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A Counter-intuitive Product Lesson
+ Product Onion: Layers of a Product
In today’s newsletter, we have:
An interesting poll around superpowers.
A Counter-intuitive PM Lesson about effort to build & customer value.
The Product Onion: the layers every product deals with.
Counter-intuitive PM Lesson: Time taken to build ≠ Customer Value
Here's a counter-intuitive PM lesson I learnt a few years back.
=> A customer can resonate more with a feature that took lesser time to build.
Product Managers like me have "effort bias".
Our intuition is calibrated to think that the more time it takes to build a feature, the "more value" it represents for the customer. Conversely, it makes us overlook the worth of simple features that were "cheap" to build.
I was working on a recruitment SaaS product a few years ago & chose to tag along with a sales rep to deliver a demo to a prospective customer.
I was ideating on the narrative of my demo in my head. I wanted to weave in mentions of some huge modules we had launched like Requisitions Management & Budget Control.
In the meeting, we sat across HR leadership, some intimidating folks from IT & a lady responsible for brand marketing.
My sales counterpart opened by asking them what they'd looking for.
They responded by asking us about our career site offering, our branding options, reports & the "candidate experience".
My sales buddy then beckoned me to start with our branding stories. I complied.
Once we had gone through the career site templates & how they could easily skin it, I wanted to move onto the meaty stuff - things we had spent months developing.
But then one of them popped a simple question:
"Can we host the career site on our domain or will it be under yours?"
Luckily, we were one of the few solutions that offered custom domain support at the time, so I answered in the positive.
To my surprise, we spent a good portion of the meeting on this topic.
I told them that it took only a few minutes to setup, that they'd have full control of the analytics & tag manager scripts & that it didn't come at an additional cost either.
And that, if they ever chose to leave us, they wouldn't have to update the url on their employer branding collateral.
They liked that.
Strangely enough, this custom domain feature was usually a passing mention in my previous demos. Why? Because it seemed simple. It took us a sprint or two develop. Many SaaS apps had it. It didn't seem special.
When I finally got some time to show some of our more complex features, they wanted me to skip the details so that they could talk pricing. I was flummoxed.
Back in the office, hearing my experience, my supervisor dropped a little nugget for me to munch on: "Product is like life. Sometimes the best part of your product in the customer's eyes lies in things you took for granted."
Intuitively, it would seem that the more effort we spent on something, the greater the dividend it is bound to produce.
But, in reality, the graph between the time it takes to build a feature & the value it carries in the customer's view isn't always a linear one.
My lesson: Weigh features using the customer's perspective, not your build clock.
The Product Onion
The most widely adopted products have layers.
You know, like an onion.
And you need both Product Managers & Marketers to keep those layers in tact.
Let's break them down:
1/ Customer Problem
At the very core, a product decides to attack a pain point in the real world - a promising opportunity with significant size & scale that can drive a sustainable business. Product Managers & Marketers work with leadership to identify this & formulate an attack strategy.
2/ Technical Solution
Around that problem, they develop a unique functional implementation that solves it in a manner that's better than others. Product Managers work with engineers & designers to beef up this layer.
3/ UX & CX
Next, they lay down a UX & CX layer on top of the functional base to reduce user learning curves, create ziplines to "aha" moments & generate value while triggering positive emotions. Product/Program Managers work cross-functionally with tech, design, sales, marketing & support to refine this layer.
This "functionally elegant" product is then wrapped in the garb of memorable branding that resonates with the target audience, creates a high recall factor & establishes trust. Product Marketers research what resonates best with the audience & shine this layer up.
5/ Cultural Status
This packaged product then leads to a loyal customer base, a passionate community and ambassadors that evangelize on behalf of the brand & support it at various levels. Product Marketers establish communities, loyalty programs, contests etc. to create a tribe.
No, you can't work on all the layers in the first version of your product. The focus in the start is towards the core.
However, most products stop at Layer 3 thinking they're done.
Little do they realize that their biggest competitive differentiation lies in creating a memorable brand & grooming a community.
It not only puts you in the big leagues, but it also helps develop a defensible moat around your market share.
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