Here are some of my preliminary thoughts about what “other” questions Product Managers should ask before they define their product features and functionality.
Archive for the ‘Customers’ Category
9.9 out 10 Entrepreneurs expose the first look of their product to their friends, family and people who trust them and they trust. If we throw all of them under the umbrella of “Trusted Users”, these trusted users will help you a lot in the early stage of your product evolution. They will help you find bugs, give you friendly advise, moral support and so forth.
Let me clue you in on one biggest surprise about trusted users -
Trusted Users are NOT your Tribe Users
This blog is inspired by my conversations with Maxim Razmakhin, founder of Mixely – a new way to find friends . Max is really smart and is on to something interesting. Watch his progress.
Where can you find your tribe users?
- Tribe users typically emerge from those who have the problem that your product solves; and will “try” a new solution other than what they have been doing for a long time. Not all people who have this problem will become your tribe users. Only a small segment of them.
- Tribe users are also part of those users who have an immediate need, urgency, desire, resources and time to engage with your “not so great beta” product.
- For each startup, their particular tribe user is defined based on the
- Market (emerging, mature, crowded emerging, etc)
- Business Model (B2c, B2B, B2B2C)
- Revenue Model (Paid, Free, Ad supported)
- Age, demographic, etc, etc.
- In short this is very subjective to every startup – don’t mimic what others are doing. Define your tribe user based on what is ideal for your business
What are other characteristics of Tribe users?
- Tribe users are those who don’t care who you (founder) or your team is BUT love everything about the product
- Tribe users don’t hesitate to tell you that your product sucks and which features work well and what features don’t work well. Tribe users don’t hesitate to voice their dissatisfaction but at the same time change their opinion if you hear and address their concerns.
- Tribe users have an emotional and passionate relationship with the product and company rather than the company management or team. Of course that passion and emotion could emerge from how the management/founders engage with the users, but ultimately their relationship is with the product.
Picking people you trust for the tribe users does not qualify them as your tribe users. Also, picking who trust you rather than their own needs also doesn’t qualify as tribe users.
People who trust you and you trust might not be honest with you. More importantly they may not even fit the profile of your target user. You sister, college roommate, advisor, colleagues, drink buddy – while all of them have a trust relationship with you, they send you incorrect signals for the success of your product.
What to avoid when looking for Tribe users?
- When it comes to tribe users, don’t start with trusted relationship just because you could. They will lead you the wrong way.
- When it comes to tribe users, don’t accept everyone who wants to try your product. Define a “profile of your prospective user” and stick to it. Make it public – don’t worry about alienating others, as most of them are not even looking at your site or your product anyways.
- When you let your users pick their friends to be part of your tribe, I would use some caution; In the interest of “virality” and growth, most entrepreneurs allow their users to invite their friends. While there is less risk in the growth stage, but in the initial stage, this might be risky. So, add proper thought into how you can control this process at the same time empower your users. Priority is to find users who fit your qualifications -rather than just any willing users. Don’t expect your users (even though they are your tribe users) to care as much as you care about these aspects.
Not all incentives are created equal! Incentives are a slippery slope – some of them could lead you to paths that you didn’t originally intend to go on to begin with.
This blog is motivated “after” my discussions with Matt Corbett, Founder/CEO of InCXO.com and Amit Gupta, Founder/CEO of TenLegs.com. Both of them are solving the early customer/user development with interesting incentive structures. Very interesting startups …..please check them out!
In the past, I talked about incentives as “features” or “actions” your users perform while using your products -When to enforce “Actions” out of your users & customers? .
In this blog, I will talk about incentives with broad strokes – what they mean to startups, impact of them and impact on the type of users.
Incentives can be tangible or intangible. Incentives could be vanity (leaderboard) or centered around benevolence.
Users and/or consumers respond differently to incentives and type of incentives. Startups needs to be clearly aware of following aspects when they create incentives -
- Objective of the Incentives – Startups need to be very clear about the objectives of the incentive. Are the incentives
- To grow new users,
- Bring current users back to the site/app regularly,
- Increase the time on site/app for the current user base
- For current users to bring new users,
- For current user behavior/actions to brings new users, and so on and so forth.
- Life of Incentives – Some incentives are short lived and some are part of a startup’s existence. Knowing that well ahead of time allows startups to tailor the incentives accordingly.
- Temporary incentives – These are short lived. Typically offered in the initial days of a startup to grow users, user engagement and loyalty. These could also be offered during special events, campaigns and promotions as well.
- Long term incentives
- Incentives as features
- Target User – Who is the target user for the incentive? What kind of users are you trying to convert or engage with this incentive? Early adopter? Influencer? Networker? Passionate advocate? Biggest catch for any startup is what happens when their target users change? What happens – when the company moves from early adopters to mass users/consumers? How will the incentive structures change and influence the next leg of users? What motivates Quora to attract high profile entrepreneurs to take an active role in discussions where as not in other communities with lot more tangible incentives?
- Behavior - What kind of behavior would incentives encourage/evoke from your “current target” users? Is that behavior consistent with your overall business growth and objectives? During early days of Hashable, all interactions were rewarded equally – which led to active interactions but when they changed the incentive structure to “new introductions” versus “interactions”, user behavior has changed – which in turn led to increased user base for Hashable.
- Which type of user – Understanding which segment/type of your users are being incentivized is also very important. For example, typically for most consumer Internet startups, you have some or all of these types of users – “end users/demand”, “customers”, “producers”, “paid users”, “partners/suppliers”, and so forth. Typically they fall under two broad categories – demand and supply. Its a good idea to white board incentive structures for both those categories – demand as well as supply. There are times when companies focus only on one side of the user base that will not generate optimal results for the startup as they grow.
We often talk about gamification, incentives, motivators (lets call them “incentives” collectively) – when it comes to users and when we are defining certain features. Each of these incentives have distinct role to play in the growth of our user base, enable network effect, capture relevant data, launch viral loops and so forth.
Some of these incentives are typically wrapped around features and sometimes are features!
Basically – as a end user/customer – what is in it for me to use your product – is what I am defining as broad strokes incentives.
I have rarely seen these incentives talked with a “Voluntary” and/or “Enforced” lens.
At a high level user’s voluntary actions are motivated due to one of these -
- Tangible Incentive – Examples – Utility, Experience, Rewards, Coupons,
- Intangible Incentive – Examples – Vanity (leaderboards), Social Interaction (Friends, family, being in the know, etc)
Voluntary :Tangible Incentives are broken into “Direct” and “Indirect” incentives;
Voluntary:Tangible:Direct Incentives :
Typically all Utility features fall into this category – Examples – Getting directions from Maps App, checking your bank balance from your Banking App, Checking your email, etc
Voluntary:Tangible:Indirect Incentives :
Indirect incentives are anywhere from gathering Airline miles, Hotel Rewards to raking up Points or Badges in your latest social media app. These incentives can be potentially exchange for some perceived “free” gift or coupon or reward in future.
While playing with http://Turntable.fm, got me thinking about enforced actions. In Turntable.fm, you have to have another DJ in the same room to listen to your own music. This their way to drive viral loop out of their current users.
While one could argue that having another DJ will help the “social” experience to your music listening, enforcing that as a key requirement does create certain inertia for some users.
Yes, “forced actions” is a way for new startups to grow their user base and launch virality, could also generate undue inertia and in some case repulsion to early evangelical customers.
Forced actions are especially risky when there are no intangible benefits to the end user – for example – in case of Turntable, first DJ doesn’t get any benefit in getting another DJ into the room – other than the fact the user get’s use the product. This is really a “service fee” or “compensation” to Turntable to use their product.
Forced actions should come with strong tangible and intangible benefits to the end user!
In summary, companies should play the “Forced Action” card very carefully – it is walking on thin ice!
ps: I do love Turntable.fm as an experience.
Aza Raskin, Creative Lead at Mozilla Firefox – was quoted as saying you can never let your data dictate design. He adds – “If you do, you end up following what people currently do and never innovating”.
Basically, one way of interpreting what Aza saying is “don’t listen to your customers and the data from your customers if you want to innovate”.
This is a profound statement that could raise many eye brows amongst conventional product planners. This goes against the grain of most line manager’s day to day activity of generating reports and keeping the status quo or make modifications to generate more and better data.
Honestly this statement is not aimed at line managers who have obligations towards their core and current customer base. This is aimed at corporate strategies and new product managers whose primary responsibility is to find out what’s next rather than what’s been.
Opinions expressed are my own and not my employer.
- The Future of the Web: How Firefox Panorama and Aza Raskin will shape the Web (downloadsquad.com)