How Productboard prioritizes their backlog and defines a retention-driving product strategy
Founder and CEO
Today on the show we have Hubert Palan, Founder and CEO of Productboard.
In this episode, Hubert shares his experience as an early hire at GoodData through their rapid expansion and how it ultimately led him to discover the pain that Productboard now solves.
We then ran through how Productboard prioritizes their product backlog and defines their product strategy. Why understanding your ideal customer profile is critical in building a retention-driving product and we wrapped up by discussing how layering on a services component can have a big impact on customer churn for your enterprise customers.
[00:01:30] Andrew Michael: Hey Hubert, welcome to the show. Everybody great to be here. It's great to have you. For the listeners, Hubert is the founder and CEO of Product Board, the leading customer-centric product management platform, helping product teams to deliver the right products to market.
Foster Hubert started his career as an IT consultant, providing services to Hewlett, Packard, Ores, and others. He then moved on to Accenture before making a move into product management at Burst. Prior to finding product board, Hubert was the VP of product management, [00:02:00] uh, where he joined as the sixth team member and saw the company grow to over 300.
Uh, Hubert is also the, a startup mentor advisor, and angel investor. So my first question for you is, how important do you think your move to San Francisco was for the trajectory of your career?
[00:02:18] Hubert Palan: Right. Um, again, thanks to having me. I, you know, I believe that the core of being. Great product manager and entrepreneur more broadly is to understand really well your customers.
And, uh, it just happened that. Here in, in the Bay Area, it's still the world's mecca of product management. And, you know, if, if my customers here with product board are, are, uh, highly concentrated in this area, it just made a lot of, lot of sense for me to be here and get to know them really intimately. And, um, And that's why to move, you know, I got here to get my MBA at Berkeley and then stayed [00:03:00] because I felt like I am learning the, the, the fastest, you know, by, by being here.
Um, So, I mean, yeah, that's a short answer to your
[00:03:09] Andrew Michael: question. Yeah, I love that answer. It's, it's critical. It makes a lot of sense that all like really being surrounded by your customers and uh, definitely obviously SF being the mecca, I think, uh, when it comes to, especially like startups and sauce as well.
[00:03:25] Hubert Palan: Yeah, and I'd say, you know, it's, it's obviously like we are in a distributed world these days and a lot of people are remote and you can reach people easily. There's still a difference if you meet somebody for coffee and you build a stronger personal relationship because I mean, we are human fundamentally, and.
You know, if you have a deeper relationship, then you can follow up and, you know, you, you, you become closer friends and people get back to you and maybe they tell you things that they, they wouldn't tell you over Zoom. So I, you know, again, obviously the, the, ideally you are close to people in person.
That's not always the [00:04:00] reality. Yeah. Encourage people to spend more time in person.
[00:04:04] Andrew Michael: It's weird that you said that because I do see that sort of, that interaction happening with people outside of your team members. So went to an event last week, like the organic conversations that come up and uh, sort of the, the things you end up sharing.
I do see those or previously like working at Hot Jo, working in a remote environment, that's if you're working for a remote company and they're actually preferred, prefer to use the term distributed cuz remote has a bad connotation if it's built from the core and from like with remote and distributed workforce in mind, you actually generate and.
Really, really strong relationships I found like coming from an office environment, moving to remotes at hotshot, built deeper relationships with some of my colleagues just because they'd facilitated it so well. And I think these sort of things that you talk about, the vulnerability, uh, you can become a little bit more vulnerable when everybody has that mindset.
So I think the serendipitous like that you meet and walking people and catching San Francisco that you can't take away [00:05:00] from anything in the world, I think that's unbelievable. But also do think. When a remote structured world, you can facilitate these relationships and bonds and
[00:05:09] Hubert Palan: Yeah. Yeah. I, I mean, you know, uh, it obviously the worst thing is you just behave the same like you behave, uh, in the real world, but you just do it over zoom, right?
Because like, you need to adjust to your point, right? You need to understand where the strength and weaknesses and, and then you need to somehow engineer a little bit the things that inevitably happen in the real, real life. Yeah. Uh, they just don't happen
[00:05:32] Andrew Michael: that natural. No, for sure. I mean, hot. I had a big, big ops team that was just really there to engineer certain behaviors and try and facilitate this.
See? There you go. There you go. There you go. Exactly. Cool. So, um, I'm interested as well, a little bit about the, the career as well previously as well. I was, I chatted a little bit to, um, the Good data CEO as well, and, uh, we had a chat about sort of, um, data [00:06:00] itself and how it was moving and evolving and I think you spend quite a bit of time there as a VP of product.
Maybe you could just talk a little bit about your role at Good Data and, um, what you saw over those few years while you.
[00:06:13] Hubert Palan: Yeah, I, I grew, you know, I, I joined, uh, post mba, uh, and after a couple failed startup experiences in and good data, and spent almost four years there and grew from, um, like a product manager to VP product.
So it was a wild ride and, um, it's, it's. That, that, that business was business intelligence. And business intelligence is very complex system. It's a very complex value chain and, and it has a lot of steps. And so, um, you know, the complexity is actually what led to me leaving and starting my own company because, uh, there was just like a lot of, a lot of different customer segments with a lot of different needs and constant.
Constant struggle to decide what should be the [00:07:00] priority and you know, what to focus on and, and, um, how to differentiate against competition. And so, so in some sense I, you know, I'm grateful for having that experience because that sparked my desire to, to create a product that would help fundamentally with product management and that would increase clarity.
For the entire, you know, engineering, design, product, organization, the, the, the entire r and d is like, who are we building for? What are the, what are the needs? What are the jobs to be done? You know, what are the use cases, whatever you wanna call it, that, uh, that we wanna satisfy. And, um, and I've seen that you, it was and recent hundred and recent Harvard funded startup and raised a lot of money and, you know, scaled quickly.
And in that environment, the challenges are exacerbated, right? Because like you have a lot of new people who are quickly out on board and they don't have the depth of the customer understanding and market understanding necessarily. Yet you need to figure out to align everybody and how to make sure that they're, they're building the right things and working on the right [00:08:00] problems.
Um, so in that sense, you know, it was instrumental to my, to my preneur career. Like, Hey, there's a lot of pain. Let's, let's solve it. Let's fix it.
[00:08:09] Andrew Michael: Yeah. And I'm glad you brought that up. Cause I think it's always interesting the, the origin stories and, uh, through the show you typically sort of see like it was some sort of painful experience from a previous startup that led to, to this insight.
Was there any particular moment at Good Data when you just said, Oh, this is enough. Like I, I cannot do this anymore. I need to go out and build a product board?
[00:08:32] Hubert Palan: Yeah. I, it, i, it, it was a little bit what I already mentioned, the, the, the struggle to pick. The focus and stick to it, um, for long enough to actually make a difference.
And especially, you know, in these markets where you have just a lot of complexity and a lot of opportunity, frankly, you know, like there was, there was, there was a lot of old school bi companies, you know, the, the kind of IBM cos of the world [00:09:00] and you know, kind of think or right. Like, you know, old, old players.
So there's a lot of opportunity for disruption and innovation. Which, which makes it hard because, uh, it's easier to make decisions and stay focused if you have strong constraints. But if you have kind of, you know, so much opportunity, like, okay, which, which, which way to go, which segment to satisfy, right?
Like, do you want to go and build bottoms up self-service product or do you wanna go and solve, uh, needs of large enterprise organizations? Yeah. Do you wanna focus on specific, you know, market? Do you wanna do, which, like part of the whole data bi value chain, you wanna satisfy. . And so the constant struggle to focus the company and decide this is what we're gonna stick to it, uh, for, you know, two, three quarters at least, as opposed to changing the focus every couple months, uh, that led to that.
Like, hey, um, we need a system that's gonna, that's gonna make it clear how the market is segmented and how the different customer segments. [00:10:00] Different needs, how they differ, you know, that it's not a homogeneous problem, that it's not a homogeneous market. And hopefully creating that visibility and shared understanding is gonna help the entire cus uh, company to, to focus and pick.
It's like, hey, we understand that there's a lot of jobs and needs to solve. We understand that there's a lot of customer segments, but let it's, let's put it all on the board and decide, you know, where we're playing and we're not playing, and how we're strategically gonna get to that long term vision. As opposed to kind of building a little piece, you know, uh, all over the place.
So it's, it's, it is like, think of it as if, if Salesforce decided to build a little bit of the cloud at the same time as opposed to first making sure that you're really entrenched and well, you know, established in the sales cloud before you go to marketing and before you go to services and, you know, Yeah.
[00:10:48] Andrew Michael: Um, so I'm interested in this and so this obviously is what you said led to what product board is, uh, today and helping you get focus, helping the team to understand which there is to focus. I think. [00:11:00] The product itself that you're building has that same similar challenge and problem in the sense that there's many, many different directions and in product there's a lot of different problems that you can be solving at any given time.
And being able to pick and choose which one you go about, uh, can also be, uh, the same sort of chicken and egg scenario. So, How did you go about doing this in the Be now? How did you decide on what was going to be the MVP of product board and uh, how did you get the team aligned behind that? And have you slowly over time been, uh, picking the different areas that you want to take off from there?
[00:11:34] Hubert Palan: yeah, yeah. You know, it's, uh, it's a good question and it's, uh, it's hard because, because you are, like, at the beginning, you don't have the understanding that you have in the hindsight, right? Like, now, if I look back, I can kind of trace the, the understanding of the market and how people differ and I'll talk more about it.
But at the beginning, you don't know, right? At the beginning you're kind of like, Darwin who's trying to describe the whole, uh, structure of, [00:12:00] of, uh, all the, uh, living beings on the planet. But you don't know that there's gonna be, um, you know, the, the, the tigers and different kind of tigers and there's gonna be apes and you don't know that there's gonna be like the whole trees of life, right?
Like you, you discovered that as you start observing and it was like, Oh, these two are similar, so let's put them in the same category. And it's kind of the same happening when you're doing discovery and, Sorry, 40, 40. Analogy. It's not, it's not perfect. But what I'm trying to say is that, you know, when we started, uh, you know, we, I basically started building product for myself and I, and I thought like, Hey, let's build a product.
It's gonna be really well. Um, structured for the needs of a product manager that is at a B2B digital first company with relatively simple product portfolio, uh, you know, uh, company that has product management mindset and customer centric mindset. You know, product, product where, um, you have like reasonable amount of team.
It's not like, you know, [00:13:00] hundreds of product teams, like large company and so on. and, and start with satisfying the needs of just like one product team, individual product manager on the product team. And then later on we expanded. Like later on we said like, okay, you know, how, how is the product gonna look like if you now have multiple product teams collaborating together and how is it gonna look like if you have a company that is maybe.
Um, you know, has deeper layers. You know, now suddenly you have directors and you have VPs, right? And functionality you need to build there and so on. How, how is it gonna look like for companies that are not digital first companies, but digital transformation companies, like what needs to happen differently?
And so that, that, that's kind of, you know, when, when you talk about segmentations and, and frequently when people think about, Oh yeah, so like, where do you start? Where do you go next? People imagine demographic segments, but. Dimensions that are behavioral, that are not necessarily just like small company or like small, large or, you know, company in one industry versus another.
It's like how sophisticated you are in the product management. Like what I, what I just said, You know, like how complex is [00:14:00] your product portfolio? It's, it's, it's, it's it's attributes that are not necessarily something that you get from an industry database, but it's critical to understand what, what are needs of the people.
And then, you know, fundamentally to your question, how you said, like, how, what's the. And uh, and you kind of alluded to the product management being a complex space, right? And there's a lot of use cases and so on. I looked at what are the underlying core entities that are, that, are there always like undisputed because, you know, maybe I should, uh, backtrack a little bit.
What, what was behind this idea of building product board was that if you look at what product management is about, product management is about who is your customer, What are their pain points? , and then what are you gonna do about it? Like what products features are you gonna build? And somehow, if you look at the, the pre-product board world, if you look at the tools that are great tools like Jira, right?
Or if you look at, uh, GitHubs and you know, all, all the tools that we use for software delivery. [00:15:00] The core entities of customer center pain points don't exist in these systems. And that was the realization, like, that's crazy. Nobody argues that you need to understand customers and really understand who they are and what their needs are.
You know, and I learned this really well from Steve Blank, who was my professor at, at Berkeley, and I took his, his class, um, and kind of got, you know, really, really pulled into the whole lean startup world and so on. Um, so nobody argues with that, but the customer data and the understanding of what people need doesn't exist in the systems that the product teams or, you know, engineering teams, designs, design, uh, teams, uh, use and build.
And so, The, while there's differences, how different companies of different stages in sophistication do product management, the underlying core, you know, data model or the entities that you work with are always the same. It is the customer, It is the pain points. It is like, you know, feature functionality and then surrounding it is a layer of goals, objectives, [00:16:00] OKRs, like, you know, something that helps you narrow down to.
And so I said, Let's build a system that's gonna have these in in them, and that's gonna have workflows that can be customizable, that can be tweaked, and you can configure it in in different ways. But fundamentally, nobody, uh, is gonna argue that like, Oh, you know, I don't need to know who the customer is, or I don't need to know, you know, what objective or what, what kind of my prioritization lenses.
And that really helped in building a product that can be customized, but like fundamentally. Uh, or serves needs of variety of product managers and product management.
[00:16:35] Andrew Michael: Yeah. Cause I think it is sort of a big challenge that you mentioned a little bit, alluded to a little bit earlier, is that specifically in companies that grow rapidly, it's not always easy as well to trace back to decisions that have been made.
Like just taking a look at a, a Jira ticket of a task that's there. Like there's no sort of clarity in terms of why. That was actually shipped to begin with and why people decided to do that. And, um, having the data like combined with the [00:17:00] action, the out, uh, the outcome, uh, really helps as well, like onboard new team members and give context to others.
And I, I think it definitely also empowers the team as well that are actually building, uh, the certain features and functionality. So, okay, we're building X and this is y And it's not just like a feature request that's come from the ceo, it's. From the voice of our customer, this is what they're telling us.
Like, um, allows you to empathize a lot better. So I definitely see huge, huge value in that. And, and,
[00:17:27] Hubert Palan: and you need to have like, really the clarity around like who is the, who is the profile or the ideal customer that you're building for at every point in time is, is critical. Yeah. Assuming again that you're in a market where you can expand into adjacent use cases and you can go broader and you know, deeper and so on.
Like there's always more to build and you just need to be very intentional. And a lot of companies make the mistake where they confuse the long term product vision with the immediate, you know, strategic or even technical next step. [00:18:00] Yeah. And so, you know, I mean, speaking of churn, right? Like if you build a product that's too shallow and doesn't get done anything well, Y you know, it's, it's just not, it's not gonna be sticky, right?
People are like, Oh, yeah, I kind of get it. I wish you know it, it could do all these other things or like things better, but until it does it, I I can't use it, then I'm gonna churn.
[00:18:22] Andrew Michael: So I think that's also the Steve Blank minimum viable product side of things is like, I think that maybe has shifted and changed a little bit over time in terms of like the minimum lovable product at this stage.
Like where there's so much competition and you need to get something in the market. But I'm interested, like you mentioned ICP and you described a little bit about like. You were building for yourself, essentially you were building for like humid at good data and you had that vision in mind in terms of like who this product was for.
You understood the pain and the problem quite well, uh, but building the product, you must have seen like other tangential use cases going, uh, throughout and [00:19:00] you must have seen opportunities in other areas and things like that, and. How did you balance, uh, this like, how, not even balance it, but just how did you maintain that strict focus all along, um, through your ICP without, with the organization where perhaps there may even been at times, and I'm, you can tell me if I'm wrong or wrong on this, but maybe a big opportunity maybe lies in some other space and you could have gone after it, but you stuck to it and you said, Okay, like this is the space.
I know this is the problem. I know Well, and it's built for this first and then move up.
[00:19:31] Hubert Palan: Yeah, I, I, I think it comes down to the discipline. Being open minded and listen and, and having like in your head, or even visualized, right, Like, Hey, here are different customer segments. They have different needs. And Yeah, the needs of modern PM at a B2B SaaS company are different from large digital transformation company like Volkswagen.
You know, building innovation within a, you know, a hundred year olds, year old industry, whatever. And. So [00:20:00] understanding that there's a difference and then being specific about that. So, so that's what we did. You know, we said like, Hey, okay, there's, there's a, there's a request or there's a pain point that we uncovered.
And I, you know, we did early on, we did a lot of interviews. We talked to it, it wasn't, you know, I wasn't building it for myself. Oblivious to Yep. Like the broader market understanding we. Over thousand user interviews like every day as as founders, like we talk to product managers, small and large companies and just, you know, formulate the understanding of the market.
And then we said, Hey, this is where we're gonna start. And obviously we're gonna start with the smallest segment that has the highest point. Or maybe, I dunno if obviously, but you know, that's, that's kind of, I believe it is the best practice started as smallest segment with the highest pain point where you have the likelihood of, you know, solving that and converting, assuming or validating that that segment.
Can grow going forward. Right. That it's not kind of like a dead end, you're satisfied and that, Oh, oh, sorry. It's too small of a market and you know, this is not real business. It's more like a little feature and like, [00:21:00] you're, you're done, you know what's next. Yeah. So assuming that's not the case, like start there and then, and then, uh, and then grow from there.
So that was that, that, that thinking was, uh,
[00:21:13] Andrew Michael: was grande. Yeah. And obviously I think definitely like you say, Doing a lot of upfront research to begin with, gave you a good insight in terms of the direction of the markets and validation. So I didn't wanna like point out that maybe you didn't do any of that.
Cuz I think on the show it's a given, like the guests, I'm pretty sure that to get to where you are, you spent a lot of time. A lot of groundwork even before you started building the product, trying to learn the pain points, understand the problem. And it sounds like you did a lot of work though on defining the icp, but then also sort of perhaps maybe what your anti personas were as well.
Was this a concept that you used the product board and, uh, understood or was just sort of always, okay, this is the icp. You never had this idea of like, this is who we don't build for, this is our NT persona. [00:22:00]
[00:22:00] Hubert Palan: We don't have, So I, I think that. To be honest, early on we didn't have like a super clearly defined like described.
Persona and the concept of icp and, and I like, you know, we had that understanding, but because the company was small. Yeah. And because you, you were, you know, in this relatively small group of people where you talked about it all the time, you had almost implicit understanding of we are building for.
Because you would discuss like, Hey, are we gonna build this or not? And then time you have the conversation, why you would say like, Oh, you know, this is for larger companies, or, you know, this is specific to b2c. And you know, we don't wanna do that quite yet. Like, you know, we don't wanna focus on B2B initially, and so on, so on.
And so that, that understanding is shared by the nature of the size of the team. Later on, like, you know, now that we are a 500% company, it's. Much more important to formalize it because the company is so big that if you don't put it on paper, if you don't have the conversation, and we're actually going now through an exercise where, [00:23:00] you know, we're making sure that everybody's aligned, go to market engineering, product design across the entire company on the I customer profile, and we're very prescriptive or, you know, descriptive specific Yep.
About the dimensions and what they are and, and make sure that everybody understands it the same way. We, we, we. And so right now, when I wrote, uh, a couple months ago, I was working on like three year product vision, and I wrote specifically there like what is in scope and what is out of scope. It's like, this is what we're gonna do and what we, what are we not gonna do?
To, to help create clarity, to help convey the context to, to, to be specific. Um, and the way we did it is that, you know, I wrote something thumbs down and we shared it with, uh, and like all the senior leaders and they, they ask questions and the questions that came back, you know, whenever my answer was like, Oh no, this is not quite part of the vision.
Or, you know, strategically, it's not gonna be in the next three years, it's gonna come later. We specifically spelled it out because I knew, Oh, the question came and like I learned in [00:24:00] business school. It's like, don't hesitate to ask question, because if you have that question, the chances are that there's many more people who have the same question.
Yeah. And so just like translate that and make sure that the alignment is, is, uh, you know, created across the entire
[00:24:12] Andrew Michael: org. That's important as you, as you definitely grow. We, we definitely saw that as well at hotshot, like as the company started to scale, uh, there were slightly different definitions throughout the organization, even though we some.
Thought we all knew what we were talking about. Uh, and really bringing that together was also like a good turning point where everyone was doing their own bits and pieces of research, uh, around the idea of custom profile. But having it centralized and having like a common understanding is, is very powerful.
Uh, all around. I listened to podcast last week or the week before. It was yourself and a couple of guys. I think it's, Is it from Index Ventures? Maybe? It was probably Kliner. Brookins. And I, I, yeah. Yeah, that's it. My board member from Kliner. Um, so I was listening to the show and I heard something very interesting and I wanted to ask, so they [00:25:00] mentioned, you mentioned one thing or someone mentioned that you had.
Also later, like a meter where you said like, the chances of success and the chances of failure and every day, like it would go up and down and it would be maybe at zero, like or minus 50 in the morning and a hundred or whatever it was in the evening. Um, Can you just describe as well what that was? And then I have two follow up questions on top of this.
[00:25:21] Hubert Palan: was, uh, I called it the founder's mood meter, and I was, I was just like, you hear about how, what a rollercoaster ride it is to be an early stage startup founder. Yeah. And so me just being analytical, I, I measured it and survey myself every day and then plot it in a spreadsheet. It was a rollercoaster ride.
It was like, you know, you would go from the high to low within a few hours because you would have a customer interview and the first one would go amazingly well. And people would be like, Oh my God, this is amazing. Like, I really need this product in which you guys are doing, that's like the best thing on earth.
And then, you know, an hour later you would've another customer in, or like, [00:26:00] um, research, you know, user, customer research, uh, whatever discovery call. and, and it would be the opposite. It was like, don't need this at all. And like, why are you wasting your time on this? And, you know, do something else. And some, you know, some people are very direct and , they tell you like wasting your life.
Um, and the important thing, um, then than I learned later is like, you actually need to start asking us to say what is different about the person who's telling you it's great versus the person that's telling you it. That's, that's basically the profile, right? It's like, what is it? Is it size of the custom, like obvious descriptors, right?
Is there something about them or is it something about the people? Are they more design thinking? Are they more modern? Are they more engineering background? Like what is it? Is there like some internal poli, like all these things, you know, behaviorally as well, and so that, that. That was kind of later on, like I started doing this just like , I don't know, kind of like a psychology or like, you know, um, um, like a therapy almost, you [00:27:00] know, thing.
Yeah. But then I turned it into, okay, why, like, why somebody is so negative about it. Somebody is so positive. And that created the understanding of what is the ideal customer segment to go after and what should be the right messaging, Right? Like, how to find these people. Yeah. That was, that was critical.
[00:27:16] Andrew Michael: Makes a lot of sense. And when you're doing the synthesis later, so. And I definitely like feel like as a founder, I feel that same sort of mood meter like working throughout the day where you like wake up in the world and you're so pumped. You just go to like open up your emails, fantastic, and then you get in just something else happens and everything's shut the bed and now you like, Shit, the world's on fire.
We need to fix things. In your journey so far with product board, what's been then, would you say, what was the highest on the meter that you ever got to and what was the lowest on the meter you ever got?
[00:27:51] Hubert Palan: It's been a, it's been a long time and you know, kind of the highest and lows change because the company's going through very different stages and different problems. Yeah. Um, the [00:28:00] heights are the highlights. You know, fundamentally, I'm still building this company because I want people, um, To create amazing products and spend their lives building products and experience experiences for others that are extraordinary.
And to your point, you know, it's not just functional, but it's delightful and it's, you know, as you said, lovable product. Right? It has both the aspects of utility as well as delight and, and so, If you translate that, the highest are when you see a customer, when customer tells you like, Oh my God, this is amazing product board.
We use it every day. It's so wonderful and it helped us make the right decisions. And our products and, and culture on the team is so much more transparent and you know, we're making the right decision. These are the highlights, successes. You know, when you celebrate with the teams, which is kind of like you.
During pandemic, I always, I always thought like we, the company has gone through so many great milestones, you know, amazing customers and, and announcements of, of funding [00:29:00] and um, you know, milestones of success. Yeah. And then, and then we couldn't be together and celebrate. And it's just like, that's one thing that you can't.
On Zoom, like you can't do the, like everybody in the room is like, Rah, yay. You know, it's amazing. High five and everybody, everybody feels like part of me. It's, it's not the same. And so that, that, that was a, that's been like a huge disappointment for me that we couldn't celebrate this. Um, Yeah. And then, and lo loza, you know, if customer.
You're like, Darn it, that's the opposite, right? Like, why they don't see it, they don't get it, but like, yeah, we have gaps. You know, maybe they have slightly different needs. And so it's just like, how do you turn it into, how do you turn it into, um, learning again, Like why is it right? Like what is it about them?
And then, yeah, maybe you fix it later. Maybe you decide like, actually it's not a fit. You know, that's not what we wanna do in the next couple of years.
[00:29:54] Andrew Michael: That fits customer as well. Yeah, definitely. The celebrations online, I think that's even one thing at Hot [00:30:00] Job. We, at some point they, we, they gave us a budget to go get noise makers.
So people went out and like bought different instruments and like horns and stuff. But no matter, like it's still like it's alive and it's just, it ends up being a very big noise on Zoom. It sounds like everything just gets blocked out, so. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Nice and. Yeah. So before the show, we, we said we're gonna talk a little bit about the, the macro trends and what's happening now, I think in us, but looks like we are running up on time as well.
So I wanna make sure I first get to ask you a couple of questions, ask every guest. Um, the first question I have for you is like, let's imagine a hypothetical scenario. Now you join a new, uh, startup. Turn attention that this company is not doing great at all, and the CEO comes to you and says, Hey, Hubbert, like we only need to turn things around.
We have 90 days to do it. You're in charge. What do you do? The catch is you're not gonna tell me. I'm gonna go look at the customer feedback and I'm going to speak to customers and try to understand what their pain points are and start there. [00:31:00] You're just gonna take a tactic that you've seen implemented either at your current company or the previous company that's worked and run with that blindly hoping it'll work at this new company.
What would you. And you can't run away either. You've taken the job
[00:31:15] Hubert Palan: No, no, no, no, no. I, I, you know, uh, I dunno how strict your criteria is. Like, don't talk to customers. You know, I, I, I just maybe side comment, going, going and talking to customers is the most precise. Uh, way. Right. It's the most precise signal.
Yeah. The problem is it's also the slowest because it takes time and you need to talk to enough of them to formulate a good enough understanding of the broader market segment. So I would do whatever I can, You know, when you say that the churn is, is high or attention low, it's like, is there a segment? Is there a sliver of the business that a is performing better than the.
Is there, is there, even if it's a small customer segment, Right? And go. And like, is there, do you have a, um, Raul from [00:32:00] Superhuman, the product market fit, right? Like, is there, is there, is there like a feature market? Is there, is there, is there a small customer segment where you have better shape of the business?
Higher conversion rates, lower retentions, and. , are you able to isolate it? Are you able, and you don't need to go talk to the customers, like look at the data, like look at the dimensions, like go and enrich the data based on whatever you know are the important attributes. Go to talk to your sales customer success.
Like, Hey, how would you say that these customers differentiate? Mm-hmm. . And then go when you identify that, if you don't have anything, that sucks. If you don't have anything that sucks because like you might really be in a situation where you bought, build a product that's really not great for anyone. And then you need to kind of stop what you're doing, pause, you know, and, and, um, and figure out whether you can discover a segment that, uh, would be worth building product four and like fundamentally restructure.
But if you have that, like focus on that segment and ask yourself, are there more people like that? And if there's enough of them, stop [00:33:00] serving the. Tighten qualification criteria. Like be much more specific about who you're gonna, uh, be serving stops trying to save the customers that don't fit that fire them.
You know, just like if they're a drain on your resources and they're asking expensive questions from support calories perspective, like, you know, don't do that. Yeah. And focus. And then that's what I would do.
[00:33:21] Andrew Michael: Nice. We've actually hosted Raul over run the show before. So there's an episode where we ran through this exact methodology and I think that the basic premise that I loved about that episode as well was that when you sort of have this product vision in mind and you have this specific use case, you believe you solve best, and your products are service, it's like, uh, asking how disappointed would you be if you could no longer use our product service?
And then what is the main value that you get from our product or service? And then, The, the, if the main value aligns with the main value you believe you deliver as a service, that's the feedback that you wanna spend the most time paying attention to. And more so those that give you a negative score in that space because they have the pain point of the problem that they're [00:34:00] looking for and, uh, that's what they want to.
So we'll definitely add them. The show notes if anybody wants to listen, was an excellent episode. I'd love chatting Tohu. Then last question then I'll ask every guest is, what's one thing that you know today about China attention that you wishing knew when you got started with your.
[00:34:19] Hubert Palan: Um, I'd say not everything is reduced to the product. And there's different aspects of why people especially, and it depends on people's business, but especially if you go upmarket to the enterprise world, um, there's a lot of things that people need help with on kind of process, best practices, you know, level with, uh, that, that you solve with services because, Even if your product is super easy to use and, and you know, it's, it's, it's um, like well designed, the organizational change management that needs to happen.
The fact that [00:35:00] people need to switch from one solution to another, like that isn't to be underestimated. And so to the extent you understand that aspect as, as a, you know, as an attribute of the customer profile and then how you bring that product to the market, I think is, is really important. Mm. Um, you know, and, and it, it means that you might need to staff professional services or customer success organization even though your product is great, right?
Yeah. If, if, if you are after that, uh, customer, uh, segment, and I, I'm just saying it because I've talked to a lot of product founders where it's like, Oh, just gonna build everything in the product, right? And we're never gonna hire any, like, support and sales and customer success people never happens. But it, it works for a specific segment, right?
Yeah, if you're gonna start selling hundred k arr, you know, million uh, ARR deals, like you're just, you can't do that without the human touch and the change management.
[00:35:59] Andrew Michael: It's [00:36:00] interesting you mentioned this, cause I was actually looking at product board's website as all head of this interview, and I noticed the professional services, almost like you're positioned as a product in a way.
Um, and, uh, can definitely see that now as well in terms of, it's almost like an additional lay of customer success, like ensuring that the companies get set up, but you've also position it as a product in its own right. Which, uh, to that level of hands on help that they do need. It is a product, What is a service, uh, it should be paid for, and, uh, adds a lot of value as well to organizations.
[00:36:30] Hubert Palan: and it's, and it's, you know, It's segmented again, right? Like if you're a company that's going through digital transformation and you look to us for best practices, then yeah, we're happy to help you. Right? We know how the best companies operate. Yeah. But if you don't need it, You know, if, if you're like a market obsessed person and you're just like, cutting edge, yeah.
We'll help you understand the product maybe, but you don't need expertise, product management consulting. Right?
[00:36:57] Andrew Michael: Absolutely. And Marty Kagans also has been a guest of the show, [00:37:00] so we'll definitely add that episode, uh, for the listeners, uh, great. But yeah, humid. It's been a pleasure chatting to you today and thank you so much, uh, for your time.
Is there any final thoughts that you wanna leave the listeners with? Any news you wanna share? Anything they should be up to, uh, speed with, with your work? Pick our product board
[00:37:16] Hubert Palan: if you wanna build customer-centric products. Uh, that for for sure. I wish everybody a lot of strength and resiliency as we are going through these crazy recession times.
It's not easy and everybody's evaluating budgets and, and people are really down to like just the core most important needs. But I would just tell everybody, take advantage. Because these are the times when people reveal the most, what really matters to them, because they're not gonna spend time with you if it's not really important in their business, right?
It's just like they have other things to, to worry about. So use that. Use that to your advantage, and, and don't be oblivious to the signal. You know, if, if, if people [00:38:00] are telling you that they, they don't need the, the product that you're offering to them, like they are ironically more truthful than they are during the best time, she was like, Oh yeah, sounds great.
And you know, yeah, we can like try it. Sounds awesome. And now people are like, No, no budget. Sorry. Absolutely not. Unless it's critical. Unless there's clear roi, which is like how it should be. Right? Like that's what you're always trying to get to. Yeah. But you know, the market's forcing you to make these hard decisions for yourself.
[00:38:30] Andrew Michael: No, it, it's a good forcing function, uh, I think for the market and, uh, for everybody to help build better products. Uh, it has place. Good luck. Good luck every. Yeah. Well, thanks so much for joining and, uh, wish you best of luck now going and navigating through this, uh, these turbulent times. Uh, thanks for joining.
Thank you. Good luck everybody.
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My name is Andrew Michael and I started CHURN.FM, as I was tired of hearing stories about some magical silver bullet that solved churn for company X.
In this podcast, you will hear from founders and subscription economy pros working in product, marketing, customer success, support, and operations roles across different stages of company growth, who are taking a systematic approach to increase retention and engagement within their organizations.