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Build the right thing

Intercom co-founder Des Traynor explains how to “build the right thing” and scale strategically with principles, values, and mission.

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Build the right thing

  1. 1. Build the right thing from @intercom@destraynor
  2. 2. “What’s the one thing?” “Your #1 tip?” “What would you say to…” “If there’s one lesson” “What can be learned from….” People often ask:
  3. 3. Find the right co-founders Pick a big important problem Understand the JTBD Build the cupcake solution Find your first users Iterate product from feedback Measure their engagement Iterate to increase engagementLaunch a good beta Remember to price it properly Design world class onboarding Market the Job the product does Launch Iterate your marketing Work your ass off to get customers Listen to them and learn Study their usage Interview them Release new features Get customers using them Kill your dead features Update your marketing Fix your onboarding Increase your prices Scale up your marketing team Blog about your product vision Have a strong vision Pick a good product name Know your real competitors Grow an audience Understand your competition Build a great support team Never give up But there is no #1 top tip
  4. 4. So how do you build the right thing?
  5. 5. Know your strategy
  6. 6. STRATEGY What should you build? Growth and maintenance Keep everything aligned Why this matters
  7. 7. “Can’t we skip all this strategy fluff and get back to building great product?”
  8. 8. This is a product team without a clear strategy
  9. 9. This is the same team with a clear strategy
  10. 10. But this is only one piece of the puzzle
  11. 11. All your teams need to be aligned around what you’re doing Product Marketing Customers Brand
  12. 12. Every decision you have to make highlights a missing principle
  13. 13. Should we build a Marketo integration? Our biggest customer
 wants us to roll out custom permissions, should we? Customers keep asking for this, should we build it? Someone is using our product in a weird way, should we support that? Our competitor already has this, should we add it? Only 2 users need this, but it’s easy to build, should we? DECISIONS
  14. 14. Frequent Generalizable Decisions are either generalizable or not, and either frequent or not. You want your principles to be commonly used and valuable, so they should be top right. This is where principles make sense.
  15. 15. Frequent Generalizable “What’s our stance on integrations?” “Should we build a FogBugz integration?” “Should we build a Jira integration?” “Should we build a Trello integration?” “Should we build an Asana integration?” Find the general principle Cluster by similarity
  16. 16. STRATEGY What should you build? Growth and maintenance Keep everything aligned Why this matters
  17. 17. Before you get started, ask yourself…
  18. 18. Text here Viability Feasibility Desirability
  19. 19. Big Rare Small Frequent ✓ ✓ ✓ ✕ ✓ You have to solve a big, frequent problem
  20. 20. High Value Per Account Low/No Touch Onboarding Low Value Per Account High Touch Onboarding ✓ ✕ ✓ ✓ What does it take for someone to use your product?
  21. 21. Problem: “I need to grow my business” Grow an audience Getthem 
 to yoursite Send outbound
 m essages Qualifythem Create opportunity Schedule dem os Negotiate deals Start conversations Solution: “Net New ARR up 10%”
  22. 22. 1.Find the first step in the user workflow where your product can add new value. How can you make it faster, easier, cheaper or more accessible? 2.Plan how to transition from the previous step, seamlessly. Minimize the “tool time” of the user. Where should you start?
  23. 23. 1. If the next step is done by a market leader that you don’t intend to fight. e.g. Amazon, Salesforce, etc. 2. If the next step is completed in many different ways. e.g. transferring money, creating a report, invoice, etc 3. If it’s something you just can’t innovate on. e.g.“They always phone their customer here and do the rest over the phone.” Where should you stop?
  24. 24. Run Ad Campaigns Purchase lists Sponsor events Research
 Leads Publish content Send emails Plan Follow ups Retarget
 Leads Negotiate Pricing Create 
 Prospect Mark as 
 Closed Won Assign to 
 Customer Success Start Conversation Qualify Lead Create Lead Schedule a demo It’s easy to think that you need to build all of this…
  25. 25. Run Ad Campaigns Purchase lists Sponsor events Research
 Leads Publish content Send emails Plan Follow ups Retarget
 Leads AUDIENCE BUILDING OUTBOUND MARKETING Negotiate Pricing Create 
 Prospect Mark as 
 Closed Won Assign to 
 Customer Success CRM Start Conversation Qualify Lead Create Lead CAPTURE AND CONVERT Schedule a demo …but among all these features, there’s a few products.
  26. 26. How can we make this as easy as possible? Create 
 Prospect How can we
 remove work here? Start Conversation Qualify Lead Create Lead CAPTURE AND CONVERT Schedule a demo So you pick the product that you can add the most value to:
  27. 27. The Scopi-locks principle for Product Strategy Just rightNot too big Not too small or no one can adopt it you’ll be dismissed as a feature, not a product small enough to adopt, big enough to matter
  28. 28. cake base filling icing cupcake cake wedding cake versus When you’re building your product, start with a cupcake.
  29. 29. 1. Build products that are feasible, viable and desirable. 2. Don’t solve small, rare problems. 3. Start and stop your products at good points in the user journey. 4. Your initial release shouldn’t be too big, nor too small. 5. Think cupcakes, not wedding cakes. To recap on what you build
  30. 30. STRATEGY What should you build? Growth and maintenance Keep everything aligned Why this matters
  31. 31. Great products fight for a mission Increase the GDP of the internet Be the place where work happens Make internet business personal Transportation as reliable as water Email designed for work The heartbeat 
 of the planet
  32. 32. Great products represents a set of unique opinions and values Design for both sides 
 of the conversation Integrate with all top tier MarTech stacks Selling never stops - works on mobile Always show the people The right messages to the right people at the right time Single platform for 
 all conversations
  33. 33. Marketing Sales "The right messages to the right people at the right time.” “The easiest way 
 to write sales emails.” “The fastest way 
 to import an email list and 
 start a campaign.” Bad things happen when key functions sell fundamentally different things Product
  34. 34. Marketing Sales "The right messages to the right people at the right time.” “The easiest way 
 to write sales emails.” “The fastest way 
 to import an email list and 
 start a campaign.” Bad things happen when key functions iterate independently “The best targeted messages
 by channel” “The largest selection of email templates and pre-canned content” “The highest deliverability rates for the lowest prices” Product
  35. 35. Misaligned product team Misaligned marketing Misaligned sales teams If a function doesn’t do its job, someone else has to • builds messy product that’s impossible to market • builds features that work against brand • ignores boring iteration for fun innovation • runs campaigns for a fictional product • runs vague campaigns, leaving Sales to explain it • builds audiences that don’t need the product • makes promises not delivered in product • sells messy use cases
  36. 36. what youBuild Sell
  37. 37. what you BuildSell
  38. 38. 1. You need a unique vision and set of values. 2. Product, Sales and Marketing must be aligned around the same message. 3. Independent iteration is dangerous. 4. Ensure Product builds what you sell and Sales sells what you build. To recap on alignment
  39. 39. STRATEGY What should you build? Growth and maintenance Keep everything aligned Why this matters
  40. 40. What got you here won’t get you there.
  41. 41. Early product companies work off intuition, inspiration, gut, feel, etc. This doesn’t scale.
  42. 42. Even if it did scale, it’s not a good idea.
  43. 43. Roadmap Current customers Product 
 iterations Voice of sales Competitive landscape Churn 
 reports Product 
 health New ideas
  44. 44. Current customers Product 
 iterations Voice of sales Competitive landscape Churn 
 reports Product 
 health New ideas How you allocate your time here is crucial
  45. 45. Current customers Product 
 iterations Voice of sales Competitive landscape Churn 
 reports Product 
 health New ideas Some will flare up, some you have to earn
  46. 46. They will require different modes of work Addressing problemsIterations & new ideas Speculative Open ended Failure is acceptable Opportunity to differentiate Well understood outcome KPI driven Failure rarely acceptable Follow best practices
  47. 47. Every piece of product work needs a revenue hypothesis This work will… Help Sales close more deals Help us sell at higher prices Decrease customer churn Improve our site conversion rate Give us a unique position in market Decrease costs to serve our customers
  48. 48. Adding features just to close deals is easy. It leads to consulting-ware long term.
  49. 49. Feature Feature Feature Feature Feature Feature %ofcustomersthatuseit Most products have a few important features…
  50. 50. Feature Feature Feature Feature Feature Feature %ofcustomersthatuseit Feature Feature Feature Feature Feature Feature “Just this once” “Look at the ARR tho!” “Said they’ll quit” …but adding features that are only used by a few customers is how your product becomes a bloated mess.
  51. 51. This isn’t some product purist bullsh*t. 
 You pay for that complexity in Marketing, Support, Success, etc.
  52. 52. Maintaining all of this code is a nightmare.
  53. 53. None of this will protect you from competition
  54. 54. In SaaS every feature you work on either:
 a) fails to get adopted by customers b) gets copied (aka becomes best practice)
  55. 55. Delighted Customer Small Investment Disgusted Customer Large Investment Everything becomes table stakes over time At first they’re delightful… …then they’re performant… …then they’re a must-have.
  56. 56. Economies of scale - accept a tiny margin for a massive volume Network effects - ensure your product improves the more it’s adopted IP/Patents trade secrets - make it illegal to copy you High switching costs - make it simply too much work to leave Customer loyalty - make it so no one ever wants to leave The old moats
  57. 57. A platform - make it the norm for businesses to build on top of you A community - you can’t ⌘C⌘V a community around shared ideas A brand - a crisp identity that’s relevant and resonant with your customer The new moats
  58. 58. A platform
  59. 59. A community
  60. 60. A brand
  61. 61. 1. You have to make room for lots of inputs into your roadmap. 2. How you weight each of those inputs is a massive decision. 3. Your product team should tailor its processes to match its problems. 4. All product work should have a revenue hypothesis. 5. Be wary of adding incremental features based on anecdotes, they cost you. 6. None of this prevents you from being copied, so decide what’s in your moat. To recap on growing and maintaining your product
  62. 62. Get everyone aligned around the mission and the strategy, and the decisions all take care of themselves.
  63. 63. Capture more leads and close more deals More than live chat. Use bots and messenger apps to capture more leads, and automatically qualify and schedule sales meetings with the best ones. Capture and convert leads Powered by 💬 Inbox + 🛧 Messages Check out our capture and convert use case →
  64. 64. Turn more signups into active, valuable customers Send targeted messages to onboard new users, increase engagement, announce new features and more. Onboard and engage customers Powered by 🛧 Messages Check out our onboard and engage use case →
  65. 65. Show customers that you care. Transform your customer support. Use email and messaging to get quicker responses, faster resolutions and more satisfied customers. Support and retain customers Powered by 💬 Inbox + 📖 Articles Check out our support and retain use case →
  66. 66. Thanks des@intercom.com from @intercom@destraynor

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