ways in 2020. I wrote how-to’s I wish I had when I started: https://jasonevanish.com/product/

12/ There are 31 flavors of product managers. An A+ PM at one company would be terrible for another company.If you’re hiring, recognize this could explain a short stint on a resume, and if you’re job hunting, don’t apply to PM jobs that don’t match your skills & strengths.

13/ PMs fit differently based on a variety of factors such as:
– The business model (Ecommerce vs. SaaS vs. Ad tech are dramatically different jobs)
– Company stage (Think public company vs. Series B vs. Seed)
– Company culture (How are decisions made? What do they value?)

14/ The interview process for product management is completely broken. 

15/ There would be no need for a whole market for products to “Master the PM Interview” if the interview process was actually good at most companies.

16/ The best interviews see if you can do the work *you’ll be hired to actually do.*Unfortunately, most PM interviews are veiled in hypotheticals that have nothing to do with the job, and are basically trick questions.Mastering trick ?s has nothing to do w/ being a good PM.

17/ Most product teams don’t check their applicant tracking system nor respond to applicants who apply cold.This is ironic given the trend of calling PMs “Mini-CEOs”, and recruiting is one of a CEO’s most important jobs… 🙄

18/ If you want to get a response on an application, get an intro into someone on the team.Don’t have a network? Search LinkedIn for lower level PMs. No one asks them for help, so they’re more likely to respond & have a call/coffee to discuss the culture, then refer you in.

19/ The first PM hire at startups is almost always a sacrificial lamb at the altar of learning for the founder.Read more why and what to do about it here: https://jasonevanish.com/2019/04/28/second-1st-pm/

20/ The best job if you love startups is to be the *2nd* first PM hire, as you get all the opportunity, equity, and influence…all thanks to the PM that came before you.They died on hills, and helped the company learn what they actually wanted.

21/ Most customers don’t report bugs or give feedback.They just quietly suffer, or churn and then maybe tell you. 

22/ I follow the “Rule of 10:” If 1 customer has an issue, there are probably 10 more that didn’t say anything. 

23/ If you have an issue, get in the habit of sending a note to those affected. It’s good service AND it helps you quantify issues.I’ve had many engineers be surprised when they see that 2-3 tickets is actually affected TONS of users. Getting a list to email helps quantify it.

24/ Customers don’t care how hard (or easy) a feature was.All they care about is if you solve their problem or make it possible for them to do what they want to do.

25/ Quick Wins (aka – simple things you can do to make the product better for your customers) is a great way to let your team recharge and build some momentum after shipping a big feature.Sometimes customers are more excited by this than your big feature.

26/ Product/Market Fit exists for both buyers and end users.You can have one and not the other, and it will cause your business to sputter.

27/ Never become a PM at a company where the founders don’t understand what a PM does. You’ll get no credit for wins + all the blame for any problems.Fateful last words include “that feature went really well, but I have no idea how you contributed” & “Why can’t you just…” 🤦‍♂️

28/ Jeff Bezos was right when he said this:

“The thing I have noticed is when the anecdotes and the data disagree, the anecdotes are usually right. There’s something wrong with the way you are measuring it.”

The problem is most PMs don’t talk to enough customers to tell this is the case.

29/ There’s nothing like doing product management in Silicon Valley. There, PMs are mostly considered vital and valuable parts of the company. This changes who does the job, and how they work.

30/ If you want to be world class at product management, you need to work a few years in Silicon Valley for this reason, and many more.Being around that many product obsessed, super smart people, will level you up rapidly.

31/ A long time product consultant in NYC told me, “NYC product is 20 years behind the Valley.” That feels directionally accurate.I think there are *many* smart, great PMs in town, but it’s structural/cultural issues that undervalue product here: https://medium.com/@Bosefina/how-to-be-a-product-driven-company-in-nyc-342fd689877e

32/ The mascot of NYC PMs would be Eeyore.The amount of self deprecation I’ve seen/heard that really feels like “haha, it’s funny, but I’m actually sad about it” has been one of my biggest surprises.Product is undervalued in many cases here!

33/ One of the hardest remote jobs is being a PM.Collaboration and innovation are where the magic happens, and that’s the greatest weakness of remote work.There are ways around some of it, but it takes a lot of conscious effort. 

34/ If you’re a remote PM, use any flights or face time you get to try to solve your biggest challenges.Nothing remote can compare to the energy of being in the room at a white board with your designer and engineer(s) working on a problem. 

35/ Also document, document, document, and share, share, share.You can’t walk by your pod and tell them about a great customer interview, so you need to find other ways to share what everyone needs to know…in a light weight way they’ll actually read/see.

36/ On the flip side, remote can help bring out some of the best work of your designers and engineers as they can more easily get into deep work and focus.Try doing that in an open office…

37/ The #1 skill to develop to be a better PM is to become a better writer.

38/ Writing touches everything you do as a PM:
– Product specs
– Updates to customers
– Updates to stakeholders
– Note taking in meetings
– Notes and takeaways from customer interviews
– Writing good survey questions
– Communicating to your team

39/ To become a better writer as a PM, write more:
– Blog posts
– Internal documents
– Tweets + Tweetstorms ;)
– Personal notes to collect and organize your thoughts.
– Emails and experiment with templates you use.

40/ The other way to become a better writer is to read more. Read regularly, and you’ll find your vocabulary gets stronger and you always learn.

41/ My favorite books to help you write #1: Tested Advertising Methods amzn.to/2sHa6OH
– Copywriting goes everywhere from the marketing site, to help docs, to inside your product
– You probably have to write some of that
– The lessons apply beyond that
H/t @LarsLofgren

42/ My fav books to help you write #2: Never Split the Difference amzn.to/2Ff5HoL
– You do a lot of negotiating as a PM. This teaches you a better approach whether working with an angry customer, negotiating with another team for resources, or deftly handling your boss.

43/ My favorite books to help you write #3: How to Win Friends & Influence People amzn.to/2ZJOLQG
– PMs are in the people business and this is the gold standard to working well with other people. This applies as much to what you write as what you say.

44/ The best way to earn respect from an engineer is to have data to back up what you tell them. Show them the customer interviews & quotes, or the analytics/data and you’ll engage them much more in what they’re building.This wins many more people over than a batle of opinions.

45/ The easiest trap to fall into as a PM is to ship things and never check the results of your work.Set a reminder for yourself 2 weeks or 2 months (depending on your company stage) later to go back and see what worked or didn’t. 

46/ Setting up analytics and measurement of a new feature is as important as making sure all the buttons are where they should before launching your feature.It should be part of your product spec. (I like @joshelman‘s approach for that https://jasonevanish.com/2014/06/03/how-to-write-a-product-thesis-to-communicate-customer-needs-to-design-and-engineering-teams/

47/ Ship early, ship often.

48/ I follow the “Estimation Rule of 2X:” Any project’s estimate is always off by 2X.
– When it’s 2 vs 1 day, or 2 instead of 1 hour, it’s not a big deal. However, the bigger the project, the more brutal this becomes (4 weeks vs 2 weeks, 4 months vs 2 months is a problem).

49/ PMs should be tool agnostic. Whatever your engineers will actually use and keep up to date is the project management tool you want to use.The tool you love for the burn down and gannt charts is not the hill to die on if all your engineers hate it.

50/ “Your startup either dies, or lives long enough to end up using Jira.”
This saying I used to hear 5 years ago still seems true. 

51/ PMs should be infinitely curious. If you see something you don’t understand you should want to investigate.
– Look into the analytics, ask the engineer to explain why, ask what motivated your designer to go that direction. You’ll learn, and it often sharpens their thinking. 

52/ If you’re a Senior PM or higher, you should be mentoring people inside and out of your company.It’s great to give back AND it will make you a better PM.

53/ Every time I help someone as a mentor, I walk away with a few new ideas and usually a reminder of a few things I know I should do that are slipping.

54/ It’s never been easier to get a mentor. A few ways people have reached me, and I’ve gained help:
– DMs on Twitter
– Well crafted Linkedin messages
– Cold emails after they read my blog and found my email address on there.
– Replies to blog post emails from subscribers.

55/ Creating a bonus structure for PMs is a very risky move*. If your company’s needs to change, you want PMs to be flexible, but that’s hard to convince them if their bonus says otherwise.* Exception = E-commerce it can work since it’s easier to have a consistent target.

56/ Being pedantic is a terrible trait for a PM.Care about the details, but in a tactful way. Know what hills to die on, and how to have both strong opinions, *and* loosely hold them.

57/ The art of knowing where and how to draw the line between high quality and shipping on time is one of the hardest skills to develop as a PM.Those that master it are worth their weight in gold.I like @Wayne‘s essay on this: https://blog.usejournal.com/want-to-build-an-incredible-product-strive-for-the-delta-of-wow-f184b716af18

58/ Being a founder, even if your startup fails, makes you a much better PM.
– You appreciate other roles more as you likely wore their hats
– You learn to ruthlessly focus on the metric that matters most
– You learn to deal with extreme constraints & the creativity that breeds

59/ A good PM is like glue & grease:
– Glue to hold things together and fill in gaps
– Grease to make things run more smoothly and adapt to changes

60/ Feature voting tools are for mediocre PMs.

61/ Show me a feature voting site for a product and I’ll show you a graveyard of unanswered customer requests and a lot of noise.

62/ Show me a product team that relies on data from feature voting, and I’ll show you a team that thinks they know their users a lot better than they actually do.Some day I’ll finally turn this into a blog post it deserves:

63/ Companies that struggle with endless debates about their products and roadmap typically are arguing opinions, which ends up creating lots of politics and the most important person in the room making calls.

64/ Companies focused on their customers settle their debates one of two ways:
1) They ask “What’s best for the customer?”
2) They plan an experiment or table the discussion until they get some data/evidence

65/ Disagree & commit is an essential skill for any PM.You need to do it sometimes, and so does everyone else on your team.The key to avoiding resentment is to measure the results of the decision. Everyone is wrong sometimes, and that’s okay as long as you fix it later.

66/ Great product leaders are unsung heroes: Their teams get all the credit if it works, and if it doesn’t, they are the ones to have to answer.

67/ Getting customers to talk to is hard and interviewing them is time consuming, which is why so many PMs rarely do it.

68/ Getting customers to talk to you is a team effort:
– Get customer success to forward you customers with issues in areas you’re fixing
– Reach out yourself (email, @intercom, etc)
– Partner with marketing on surveys & reach out to interesting answers.
– Talk to sales leads

69/ Joining a company to change their product culture is like signing up to climb Everest in shorts.It may be possible, but there’s a good chance you’ll die trying.

70/ Product managers pre-product/market fit have a 10X harder job than those post-product/market fit.

71/ The stronger the product/market fit, the easier it is for any product manager to look smart and deliver wins.A lot will be obvious, and in many cases, anything you build will work.

72/ Being hired as a PM to help a startup with a solution looking for a problem always leads to failure.The power dynamics and negative inertia are too great. Also, the founders should have been figuring it out, not a hired gun with 0.5-2% of the company.

73/ Some PM jobs are really project management jobs with a power struggle left off of the job description.

74/ Sharing wins and happy customer quotes are great ways to give your team a jolt of energy.We have a Slack channel dedicated to it at Lighthouse called #HappyManagers specifically because of this. Anyone can scroll through to read stories, quotes, and testimonials.

75/ When something is broken, the best way I’ve found to motivate a designer or engineer is to share the customer’s words directly.It’s one thing when you say it, but when they hear a customer say it, it hits their ego differently in a good way so they want to fix.
Side note: My favorite story of exactly this happening was also one of my proudest moments as the PM at KISSmetrics: web.archive.org/web/2012112303…

76/ Beautiful designs aren’t always usable or accessible designs.

77/ The #1 thing I’ve always had to remind designers I’ve work with is “Do you think a 50 year old with bifocals can read that”?

78/ McDonald’s theory is a great way to get your team unstuck:Suggest something you know will be rejected to get you back on the track of what you all do want. medium.com/@jonbell/mcdon…

79/ Harsh truth: The best products don’t always win.Sales & Marketing machines can be just as dominant, if not more so.

80/ In some markets, adding more features to demo & put on your pricing checklist is more valuable and important than any of the features being particularly good or useful.

81/ Tech debt doesn’t matter right until it might kill you.

82/ Adding another feature won’t help your company win if the ones you already have are broken.

83/ Tech debt is rarely talked about publicly, but many well known startups (both successes and failures) have faced major reckonings because of it.

For example:

84/ As a rule of thumb, once you’re onto something charging to or past P/M fit, spend 20% of your time on tech debt.This keeps it from crippling you and halting all progress (or killing you) later.A nice overview is here: https://blog.crisp.se/2013/10/11/henrikkniberg/good-and-bad-technical-debt
And the legendary Marty Cagan wrote about it here: https://svpg.com/engineering-wants-to-rewrite/

85/ My favorite way to pay down tech debt is to revisit/iterate on old features. This way you squeeze in a few quick wins (remember tweet #25?) along with fixing a troubled, decaying part of the product.It also helps keep the engineer(s) working on it thinking about customers.

86/ I knew @SlackHQ Channels could help with customer bugs and issues, but I was pleasantly surprised how well it also works to source customer development & product feedback fast.This is an amazing post on the topic from founder/CEO @stewart: https://slackhq.com/shared-channels-growth-innovation

87/ Always be iterating on your processes. What worked for a small team or company will break as you grow.Fortunately, said breaks are predictable: https://getlighthouse.com/blog/company-growth-everything-breaks-25-employees/

88/ The best way to iterate on your process is to make it a habit:
– Post Mortems (even when things go well)
– Peer 1 on 1s to get individual/private perspectives
– Ask for feedback after a ticket is closed (What can I do differently to make that easier/better next time?)

89/ The best way to scale being a customer driven company is to get everyone involved.You can’t be everywhere, but you can teach bits and pieces to others. Teach them how to ask a good followup question over email, or to do some of their own interviews.

90/ You need thick skin as a PM. You will fail and need to find another way. You will take more blame than you probably deserve.I’ve interviewed and been rejected by more companies than you’d ever guess. Lost many deals. Been flaked on by customers over and over. It happens 🤷‍♂️

91/ Focus groups are a disaster. Customer development is *one* customer at a time.You need to hear their individual stories and situations, not group think.

92/ Remember what Steve Jobs said on simplicity:“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end”The best solution is usually not the first idea. Keep pushing to get it right to unlock magic.

93/ Sometimes the best move is to kill a feature, not add another.

94/ My favorite way to learn is to read based on the biggest challenge I’m currently facing.This insures you immediately apply it to your work…and I find also motivates you to finish reading faster.I’ll share some good places to start after #100

95/ The product tours industry feels universally overpriced.None of them show you how to calculate ROI for what they charge, and typically it’s a small part of successful onboarding + educating users.

96/ Onboarding is really hard.- Customers don’t read.
– They skip overviews and tours.
– They quickly get bored of videos…then complain they “don’t get it.”And it’s still your job to help them get to the AHA! moment.

97/ The best way I’ve learned to make onboarding work is to use a lot of “lead bullets” mixed with experimentation.A little bit of everything makes it so there’s something for everyone.Ideally, you’ll simplify & help them focus on 1 thing, but that can be resource intensive.

98/ @intercom is the best product category for startup PMs since the development of modern analytics changed how we measure and made data accessible to everyone.

99/ Some mistakes you can learn from others and avoid. Others end up being learned the hard way.Be nice. What’s obvious to you may be a difficult lesson for others, and vice versa.This is especially true in product given how varied all our backgrounds are.

100/ Time management is a crucial skill as a PM; know where all your hours go every day & make sure you get the important stuff done.This video is a great way to conceptualize that:

Further Reading:

Want to learn more PM skills, my reply here gives a few people to start with:

– Read lots of books. My favorites by category here: jasonevanish.com/bookshelf
– Rafael Balbi: Who are some great PMs you regard from the west coast? I’ve been interested to learn more about these differences.

A few off the top of my head (some aren’t PMs anymore or were pm minded founders but their blog posts and presentations are still gold) @cagan @joshelman @BrianNorgard @rrhoover @jmj @hnshah @Pv @seanrose @Bosefina @cindyalvarez @DesignersGeeks @wfjackson3 @ShaanVP @danolsen

Also would add @kennethn  and his great blog: kennorton.com/newsletter/ and the classic post by @bhorowitz

Search for their blogs and you’ll find gold mines.

I’d also add that part of it is company structure / culture, not a difference in skills. It sets you free to do things that in a different structure and valuing of product that wouldn’t allow or would be serious upstream swimming.

I’ve dedicated the last 5 years of my life to helping people be better managers.

If you have a big team to manage, sign up for a trial to make your 1 on 1s organized, motivating, and accountable, or tell your eng. manager to check us out: getlighthouse.com

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