Product Guy

Maker of digital products

Category: Growth

What I’m Reading Sept. 4, 2016

How Bad Features are Born

The really sad part about the message behind this article is that we’ve all seen it. The HiPPO in the room wants to do something because they think it’s a new shiny feature they can sell, or there’s a loud minority that everyone is tired of listening to so someone, with authority, says yes. James Gill outlines several more examples of why bad ideas get built, the one I like best is that they’re perceived to be easy. Too many times I’ve caught-up with the development team to find out earlier in the day someone from another part of the business asked them to start working on a feature, “because it’ll only take a couple hours…”, and when we start talking it through there are numerous questions. No one is at fault here, it’s just that in an effort to deliver we don’t step back and ask, ‘just because we can should we?’.

The 5 Whys of Feature Bloat

Staying with the ‘does this feature make sense’ theme, this article from Hubspot looks at when is the right time to retire features. This is a blow by blow account of why most organizations never look at retiring features and how as product people we can raise awareness around the mindset that some things have seen their time. One big takeaway is that when we’re considering a feature as a team we often underestimate or completely fail to consider what it’s going to take to maintain the feature in the future. We have a rule in our house around buying new things and bringing them into the household, if you want to bring something in, like a new basketball net, something has to go, like the old scooter that no one uses anymore. This might be extreme when considering optimal feature set but it’s one way to make sure we’re not becoming a product where 98% of our user-base only use 10% of our features.

My Daily Learning Ritual

I like this article from Sachin Rekhi because it’s filled with good actionable advice, something I’m always looking for, and it mirrors a lot of the same practices that I’ve developed myself. Like most product people Rakhi and I both use a process of Discovery to learn what we we want to learn about next. There’s so much content out there and there’s so much to know in the product role, you need a way to find and catalog it for later. Once you have it all organized you need to consume it and being organized about your consumption aids retention. I agree with his point that reading it is not necessarily understanding it and to do this you need to feed it back in some way. Feeding it back can take a couple different forms or in Rakhi’s case all three. Share what you’ve learned with your peers and network and discuss it on social media. The best way to internalize something is to form an opinion and write about it.

From Signed-Up To Satisfied

From their podcast to their blog to their social accounts I consume a lot of content from Intercom and Des Traynor is one of my favourite contributors. In this article Des talks about the biggest R, retention. If you can solve the retention issue you can likely solve the referral and revenue issues. The only way to build a sustainable business is having repeat customers, that’s as true in the restaurant business as it is in the web business. Here Des talks about onboarding as the big first step in retention and as your product grows so too does your onboarding process. Don’t ever stop making your product easier to start using.

What I’m Reading Aug. 28, 2016

What Great Listeners Actually Do

According to this Harvard Business Review study it turns out that remaining quiet, acknowledging the speaker with visual and verbal gestures and repeating back to them what they have said falls short of being a good listener. As product managers we spend a lot of time listening to different people, so listen up! Rather than sitting there just listening, ask insightful questions based on what the speaker has told you. Make the speaker feel safe with your actions and words. This goes back to a theme we looked at last week where you want the speaker to understand that you’re there to learn from them and they can speak freely without judgement.

After running 2,000 experiments for Fortune 500 product teams, here’s what we learned

If you belong to a large organization, and I mean anything over 50 people, it can be hard to convince others of the benefits of continues testing. This article provides a few insights and potential solutions to help you get your big org on the testing path. Lesson one is that change is hard, lesson two is that lots of time needs to be allocated to running around getting buy-in. Lesson three; product experiments generally fall into one of these six buckets. It’s surprising which are the most popular and least popular. The last lesson, we’re all biased but practice “substantiation through iteration.” Meaning, you should be able to repeat the experiment and get the same results. Couple more insights but I’ll let you get them when you read the full article.

The Roofshot Manifesto

Luiz Andre Barroso, a Google Fellow talks about how incremental improvements can be the bread and butter to bigger growth. It reminds me of a guy I roomed with at university. He bet on sports but always very conservatively. Each win he’d make $10 to $20 and for every loss he’d only lose $5 to $10. Because his bets were conservative he’d win more than lose and by the end of the year he’d have a nice little sum of cash. As Barroso points out, with a 1.3X roofshot each quarter you have 10X growth in less than 3 years and 30% growth in 12 weeks.

ASO Best Practices: Optimizing Your App Store Page | Part 2

Not all app stores are created equal and here’s a few tips on how you can win in either the Android or iOS store. With a helpful side by side comparison of the app download landing page it’s easy to see what’s going to catch most users’ eye. Screen caps are important in both stores but while the first two images are most important in iOS, it’s the remaining images that are more important in Android, because twice as many users scroll through them, 15% for Android as compared to 7% for iOS. Video previews are also featured more predominately in the Android store and you have more flexibility in terms of video content with Android. As always, test, test and retest to get the best results.

What I’m Reading Aug. 14, 2016

Developing User Empathy

At times I have described my role on on the team as “therapist”. I listen to people a lot, work hard to understand what they’re struggling with and ask questions that will help them overcome the challenges they’re facing. As a product manager, immersing yourself in the challenges users are having completing a job is a large part of your daily work. Sachin Rekhi talks about going beyond the 90 minute user interview and thinking about job shadowing for a day or actually doing the users job for a day. Step two, practice mindfulness. This is the idea of being aware and open to what is going on around you and how that is having an impact on you and your emotions. It doesn’t have to be nirvana, you just need to be self-aware. Next, built mindful relationship with your colleagues. I’d suggest you practice and build mindful relationships with everyone in your life, it will just make you happier and a better product person.

What Is The Balanced Scorecard?

The first half of this article tells you the importance of the Balanced Scorecard, if you don’t need to be convinced jump to the Perspectives section and start there. The authors recommended viewing the scorecard from four perspectives; Learning & Growth, Business Process, Customer Perspective, Financial. These four perspectives then drive the Strategic Map. The scorecard is designed to be used at an enterprise level but it can also be applied directly to product management practices. There’s learning we need to keep current in our industry, there are business processes we want to refine to communicate our messages and deliver our products, know more about our customers & their level of satisfaction (that’s job one of for us!) and we certainty have financial goals.

Element of Value: Measuring What Customers Really Want

Last week I sat in on a Harvard Business Review webinar where Eric Almquist discussed how Bain & Company mapped product value against a modified Maslow’s hierarchy of need. The hierarchy is modified to illustrate four levels of attainment a company & product can reach within a customers value chain; functional, emotional, life changing and social impact. Within each of the four levels there are specific elements where products can meet customer needs. For example, at an emotional level a product like Netflix delivers on a nostalgic element. Bain also tested and proved that delivering on these elements would increase customer loyalty and improve revenue growth.

It’s Ugly but it Works: On Designing for Usability

There’s an adage about marketplace sites that says, if it works they will come no matter how simple or outdated it looks. Largely all people want to do is go into a marketplace, solve the job they have, and get out. Graeme Fulton outlines step by step why the simple but lovable app Tabata works and why we as product people we should always think usefulness first.

What I’m Reading August 7, 2016

The Last Ten Years Have Been About Social Networks – The Next 10 Will Be About “Market Networks”

I came across the NFX group while reading about the now defunct Ooga Labs and James Currier. This article, although almost a year old now, talks about how current marketplaces are two-sided but the future of online marketplaces will be multidimensional and for specialized services. That is, rather than just a buyer and a seller connecting, these marketplaces enable sellers, like general contractors, to assemble an network of trades to service a buyer.

No One Agrees How to Define CI or CD

If there’s one thing that we can agree on after reading this article it’s that we all have a different understanding of what continuous integration, continuous delivery, continuous deployment and DevOps means. Cheat-sheet: CIntegration = main code base that’s always updated, CDelivery = having a code base that is ready to release at anytime, CDeployment = automated regular deployments to prod, and DevOps = one group owning it from start to production.

The 10 Best Product Launch Emails That Reengage Users

Often it’s not as much about acquiring users as it is about retaining users. I’ve given my email address away to countless sites only to have them reach-out to me months or years later like no time has past at all. This article highlights some of the tactics brands like Dropbox, Evernote and LinkedIn use to reengage users. The big takeaway is a bit “motherhood and apple pie” but be personal and provide value.

The Best Companies aren’t Afraid to Replace their Most Profitable Products

Almost 10 years ago I read an article on how Apple was so successful because it was ‘willing to eat its young’. The same is true today, if you’re going to fend off that startup that are happy grabbing 2% of your market share you have to be more ruthless than them and beat them to the door with your own product lines. Four rules of engagement: 1) Setup business units that compete with each other, 2) Find a balance between derivative products, platforms upgrades, and breakthrough innovation, 3) Create a bypass mechanism to pitch ideas to the top 4) Create a corporate goal with a percent of revenue earmarked to new products.

What I’m Reading July 31, 2016

Why Sites Are Getting Personalization Wrong (& What To Do About It)

Make it personal but don’t make it creepy and always ask first. This is the message behind this well researched review of personalization in the online industry. Companies are collecting a lot of information but few are using it well and fewer still are seeing strong results. The second two items likely go hand in hand. There are examples of those that have created strong value from personalization but a key first step is testing. Test your assumptions on what to personalize and your audiences level of comfort with personalization. As with any good product feature make sure in the end it adds value for the user. Doing it just because you can is not the right reason.

Adjacent Markets from Technology Mapping

I recently heard that Starbucks identified an alternative business opportunity by observing customers. They were sitting for many hours using the space to work and have business meetings. This led them to consider what they’re actually selling or renting is meeting space. It didn’t matter what people were doing in the space just so long as they could use the space. Starbucks was in the meeting space business and they should provide consumables to meet that need. Recently Starbucks has started selling beer and wine in select locations to meet the needs of those that are meeting after the coffee hour. This led me to reading more about identifying adjacent market opportunities. This is the first article I came across and provides some actionable models to build based on patent fillings, technology stacks and keyword research.

The Internet of Me: Creating a Personalized Web Experience

Digging back into the archives a bit this article for 2012 examines what personalization can do when it happens at a very local level and the pitfalls from an experience standpoint. From a local standpoint it could be a great thing if personalization delivered on the promise that when I searched for a restaurant in a given area it knew my food preferences and delivered results based on my eating habits. From an experience standpoint do I run the risk of having my personal views reaffirmed because the only articles that are recommended for me are those based on content that I’ve already read. Is this a bad thing, after all this is generally the way we choose our friends.

Vision vs. Strategy

One of my must reads is Marty Cagan’s blog at Silicon Valley Product Group. Marty has been in the product business for a long time and provides sage advice. In this piece Marty talks about the difference between product vision and strategy. He really sums it up when he equates it to leadership and management, one sets the direction and the other tells you how to get there. A good quote from Jeff Bezos around vision and strategy is to be “stubborn on the vision, and flexible on the details.”

What I’m Reading July 10, 2016

Why Did My Sessions Go Down in Google Analytics

One of my favourite sites and blogs for actionable tactics is LunaMetrics. This post is about a question we have all had, or has been asked of us, “what happened with my visitor count on this date?”. The article covers the standard response of, looks interesting but let me look into it, to the campaign is working and how do we crank it up more. One piece of advice that I particularly like is to always consider seasonality. I’ve seen it before, there’s a big boost in traffic and we dig into it only to find out that the long weekend fell two weeks earlier this year than last.

The Recursive Product Strategy That Musk Used to Build an Empire

Last week Steve Sinofsky talked about how long it can take to build a sustainable start-up and find that breakthrough. This week Vinny Lingham’s post looks at how to build a framework for long-term effort and stay focused on the next milestone, on the way to the ultimate goal. Lingham’s uses Elon Musk’s experience with Tesla as well as his own experience to illustrate the framework he’s coined, Recursive Product Strategy. Basically you start at the end and work your way forward, not a new way of thinking but Lingham frames the idea in a manner that doesn’t simply list the things that need to happen to reach an endpoint. His method is to keep asking yourself “What’s Needed?” and “Why Not Now” at every stage. After you answer these questions for the final goal you have the next set of questions which will become the stage before the goal. Working this backward, or forward depending on your perspective you reach a point where the question of “Why Not Now?” becomes, “The time is now!”.

Three Types of Product Managers: Builders, Tuners, Innovators

Sachin Rekhi’s outline of how the online product management field is evolving is right on the mark. There are a number of essays on the varied skill sets a product manager needs to be successful but the practice of product management is becoming so broad that it’s time for it, like many professional practices, to become deep in some areas and for specialists to emerge. Rekhi identifies three archetypes and provides a very clear definition of each. This is a good read for those looking to enter the field and align interests with their future goals. I’d include a couple others, the growth product manager and the technical product manager.

Every Company Needs a Growth Manager

What works in small business and start-ups usually filters it’s way to the corporate world, this article suggests that’s now true of the Growth Manager role. Every company needs someone pointed directly at growing their audience, engagement and revenue. The role defines the growth path, coordinates and executes programs and optimizes the revenue funnel. A couple of quotes from Sean Ellis and James Currie about intuitive testing prioritization and knowing your acquisition channels really capture the essence of the role for me.

What I’m Reading June 19, 2016

10 Psychological Techniques for Engaging Your Users

Came across this article in my ongoing search for metrics around if and how much Easter Eggs increase Engagement. Ten solid recommendations around implementing the first step in Nir Eyal’s four step cycle in Hooked, the trigger. It’s also shocking to find-out that 65% of a sample population would shock someone electrically if they were told to do so by the correct authority figure. The comments on achievement are insightful and can be applied to both B2C or B2B site.

The Experience is the Product

Peter Merholz talk and post reminds us that in front of all the great technology and best business plans is the user experience. I’m also a believe that teams shouldn’t be organized around a code base but rather around a part of the experience as Merholz points out. This is usually illustrated in the marketplace model where there’s a team built around the buyer side and one around the seller side. This model can also be effectively applied to any other site such as a publisher where the teams might be aligned around editorial, video & photos, social and advertising. The other note that Merholz touches is that design is the key ingredient to effecting desired behaviour. For tactical examples building in the desired behaviour see the article above.

The Right Way to Use Analytics Isn’t for Planning

As one of the commenters notes this article talks about an idea that’s been around for awhile, data analysis tells us what’s happened rather than what’s going to happen and in a world of increasingly rapid change past trends are less likely to be signs of future predictors. More than ever there are constably changing perspectives from business leaders and data analysis is the tool that can support or refute these perspectives from being actioned. This point is well articulated by Jeremy Stanley in his post below, Doing Data Science Right – Your Most Common Questions Answered. Why I’ve included this read is that the authors of this article and Stanley point to the need to have people within the analytics/data science/business intelligence team that can work with a lot of ambiguity and still provide actionable recommendations. Great analytics teams produce the weekly traffic report but their real value is providing the insight on the perspective of that week, whether supporting it or not.

What I’m Reading June 12, 2016

An incumbent’s guide to digital disruption

Largely a retelling of Clayton Christensen’s the Innovator’s Dilemma this piece provides some good examples of how publishers struggle with the coming on the online era and how some embraced it despite the early signs that this attitude would not protect their core business. There is a good framework provided to determine where the description lifecycle is in a given industry and where your organization might fall. A quick read to help us remember that complacency is the chair of demise.

The Key Ingredient to Disrupting with Machine Learning

Tom Tunguz looks at what the key ingredients are for machine learning and artificial Intelligence, specifically advanced algorithms and data sets. His hypothesis is that Google and Facebook have pretty much corned the market for B2C in both these areas but there is still lots of greenfield for B2B in this space. Inspiring read for those focused on the B2B space.

The Truth About Customer Experience

This article provides a good framework for how to review and how to improve your customer experience. Although written from the standpoint of the services industry the methodology can still be effectively applied in the online industry. A key take away, remembering to always ensure all the participants are at the table when reviewing practices as you never know where an insight might come from and an inspired simple solution. There are also some management organizational alignment recommendations to scale the customer improvement process. One bank required board members and executives to call five dissatisfied customers a month. That’s getting to know your customer from the top down.

Drew Houston of Dropbox: Figure Out the Things You Don’t Know

A quick read with the founder of Dropbox in Q&A format where he talks about the importance of digging into what you don’t know and always be reading. Which is of course why you’re here.

What I’m Reading June 5, 2016

The Product Manager’s Guide to Continuous Delivery and DevOps

A straightforward look at what is meant by continuous delivery by Suzie Price at Mind the Product. Suzie outline the differences between Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery, Continuous Deployment and DevOps. Believe it or not all organizations are not building software with the DevOps mindset and my office has just started started down the path of Continuous Integration with the end gail of being fully DevOps. There’s also some great additional reading at the end of the article.

Startup and Pendulum Swings Through Ideas, Time, Fame and Money

This podcast is part of the Andeerson Horowitz a16z series and features Marc Andeerson and Balaji Srinivasan talking about everything from why a VC would invest in a startup to whether or not the Stanford student audience they we speaking to should stay in school. On the note of why a VC would invest in a startup Marc offers the view that there are three elements that VCs look at and usually each VC falls into one of these buckets as to why they’d invest in a copy. The three being market, product and team. Listening to this podcast is like getting a free ticket to see game seven of the NBA playoffs. Court side.

The Broken Window Theory In Design and Product Development

Drawing a parallel between the theory that permitting petty crime in a neighbourhood will beget more violent crime Tobias van Schneider discusses how permitting shortcuts to meet delivery dates will beget poor quality product. Most of us have seen this to be true as sites grow in traffic and age only to repeat the reframe ‘we’ll fix that in the next release’ so as to meet a delivery date. It reminds me of the story that Marty Cagan told in his book Inspired where eBay was almost brought to it’s knees in the early days because the organization was focused on growth rather than growth and scalability. This could prove to be a good analogy when selling quality together with speed to executives.

Mary Meeker – Internet Trends 2016

Okay, this is likely included in everyone’s week wrap-up or if you haven’t already read this I suggest you click-thru now. I call it the annual Super Bowl of the internet and Meeker provides not only great insight into online trends but also a good overview of the state of the economy. In fact some of the most interesting information I found this year is where the global GDP in the last 6 of 8 years has been below 20 year averages and the commodity price index is at its lowest level since the year 2000. Also shocking, on the advertising side is Google’s share of the $60B in US online ad spend is close to $30B or 50%.

What I’m Reading May 15 2016

The Growth Hacking Podcast – Peter Reinhardt – Segment

Why settle for one analytics platform best parts of all of them. In this podcast Peter Reinhardt talks about his product Segment which is the “pipe” between your site and many analytics platforms. Peter shares some great insights into how he and his team ‘discovered’ the product as well as his best advice to those starting out, be a Product Manager.

Ad Block Tracking with Google Analytics

I am almost always up for an experiment and this is one I can’t wait to run. Avinash Kaushik who write’s Occam’s Razor and you’ll likely see here a bit as I read all of his posts shares some snippets of code to test if you’re visitors are using ad blockers. There are a number of reasons the publishing business is struggling and ad blocking is one. Gain some insight into how much of your traffic isn’t seeing one of your revenue streams at all.

Your User Deserve Better – An Inside Look at Reminder’s Customer Obsession

In this interview with Remind’s founder Brett Kopf he discusses how he develop his product idea, through personal need and interviews, as well as some specific tactics to stay connected with your customer base. This article made this week’s list because I am always looking for actionable tactics and Brett shares some activities that you can start at the beginning of product discovery but also ways to stay connected as you scale your product and business.

Apple, Facebook, Google, and Alibaba Take Hollywood

As we enter the beginning of the end of the banner ad (see Ad Block Tracking above) and Netflix’s accounts for a third of all internet traffic the race is on to find the next business model to deliver advertising revenue. The finish line for now is original content and this Fast Company article looks at how the four biggest contenders are gearing up.

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