Product innovator series

Advice on Building Great Products from Folks Who’ve Actually Done It

Today, upstarts compete with incumbents not on the basis of distribution or marketing spend but product and the customer experience. The companies that win are the ones that build the best products—that can out-execute everyone around them solely on the basis of the customer experience they create.

In this product-led era, this means:

  • Having a solid understanding of your customer’s pain
  • Decentralizing your decision-making
  • Shipping faster and more often
  • Upgrading to a product-focused analytics stack

That’s all easier said than done—which is why we’re talking to entrepreneurs and business owners that have “cracked the product code.” We’re talking to the people who have built (or are building) great products to understand:

  • How exactly you can know that you’re building something people actually want to use, and what to do to pivot if you’re not
  • How to scale a growth organization and maintain your intensity of focus when you’re beyond 20, 50, or 100 team members
  • How to get more people in your organization to actually use data so that decisions on the ground are being made quantitatively and not with the gut

Every week, we’ll be publishing a new guest post with advice on building products from a founder, product manager, VC, or all-around product person who is either building a great product, a great product team, or both.

Here are the experts who have weighed in on the topic so far:


Suneet Bhatt — Chief Growth Officer — Bridging the Product/Marketing Divide

product-marketing-alignment

Suneet is a veteran of the SaaS industry. Most recently, he was the Chief Growth Officer at Help Scout.  His experience managing sales, marketing, engineering and product teams has taught him that too often, we end up with Product and Engineering teams on one side and Marketing and Sales teams on another, with a vast expanse between them. And we leave our users feeling like we’ve either underdelivered or overpromised. His post explores how bridging the divide between product and marketing is essential to build great products.

Read: Suneet on how and why to build better cross team alignment.


Sandi MacPherson — Founder — An Anti-Influencer Marketing Strategy

anti-influencer-marketing-strategy-community

Sandi MacPherson is the founder of Quibb, a small community of experience product and tech people. In her mission to keep the content in the community extremely high quality, she coined an anti-influencer marketing approach that intentionally grew the site with only qualified contributors. In her post, she outlines different methods to keep product communities high value, high influence and not necessarily high volume.

Read: Sandi on how to build a product community.


Youngna Park — COO, Tinybop — How to Build a Product Teamhow-to-build-coach-a-product-team

Youngna Park is the COO of Tinybop, a company that builds educational, toy-like apps for children. Tinybop’s products are idiosyncratic and unlike anything else out there, which means their product team needs to be too. To help her product managers reach their full potential, Youngna and her team have developed a unique coaching strategy that helps address people’s management flatsides while nurturing their strengths. It’s helped solve some of their biggest scaling issues, and she tells us all about how it works here.

Read: Youngna on how to build a product team from the inside out.

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Hiten Shah — Founder — Mental Models Every PM Needsmental-models-every-PM-needs

Hiten Shah is a co-founder of several SaaS businesses including, Quick Sprout, Crazy Egg & Draftsend. His SaaS Weekly Product Habits newsletter aggregates the best articles on how to grow a successful software as a service company. Hiten highlights why a set of reliable mental models to call upon to make decisions is perhaps the most powerful thing product managers can do to improve their skills.

Read: Hiten on mental models every PM needs to make decisions.

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Chris Savage — CEO, Wistia — The Product Development Processproduct-development-process-climbing-mountains

Chris Savage is the CEO and co-founder of Wistia, a platform for business video. While revamping their product team to be more efficient at shipping, Chris happened upon a metaphor that fit perfectly the mood he wanted to set for his company: Ed Viesturs, the first American to summit all fourteen of the world’s tallest peaks. In his piece, Chris sets forth his theory of why product teams should operate like mountaineering expeditions, and how he made that work at Wistia.

Read: Chris on his team’s new product development process and how it mimics a mountain-climbing team.

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Jennelle Nystrom — PM, Farmstead — Test-Driven Product Strategytest-driven-product-strategy

Jennelle Nystrom is Farmstead’s first product manager. There have been other farm-to-fridge delivery services, especially in the Bay Area. Where Farmstead sets itself apart is in their testing-first approach to all business and product questions. In this post, Jennelle describes how Farmstead’s unique product has demanded that every aspect of growth be informed by experimentation.

Read: Jennelle on test-driven product development.

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