Paul Jackson


Pivot Product Hits — August edition

What (exactly) is an Anti-Active Usage Product?

Engagement is a lagging indicator, says Plainflow’s Leonardo Federico.

In Summary: Most Products Managers monitor user engagement as a key ‘metric that matters’ for their product. But user time is finite and the impact on our lives of multiple products demanding our attention is constant distraction (from notifications) and context-switching.

‘Anti-active usage’ products up end this logic. With anti-active usage products, the user doesn’t need to do anything. The product works in complete autonomy, yet still delivers outcomes.

By saving their users’ most precious resource (time), anti-active usage products challenge our preconceptions about retention and product engagement and set a new standard for value delivery.

Are people really (really) using your Product?

As a counter to Leonardo’s post above, here’s Greylock’s Josh Elman on why usage is still the most important signal for most.

In Summary: As a Product Manager, it’s easy to get lost in vanity metrics and data points. However, the only thing Product Managers really need to think about is:

  • Are people using your product?
  • Are they using it how you expect?
  • Are they performing at the frequency you expect?

You want to understand which users are more likely to come back than others. Those that are highly likely to come back are your core users. You want to have most of your new users converting to core in the first month.

Once you can predict which users are core, you can start figuring out what things they did to increase the likelihood of being a core user. Start by calculating how likely someone is to return to your product in Month 2 based on how many days they visit in Month 1.

Feature Creep isn’t the real problem!

Feature creep disguises an inability to execute on the core value of your product, says Hiten Shah.

In Summary: If you’re struggling with feature creep, you’re really experiencing the manifestation of a few root problems.

It may be because you don’t know what your market demands. As you grow, you gain new customer segments with different needs. It’s all too easy to build features for each segment that aren’t relevant to your overarching product vision.

It’s a Product Manager’s job to ensure everyone internally has the same understanding of what you’re building. You’re doing more harm than good by letting everyone have their say.

You won’t win by obsessing over feature creep, you’ll win by addressing the real underlying problems. To avoid feature creep, be clear on what your product is and how to best deliver it to each customer segment.

People need my Product!

But do they want it? asks Justin Jackson.

In Summary: The only way to successfully market a product is to make something people want. Identifying a ‘need’ isn’t enough. It’s difficult for people to do things they know are good for them. The benefit is too far in the future. People need to lose weight for their long-term health, but most don’t.

But, there are products that help people lose weight and switch away from fossil fuels. So, what’s their secret? They package their products in a format that people want.

To help reduce hydrocarbon emissions, Elon Musk started with something people wanted: a fast, luxurious vehicle (the Model S).

Customers buy emotionally and then rationalize their purchase with logic. To succeed, build something that gives users a quick win, and then continues to provide value over time.

Don’t just build Products for power users!

Beware the vocal minority, says Amplitude’s Mark Dondanville.

In Summary: Power users use your product regularly and know it inside out. Unlike average users, they give you feedback and leave comments and in-app reviews.

But power users only make up a small percentage of your total base. As a Product Manager, your goal is to attract new users, turn them into average users, then to power users.

Listening to your customers keeps you in tune with their needs. But the issues power users have often apply only to them, not the wider user base.

Make sure you listen to all of your users, not just the most vocal, and that the Product Team is focussed on converting new users into power users as rapidly as possible.

Are subscription Products bad actors?

I’m fine with the old version, says Guise Bele.

In Summary: Do you remember when you could buy Word, Excel and Windows on a perpetual license which barely ever changed? All of them are now available on subscription. Why? Because renting software forever clearly costs you more money than buying it!

Despite the current popularity of SaaS, subscription models are bad for customers when introduced purely to relieve Product Teams of having to continuously innovate and deliver value.

Should Product Managers employ Radical Candor?

Radical Candor was a spirited attempt to bridge the divide between ruinous empathy and obnoxious aggression. Thanks to Kim Scott’s book of the same name, it’s become a ‘hot’ business topic in the last 2 years.

In essence, it’s a communication framework that allows practitioners to walk the fine line between genuine empathy, critical feedback and tough decisions. However, it’s been associated with questionable practices, such as ‘front stabbing’, and used as an excuse for workplace hostility.

Most Product Managers are well intentioned in their communication but it’s all too easy to drift back to old habits. Some people are naturally inclined towards ‘people pleasing’, whereas others are less empathetic. Understanding the concept of Radical Candor makes us more aware of our own natural inclination.

Featured Product Event

Strategies to make anyone use your Product

Thanks to everyone that came down to my talk at Products that Count in London last month. For those that weren’t able to make it, here are the slides from the session.

Sadly, most of the audio was lost from the footage so the actual presentation isn’t available. But thanks to SC and Gunita for having me, I can definitely recommend their monthly sessions.

Product Quote of the Month

Common misunderstandings about building software products.

From a great list by John Cutler.

Originally published at Pivot Product Hits.

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