The skeptic, customer, and fan
Issue 101: The three perspectives to keep in mind in product development
In the previous two places I’ve worked, being a customer was an important part of the job. Though I agree with, “You are not your customer," it's also important to emulate them in order to think critically about the customer experience. The two places I've worked recently, I was also an active customer and user of the product. I remember when we interviewed our VP of Product at One Medical (the person who would become my manager), he signed up, booked an appointment, and went through the entire experience BEFORE he got the job. This is a great example of what I mean by embodying the customer. That said, you can only be a customer and never the customer. I’ll give you a simple framework to think about customer perspectives: skeptic, customer, and fan.
Optimism is something you need and too much of it can be a bad thing. If you’re too optimistic about you’re the product, it can detract you from listening to critical feedback. Enter, the skeptic. The skeptic isn’t sold on the product you’re selling to them. In issue 79, I wrote about hating it ‘til it works. This applies here. The skeptic is someone who isn’t bought in on your product, and you want to find out why.
What you can do: listen actively
It’s important not to get defensive. You’re here to listen and understand why they are skeptical. Perhaps they have validity to their skepticism, and that can help you improve a product. It’s also possible your product is not optimal for what they need. Back in my days as a marketer I spent a lot of time monitoring channels to get a sense of engagement and feedback. To this day, I continue setting up dashboards to monitor on social key words to see what people are saying. Don’t know where to start? Go on Twitter and search for, “[your product name] + “sucks”] and see what you get back.
You may not win over all skeptics and need to curate the feedback. However, skeptics might teach you a thing or two a about how you position your product or evolve it.
This one specifically is about the neutral customers because skeptics and fans can also be customers. You’ve won them over, and now you wan to maintain the relationship over time. The steady customer might be someone who continues to renew their subscription but haven’t become fans or promoters of your product. It could be “meh” or “good enough”.
What you can do: learn if they’re getting value
Every week, I go through our product's onboarding flow to remind myself what the experience is like for someone brand new. It's like re-watching your favorite movie over and over again. If you're attentive, you'll pick up on something new and see a different lens to it. In addition to first impressions, the general check in helps you get a sense of how things are going. What is your customer 30/60/90 day plan look like? Someone renewing their subscription is not a definite signal of happiness. Understand what you can improve to help them maximize the value of their product. The hope is many of your customers will become fans and active promoters. However, not everyone is going to be a super fan, and that’s okay. “It just works” might be good enough for some, but you want to make sure they’re getting value out of it.
These are the folks who are active contributors in your community. When I think of a fan base, comic books is a medium that comes to mind first. Whether or not you experience comic book stories, you likely are aware of Marvel movies. The Disney-owned film series has crossed over $27 billion all-time in the box office and has no sign of stopping. Much of the credit has been pointed to Kevin Feige, long-time producer and now Chief Creative Officer for Marvel. Many other film studios have tried emulating their secret sauce of shared cinematic universes but have not hit the same box office success or critical acclaim. The secret? Feige is a fan. Before he became the exec, he was a fan of the stories and content his entire life. You can tell when someone building a product is also a fan of it. There is a special reverence and care that can’t be reproduced.
There have been moments when the world melts away and I'm sitting in front of my purple iMac, playing around with Webflow. As much as I put my skeptic and neutral customer hat on, I have this moments where I feel, "Wow, using this product is is so much fun!"
I believe "Product Me Fit" is important. You have to love the product you’re working on.
What you can do: Use the product, and use it like a fan
Use the product deeply. I don't mean manual testing it in QA, use it like a customer. One of of the main reasons I created the 000 Series zine was to build an e-commerce site in Webflow. I try attending as many community events, taking my employee hat off and be a user of our own product.
Throughout the various phases of your work, keep the three lenses in mind:
What are the perceptions that we can win the skeptics over? How might we win them over through their own self-realization?
What are ways we can make a great first impression on new customers to set them up for success and grow?
How do we ensure super fans and long-time customers are continually delighted?
P.S. I’m on vacation! In case you follow me on Twitter, I'm in Hawaii for a one-week vacation! I can assure you I am on the beach somewhere, snorkeling, hoping to hang out with some seals. I scheduled this week's newsletter and next week's and committed to enjoying my vacation