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 ‘Productization’ Category
don’t address Go to market/distribution and mobile browser use cases!
Typically, companies spend a lot of time on product, features and problems that they are solving for the end user but don’t think through the Go to market and distribution to get their customers/users to the product. This is a problem – whether you are a startup or a dinosaur like Yahoo!
Yahoo! Axis mobile browser is great …..but don’t know if they thought through the aspect of how mobile users get to the browser!
It feels like Yahoo! started working on Axis pre “Mobile App Proliferation on iPhone/Android” age and by the time they release their product, the opportunity already passed? Akin to Motorola Iridium Satellite venture ?
While the product seems well though through here are few suggestions as they continue to figure out how to get user to use their product -
- Smartphone mobile users rarely start with a mobile browser – at least by the 80/20 rule, most of them start with an application. If users are starting with Apps, why not work with App publishers and strike deals to embed your browser in their Apps; This way, your users are exposed to unique features Axis provides and that creates easy discovery and dependency?
- At least in Android, I think there is a way to set a default mobile browser. Encouraging your users to set Axis browser as default might be one way to get some more traction but no one will make yours a default without compelling reasons!
- Microsoft Bing Search (http://www.bing.com) started incentivizing its users by giving “credits” that could be used for Game App downloads, Mp3, etc. Incentivizing new users to try out your browser might be another way and encourage them to set your browser as default (for additional incentives).
As I always say, its not just the product that will make your product successful! Nail the go to market strategy before you release your product!
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)
Did you ever notice that the “App Store” icon is listed with other Apps on the home page instead of at the bottom along with Phone, Mail, Safari and iPod? Did Apple decide to leave the “App Store” Icon along with other Apps because of lack of space at the bottom – too hard to put the 5th icon in there? Then again, they also short changed Settings, iTunes, Messages and Camera – by leaving them along with other Apps.
Regardless of where the App Store Icon is, I wonder if there is a future, where brands and publishers can create “Publisher Stores” – similar to “App Store” – where they Catalog all their own branded Apps – conveniently located in one location – for users to select all and download all and pay for all them at the same time.
For example Sony Music Entertainment has deployed 6 iPhone Apps on the App store. Instead of downloading each of those 6 Apps separately, wouldn’t it be cool to download all Sony’s Apps with one click?
Enter Publisher App Store !!!!
With Apps on App Store reaching 100,000 in next few months, it becomes critical for Apple to consolidate as well as make it easier for iPhone users to download Apps. Users don’t have to search for different sub brands multiple times. If you are looking for all super hero comic apps, all you need to download is Marvel App Store.
Then again, does the Publisher App Store need to be a downloadable App OR could it be an aggregated list of apps via a microsite available through Apple’s App Store?
Download or webapp – doesn’t matter – there is a huge need for such a feature. Its long due …..
Why limit this concept to just grouping within a publisher? Aggregator can group Genre specific Apps in one location and give option for their user to search, download through one interface. There could be App stores for all free casual games, all card games, all music apps and all news apps ….
There is a start up idea right there …..what are the challenges? Well, for one, Apple might not approve such an App!!!!
No harm in giving it a try. Create a shell App and let all these brands customize the Shell App the way they want to and list out their on deck Apps, Icons, descriptions, and hook it up to iTunes store.
Even if Apple doesn’t approve such an App, at least publishers can start creating such Microsites and let user’s download ….Disney has around 12 iPhones Apps on the App Store. Couldn’t Disney or Sony or some of these big brand names build microsites by partnering with Apple – giving options for fans to download all the Apps in one go?
Just pressed a very simple presentation using Presi about Product Roadmaps …..