Lessons From Industry: The Product Conference Image

Lessons From Industry: The Product Conference

Gainsight was fortunate enough to “be in the room” at Industry, one of Product Managers’ largest conferences. With over 30 sessions across two days, it was hard to determine which sessions would be the most impactful but we’ve done the hard work so you don’t have to! Here are our top three themes from sessions hosted by Stripe, Hootsuite, Zendesk, InVision and of course, Gainsight.

Three Major Takeaways from Industry

  1. Build for customer needs versus making product fit customer.
  2. Alignment is key—KPI alignment, executive alignment, and cross-functional alignment are critical for success.
  3. There is no singular magic metric for product success. 

Customer Comes First

Many speakers spoke of how product management teams can easily miss out on what the customer really needs. Shreyas Doshi, Product Lead at Stripe, spoke of how we often talk to customers about a pain our product solves, but we fail to realize how discussing a specific problem can sometimes overestimate its severity. This is an opportunity to step back and go a level deeper to establish customer empathy so that you can hear what it is they really need instead of hearing what you want to plug a product feature. 

Shawna Wolverston, EVP of Product at Zendesk, shared similar feedback. She expressed how often PMs go into conversations with customers with a pre-identified agenda, such as specific interview questions, instead of approaching the conversation with a blank slate. This can create a “leading” conversation as opposed to one that gets to the heart of the customers needs. The biggest challenge to listening to your customer can often be determining who your customer is and which ones to listen to! 

During a roundtable discussion, a common theme emerged that often your ‘squeakiest wheel’ may not represent your customer base as a whole. Some products may have two tiers of customers—those that pay for the service and a different group that are actually the users of the product. One way to solve this challenge is to use customer surveys which can allow you to normalize all the feedback to determine the next best course of action. At Gainsight, we believe the best way to ensure a customer-centric product is alignment between Customer Success (CS) and Product. Our CS teams have all the qualitative insight into what is happening at a customer from anecdotal feedback and regular meetings to align product usage with outcomes. On the other hand, product teams have all the quantitative feedback about product usage and other key indicators about the effort it takes to get value out of the product. The power lies in the combination of this quantitative and qualitative data and we strive to do that internally with our own PM and CS teams as well as encourage our customers to knock down this silo as well. 

Cross Organizational Alignment

Putting the customer at the center of the product is just one of the many forms of alignment that allows for product success. Alignment on metrics is pivotal to ensure you are measuring the right things. For example, in some products, the goal is to increase time spent in the product. However, with other products, you want to create efficiencies so that users can decrease the time spent to complete their activities. Usage data likely will also vary by the type of user. You have to ensure your CPO, engineers, and executives are all aligned to which metrics matter based on which user group. Product metrics should also align to larger company initiatives such as customer retention. Knowing the right usage data on which feature or function drives higher renewals not only delivers a product customers love but it also delivers to the company’s bottom line. 

In addition to metrics, organizational alignment across teams is crucial. Richard Banfield, VP of Design Transformation at Invision shares the biggest challenge around team alignment—people not skills. Especially in current times, Richard stressed how difficult it is for people to work together and shared some ways to get teams back on track. Some ways he is able to get people working better include inclusion of a larger group early on, focusing on flow efficiency versus resource efficiency, and investing in relating and understanding. One of the benefits of getting everyone on the same page is achieving problem alignment. Teams may think they are working towards something, but if everyone is not working to solve a common problem, success cannot be achieved.

Define What to Measure

Now that we have our customer at the center of everything and our teams on the same page, we have to decide exactly how to define success. Before diving into metrics, it is important to determine what lifecycle your product is in. Greg Sylvester, VP of Product Management at American Express shared a framework of how to assess your product in the current landscape. These four stages of product maturity include entry, growth, sustain and decline. Metrics such as Monthly Active Users (MAU) will likely increase faster at the entry stage versus the sustain stage, for example. Persona metrics may also vary. A VP of a division may log-in to view top level dashboards on a weekly or monthly basis but a manager in that same division may be using your platform daily to perform a majority of their day-to-day tasks. Determining how to segment metrics based on user personas and how to measure the efficiency of each role is helpful is defining success for the product. A VP of Product or a CPO is reviewing big picture metrics such as overall product adoption, but a PM on a specific function may be trying to determine how sticky a new feature is. As an organization, you have to decide how to rank these KPIs so that you can prioritize where to focus engineering efforts. If your product is in the sustain stage, you may be inclined to focus on stickiness of a specific feature as this feature may be a key indicator of higher NPS scores. Data tells us so many stories. Alignment with the organization around which story is important to tell at each stage of the product journey is a valuable exercise to take before diving into development.

Overall, we enjoyed all of the learnings from top product professionals in this virtual setting. We cannot wait to continue these and other conversations at our first ever conference for product professionals, Pulse for Product taking place October 14-16, 2020. We already have over 3,000 registered to attend and we’d like you to join us as well. If you are looking to make the leap into product leadership, our Path to CPO series, featuring leaders from Autodesk, HubSpot and more can help as you learn from their successes and failures. Lastly, if you want to learn more about Gainsight PX to see our in-app engagement and analytics platform in action, we are offering a free 30 day trial here.