Transitioning to a subscription-based business

James Mayes


Co-founder and CEO


Mind The Product
James Mayes
James Mayes

Episode Summary

Today on the show we have James Mayes, CEO, and co-founder of Mind The Product.

In this episode, James shared a couple of lessons from his first failed startup and why he decided to join a growing startup after.

We then dove into how James and the team at Mind The Product pivoted the business to a subscription-based model during Covid, the research they conducted to identify what should be a part of the offering, and how they expanded the offering over time.

We finished off with James sharing about the acquisition by Pendo and what’s next for Mind The Product.

Mentioned Resources



Lessons from James’ first startup 00:03:00
Pivoting towards a subscription model 00:07:00
Research on identifying the subscription offering 00:13:00
The difference between audience and community 00:18:00
The Pendo acquisition of Mind The Product 00:22:00
What’s next for Mind The Product 00:24:00


Hey, James, welcome to the show. Thanks. Good to be here. It's great to have you for the listeners, James, the CEO and co-founder of mind the product, which was recently acquired by Pendo mind. The product is one of the world's largest product communities with meetups training conferences, all over the world.

And James also previously co-founded three jobs providing consultants and performance channels for crippling agencies and corporate clients. So my first question for you, James today is actually what happened to teach us. Tweet jobs was the result of me spending 15 or so years in the recruitment industry needing to get out of that, [00:02:00] wanting to go and play with this new technology world and particularly social media.

So this was 2008, 2009, and I ran smack into getting a startup up and running and then realizing just exactly how much I didn't know. So at about 18 months that fell apart completely. Um, and it left me with. Two challenges that I wanted to answer for myself. One is go work for a slightly more advanced startup.

It's achieved a few more things and actually understand what goes on inside one. Um, and secondly, there's this thing, apparently at the heart of a really successful startup called good product management. I had none of that and I really needed to learn. So that led me to finding the product and community, uh, which was at that point.

So in its early days, um, founded by a Janice Simon. And RCN the agenda as well. Again, thanks for the recommendation for today's episode. Jenna was a previous guest on the show and actually one of the episodes still one of my top, I would say five episodes. I think the lessons and learnings in that episode around onboarding and activation, whether it be fantastic, we'll definitely have that in the show notes and recommended listen, uh, to anyone listening to today.

But, [00:03:00] um, yes. This is going to treat jobs a little bit, because I think this is like, for myself resonates a lot as well. You get started, uh, with the new company, like you're fresh, you don't know a, like, what would you say was like one of the one or two learnings, like top two learnings that you got out of that experience?

Because I think obviously that led to the success that you have today, but, uh, what are the painful mistakes that you felt you made there? So I think between jobs, there were two big examples that stand out. Firstly, we raised the wrong money from the wrong investors to start off with. Um, we had a couple of angels who were happy to get on board early.

Um, but they didn't really add anything other than the money. And we could have done with an awful lot more support in terms of what we didn't know. Uh, so I think probably raising money for the right. It's a really key lesson that we picked up there. The second is that we then having managed to raise a bit of angel money, run headlong into building some products.

We should have spent another three months, at least doing some actual, some customer discovery, really working closely with people in our target industry, with the problem that we thought we were addressing and understand that. And a lot more detail than we really did. [00:04:00] So what happened was that we ran forward and started building products.

And actually when we got it to market, the realization was that most people needed learning way more than they needed product. There was an opportunity there, but they didn't understand it well enough. They just knew. They just knew there was an opportunity there that wasn't enough for them to really leverage the product in the way that.

Yeah, they have two very, very common learning. I would say the second, a lot more common than the first, but, uh, it's good to hear that. And then you took that knowledge. You mentioned like there, our next thing was act to go to a company that was doing really well. Go learn about these things like, um, did you take that, uh, where did you go next?

And. Uh, I went to a company called brave new talent in London, which at that point had raised a couple of million. They had a team of about 15 people. Um, well-connected found a great board of advisors. So that for me, felt like this is a startup that's slightly more advanced. I can go here and really learn a little bit more about what, uh, what makes a successful startup and takes you on that journey.

There were a couple of years ahead of. So I, that kind of felt like the right place for me to go there. We're building something in the recruiting space. So [00:05:00] it leveraged my previous industry knowledge and connections. Um, and it, it got me embedded with a team like that, working in that environment. And that's where I first met Janna.

She was the head of product and I was the head of commercial. Well, it's always good to see how these sort of connections are made and where you meet these people. And similarly, I think for me as well, I had a very simple experience here and then founded like a few different companies, uh, realized I didn't know enough, uh, even after that.

And like they say, one of the best lessons is just getting started, but it also. Being immersed in an environment, which is like really, really sophisticated and a good understanding and building a good company can learn new then so much. I think for me, I spent about three and a half years at Hotjar and also joined around 20 to 30 team members.

It creates about a hundred, 221. But the learning curve over those three years, I got in starting my business. I don't think I would have that same like experience and the knowledge that was gained, whereas like an accelerated degree at saying [00:06:00] that time clearly, so many people refer to sort of a year or two at an early stage startup like that.

It's not far different from doing an M a sort of really intense MBA. The learning out of it is incredible. Yeah, because I think their thing is typically at this sort of companies like generous soda high and higher did the early stage and then more specialists at the latest stage. So having like that ability to move in different directions, explore different problems, take on different challenges is amazing.

A bit of styles, a bit of product, a bit of marketing. It was, it was a real much rounded role where I got to touch a lot of different aspects of the business. Cool. And then you took that then and, um, moved into Monda product at some point. Uh, Jenna, tell us about. So, uh, basically my, the product originally was, um, a meet up in a, an unconference product camp.

It was Martin Erickson started product tank and then Simon caste Janna Bastow did London product camp. Somebody connected the three of them and said, Hey, you're all doing events and community for product managers. You should work together. So they did for a year or so, and sort of gathered space [00:07:00] that got us some pace started to build a community in London, a Jennifer and I were working together.

It's a brave new challenge at this point. And we got talking about product. Turning into its first London conference. And I took a look at the commercial and I took a look at the numbers and stuff. I think you could do slightly better on the sponsorship side of, Hey, I think this maybe has more potential.

And that resulted in me getting involved essentially as the fourth co-founder to drive the commercial side of things and really build those partner relationships, look at other market opportunities and figure out how to really take things forward from there. So I wasn't, so I said it wasn't the first in the door, but I was very much like.

Very nice. Uh, yeah. And then we spoke a little bit about oversee what the product does. Uh, and you mentioned it also like the unconference, but essentially it started out building community. Uh, today actually what we wanted to chat about some of the recommendation from Jenna through a really interesting was as mine, the products, uh, you've shifted business models a couple of times, or like introduced one and then shifted.

And then now recently been acquired by Pendo. Maybe just give us like the high-level overview and then we can see what we're going to dive into. [00:08:00] So initially it was a free community meetup and people started saying to us, wouldn't it be great if we could hear some stories from how product is built in the valley, what we can, but we have to fly people over and put them in hotels and you get a few of those others on the same day, then potentially you can charge for tickets.

So accidentally conference was born and then you do that good product thing of listening to your customer. And they start to talk about saying, wouldn't it be great if it was a two day event? Wouldn't it be great to have some tactical hands-on stuff? Okay, great. Let's stop running workshops. And then you realize that that classroom has got 20 people in it, but I didn't come from the same firm.

So maybe you should go to that firm direct and start working with them. So the training business started to evolve. And then the conference starts going overseas and the product tech market beat ups started growing. So Brockbank started in London, but it's now in 200 and I think 18 cities around the world, uh, touching a total of about 350,000 product managers and spiraled out.

And that kind of gave us an immense. And then just think called the pandemic hit. Um, now at that point we were about 98, 90 9% reliant on real-world [00:09:00] events for our revenue. We'd spent 2019 investing hard in the platform part in the team grown-up payroll. So that's when your people revenue zeroed overnight and you look at the bank account, you're like, we've got a bit of runway there, but it's not.

And then that runway started shrinking because we started issuing refunds on all the events that we couldn't run. Um, you know, a, the product is built on brand and reputation. So the last thing we wanted to do was take, sorry, but we're hanging onto your ticket money. Anyway, we gave everybody a choice and said, you can roll it to a future event, or we'll give you a refund.

So at that point, it was sort of a hard and sharp pivot was needed. Um, Martin Erickson and Emily Tate lead on this piece of work primarily. Uh, and essentially the, the very swift conclusion was we've got 10 years worth of amazing content all over the web. And we've got an audience of 350,000 people who love us.

And along with. Some sort of membership subscription, premium business here. Makes sense. So from that, um, Emma, Marcien went deep, fast on the customer research. What should go into a membership offering? What will people value? What will people keep coming back for? What's the thing that we can offer. That's unique that people really love.[00:10:00] 

Um, and then the first version of that product was shipped in. I want to say about eight, 10 weeks, something like that. Uh, one back developer, Sean working like an absolute demon to actually ship something that we could put in front of customers and do that. Will they actually pay us money for this? Do people like it will, they use it?

So the first version was pretty quick and dirty. Um, and then he spent the last two years of really polishing that knighting out the kinks and really making it fit for purpose. And I sort of started looking at, what else does it need? Where else should it go and iterating on that? Yeah. Interesting. And I think this is one of the things that we've had on the show a few times, like traditional, uh, business, like software businesses, um, doing on-premise and stuff, and then study moving into the cloud and doing subscription.

And I think those stories are very interesting. This just sort of one where was born out of necessity was that, uh, You had this, uh, thing that you mentioned, like some research was done and trying to figure things out, like, what were you trying to look into and understand at this point? So you sort of had, uh, overnight COVID happens.

All events canceled this, [00:11:00] oh, shit moment. What are we going to do? Uh, what are the first thing you start looking into to try and figure out, okay. Like this is the right move to go next. So the first thing was to say, let's brainstorm. What would we put in a membership? Bearing in mind, pretty much the entire team is out in, further on furlough.

At this point, we've got virtually no money in the bank. What do we have as an asset that we could use? Where do we go with this? And it was things like, ah, we've got an amazing network of speakers right around the world that gives us access to content, to stories, to material of some sort or another.

We've got this amazing audio. It's all around the world called that's an asset. We've got amazing SEO and people will always find us if they're searching for answers to problems, problems, and challenges go, um, just start building out from there, so, okay. Let's go bucket. 10 12, 15 things that could go in an offering and then push that out to the audience, get them to stack grandkids, which of these things are really important to you.

So we could learn about what was going to be critical to that first membership launch. Uh, that very much challenged some of our early assumptions. I mean, one of the assumptions that we baked right in at the start was if we've got a membership program, then those members are going to expect [00:12:00] discounts to the annual conference.

You put that out in a list of stack ranking, turns out not so much. People aren't really that price sensitive to a one day conference ticket. Well, they are more interested in saying is you've got access to the very best product speakers, coaches, and mentors right around the world. How can we get more access to that?

That was the kind of thing that they will really valued and really wanted to see more of. So that then led us down the route of saying, you know, do we put together occasional evening member events or AMA sessions with product legends or things of that nature? Um, so that was an intense learning experience.

Incredible. Nice. So to sum that up as well, like you sort of sat down, what are the assets, what do we have that we can really deliver the community? Where, where our strong points and so forth. And then, uh, you credited the survey, uh, just on sort of like, what are the main aspects of joint? What was it? It was just basically like, what would you like to see in a subscription service from a center, all of these things, which ones are really important to you build the thing that the people actually want.

Yeah. And how many sort of people you're trying to reach with this? How many responses did you get? Uh, we were looking just [00:13:00] at that first stage, literally anything over a couple of hundred responses. It was like, that's going to be a useful indication. Thank you. Yep. We were able to go to the community and say, look, you've been getting all of this content for the last decade because we could subsidize it via the conferences.

We can't do that anymore. So if you want it to keep going, we need to do something like this. We really need your input healthcare. Um, yeah, I think one of the things you can say with a community of product managers is they love seeing experiments. They love CP people. They love watching people learn and doing those feedback exercises and things like that.

So they were a loyal audience, but they were also exactly the right mindset. A classic example would be say, sometimes we don't actually get feedback. You know, if you don't say software product and it doesn't work users just as a bit, half the time, they'll email us and say, as a user, I would like it to do this in order that I can achieve this.

So we'll sometimes get full on user stories as feedback. That's awesome. I know there's something very similar actually with, uh, the company that I founded, especially when we had tried to go out to get people to speak to, like, it is really, really easy to recruit participants because researchers and product managers themselves [00:14:00] are familiar with this process.

And one of, uh, you can launch a beater and you can say, this is a beater. It will have bugs. We are looking to learn about X, Y, and Z. And they'll do that for you. They'll give you that feedback and fundamentally it needs the product that we're building for them will improve. Absolutely. So you go out do this exercise.

It's okay. Now we figured out these are like the three or four things that absolutely need to go into subscription. Uh, you have, uh, uh, luckily I have a backend engineer who's managed to just put the soil, you push it out. Um, how does it evolve? So from there, first off we start pushing it out. Um, and the early adopters are very much that core community of people who've been loyal to us for a long, long time.

And now, you know, they're right up on us. We can see how much of a tough time you're having. We can see you're trying to do the right thing to keep the business alive. How can we support absolutely wearing. So we had that core of early adopters who loved this. Um, and then from there as the case of driving edge to the wider audience and getting adoption from particularly, uh, the U S and the far east [00:15:00] sitting there in the middle of London is like, we don't just want to build a product for London.

We need adoption wider so that we can make sure that we're building right for every. Product in Asia back, for example, it's a very different adventure to product in the U S um, and then from there it was kind of, okay, let's look at saying, we now do online conferences. We're pivoting. Our workshops are running online.

Cause this CA this COVID thing is not going to go away anytime soon. How do we dovetail? So we started thinking about very much how that membership model links in with the wide monitor product experience. And one of the key messages that emerged, particularly from our larger customers was this idea of saying we like sending our people as a team to the conference, or as a team to a facilitated workshop, that's an exciting kickoff event.

And we can then use the membership program to actually underpin a community of practice going forwards. So it gives them this extended learning resource. Um, we continue to work on that in terms of how the two dovetail together and how they really do link. But I think that's been probably the single biggest learning of the last few months is the way that we can work to make those two work together.

The better the experience, [00:16:00] particularly for large product communities. Very nice. And so you mentioned one thing, like there was launching and then getting adoption in middle east, U S what did you do to make that start to happen? Obviously you had your initial user base to work with. What were some of the activities you're running to now, like get the subscription, um, off the ground.

One of the first things we had to do obviously was cancel the, uh, the physical conferences. And we had a Singapore conference scheduled, which we had to bend fairly swiftly and said, okay, we're going to have to run our first digital conference. We know this is not going to be pretty because frankly nobody's running online conferences.

We were one of the first out the door with that. So we purposely put that together, shipped it quickly. And the aim of that conference wasn't to be perfect. It was simply to get a conference online. Where we could get that feedback from the community and learn what kind of format works, what doesn't work, where does this break?

Where is this different from physical, and then started linking the membership in with that. So then we started to drive some additions, some initial adoption in the far east, and [00:17:00] we could start getting that feedback and see how it was used there. So that then very much started that journey of building up numbers right around the world, where we could start to get the different feedback and then feed that into the product team to figure out, okay, what are the priorities from here?

What makes a difference? Yeah. And so, uh, at this time as well, I think like you needed to move really fast, but I think shortly afterwards, a lot of companies sort of felt the same way and sort of this, I noticed this mess sort of like movement towards webinars and online content and, uh, their mom must've ballooned in like 20, 20, 20, 21, the amount of available content online and the number of conferences people were attending.

So. How did you approach this from your perspective, like, uh, conference fatigue and, um, competition that just sort of automatically emerged of an arts and competition in a market that never really was an issue or something for you to concern about in the beginning? Yeah. I think one of the things we all saw was an explosion of online events generally, and a lot of them were vendor-driven in one way or another webinars and so on.

Um, one of the [00:18:00] things that was missing from that was that the vast majority of those events broadcast. I fundamentally, I think a lot of companies sort of look at community and look at audience and think of the same thing they think they can live. They can be leveraged in similar ways. They can, um, audiences fundamentally where your company is speaking to people.

It's one way communication. The difference with communities that is. Now we previously had the meetups. We previously had the conferences, people would come together and have those conversations. So one of the bits that was most enjoyed was being able to say, let's do an occasional AMA session for our members, but we'll bring a legend along Theresa Torres or Marty Cagan.

Um, and it'll be a question and answer session. And initially some of my, the product team ask them those questions, but then involve the community, get them to ask the questions. What are you struggling with? And again, it was that peer community idea of saying, yeah, you listened to somebody, uh, a relevant company in the same.

Oh, we're really struggling with this. We're not sure how to do this. How would you approach that? And that then provides the community therapy that everybody was missing from the physical events. And it stood out from this. Isn't just, this, isn't just [00:19:00] another webinar. This is a bit where I can hear what my peers are struggling and have that engagement.

So I think facilitating that conversation is a key part of what we did well interesting. And yeah, I like the point as well of like the audience first community aspects, uh, from your side. What are some of the areas like way you see community being really different to audience and, uh, how are you leveraging, uh, the community outside of knock now, obviously moving to, uh, the subscript.

I think community is an interesting thing. There's I think there's a deeper loyalty that exists within community because people build not just relationships with the company, but with other people in that community. So it can be a lot stickier. Um, it's also a lot more difficult to manage that and does come with more risks.

If it's a company to audience, communication is like, everything is pretty sanitized. There's no real risk there. Whereas when you've got community, you do occasionally have bad actors. So it does take a little bit more time and attention to pay to look after that. It has to be nurtured. It has to be good.

Um, so, you know, we're, we're investing more in that as I think everybody who [00:20:00] runs community is, but you also see community changing shape now. Um, and I think one of the product being acquired by Pendo is probably one of a dozen deals that we could all see in the last 12 months. Yeah, let's talk about that as well.

Cause that was going to be the next question is I've noticed this training too. It's a good segue. I've noticed this trend as well of various startups now acquiring, uh, like these communities acquiring blogs, like trying to acquire other the media house component or the community component. And, um, what makes this deal interesting in your, uh, from your.

I think the thing that makes it interesting is that, uh, firstly there's awesome. Um, actual product fish Pendo from the very start has been about building software for product managers. Whereas mine, the product of the staff has always been about building services for our managers. So the two fit wonderfully together.

We, but we said we won't build product, but if you want workshops or training or newsletters or podcasts, conferences or meetups, that's ours. Um, and Penn does a silent, got the, uh, the analytics side of things, or can use a guiding side [00:21:00] of things, the feedback portal, the roadmap portal. So all of the different products suite, uh, their product manager wants this is not fake, which is awesome.

But aside from that, as we started delving into the conversation, it became clear that. At a good understanding of events and media and community in this space as well. So they've previously been running the pandemonium conference, which was a user conference, or that had product craft, which was a publication for product managers.

So they had a good understanding of our core business propositions anyway. But when we started to look at that, it was okay. So yeah. They'll keep running pandemonium, but it will remain the user conference. Whereas the mother, the port conference will remain the big open house where the whole industry gets to come together and discuss the future of craft.

And Pendo really understood what that differentiator should look like and why those two, two things should be able to continue. So, you know, I think there's always a concern. If you get acquired by a vendor, is it just going to turn into a mouthpiece for them? And Pendo understood that risk from the very outset.

We're here to build software. If you see us doing things with the community that you think of Russ hill, you think of going along the wrong path, please shout, please say so you're there to protect [00:22:00] that community and continue to nurture it and the way you always have. Yeah, I definitely said that is like one of the first things that came to mind, uh, when it was like you mentioned this audience first community aspect, and then this acquisition almost feels I have moved to more.

It's more like an audience first, a community move, but. What are some of the things in the ways that you have the freedom to protect the community? And like, how is this acquisition, uh, structured at the moment is all you're part of the Pender team fully, as it's still operating as independent units. Like what does this fall maybe under marketing within a Pendo what does the structure look like?

So fundamentally we sit within the brand team of Pendo now, uh, which I think is great because that gives you a very clear indication that it's not part sales is not part of marketing. It doesn't carry a target. It doesn't carry a number. It's there to raise awareness and fundamentally our, our vision is mind.

The product is always to make more product managers and to make smarter product managers. Now, if we do that, that grows Pendo total addressable market. Anyway, that's a good thing for any SAS phone, right? And [00:23:00] they get the Goodwill reflected of the community of buy and for supporting there's a long list.

Um, in terms of the way the team operates and to have a London office, their main team are over in North Carolina and Raleigh. Uh, so we get the, the facilities in the London office. Should we need it? We have their finance and legal teams behind us, which is fantastic. That's a great resource for us to draw, but in terms of the editorial and the curation, We remain that we retain that level of autonomy.

And again, it's a discussion that we had early on with Pender was around the curation of the main stage for the conference. Cause that's kind of the jewel in the crown. We get so many people that would come to us and say, I have a career aspiration. I want to speak on the mind, the product stage one day.

So we had that conversation with bender, uh, or the, uh, the position that we reached was my, the product will retain control of the curation, but where we'd love to hear from Pendo is where they say we're dealing with customers right around the world. This is a growing. You should consider this as a curation team.

Is there a speaker that you think might fit? So absolutely feed into us. Talk to us about the trends that you see out there in the market. Talk to us about what your customers are struggling with. That's great insight for us, [00:24:00] but otherwise the existing curation committee retains its own autonomy and exists as it always is.

Cool. And what does it take to get on the stage then on the product? So typically what we're looking for is people who are super credible in the product industry. They've got stories to tell they've learnt those battles scars, right? And then secondly, they've got to be able to get on that stage and. Get up in front of 1500 people and keep them engaged, keep them in thrawled and give them a takeaway that they leave.

Say, I feel emotional about this by either feel inspired or I feel curious, you've go inspire something in them. Uh, we've always said that the, the product tech meetups that happen all around the world month in, month out. That's kind of the stuff that gets you through the dikes day that gives you the tactical tips.

The go try. They're still struggling with that. We're at the annual conference of the thing. That's there to remind you why you got into product in the first place. It's there to inspire you for the year ahead. This is not necessarily an easy job that does make it rewarding, but it also means you need some resilience by doing that.

That's what the conference is. So a lot of the best speakers that we've got people who've been [00:25:00] guests on the podcast before, or they've written guest post articles for us before, or they've spoken on a product tank stage somewhere. And, you know, an organizer from Hamburg will come and tap us on the shoulder and say, Hey, I had a speaker last week at our local product and they were awesome.

You should consider them for the main. So that product network is kind of a talent, find a pipeline for us. And we pretty much every major conference we've run. There's been somebody on that main stage who previously spoke product time. Can we buy that talent? Great. How can we coach them? How could we help them develop that story that needs to go to a wider audience?

That's very cool. And it's nice to just sort of have these feelers out there across the world and pushing forward some good talent. You the next thing then as well. Being acquired. We talked a little bit about like what the plans are, uh, for integration with Pendo and stuff. What would you say is like a big move now for the products, uh, or conferences coming back?

Uh, they come back in a big way. And then how does this now merge with the subscription? Uh, that's been introduced, like, what are your [00:26:00] plans and thoughts? So the subscription side of things, but we've started to work out what that model looks like with the two coming together. So typically now, when somebody buys a ticket to the annual conference, they'll get one of those memberships bundled as well.

We're trying to brought a lot more of that. And again, it's that idea of one day get really excited. And then the rest of the year have this content and these smaller events that continue to underpin that and drive that forward. And we've got a, um, a self-directed learning program on there now with online training modules.

So again, that's giving people exercises week by week. Bite-sized bits of learning to keep them going and keep them moving forward. In terms of conferences. Certainly the appetite is there for physical events again, but there's also a group emerging of people who say, I don't need to get on a plane and travel halfway around the world.

Take three days out in the opposite order to attend a conference. I can get the biggest. In the online recordings, which still existed in the membership portal. So you can just find membership and not going to the conference. But I think what we're seeing is that, that diversity of audience now, with two groups, the ones who say I want really highly polished premium content that I can access from home [00:27:00] versus the people who say, I now work at home full time.

I will take any excuse I can to get out and go meet my peers in the flesh, have a coffee, chew the fat, listen to somebody on a stage. So I think we are, I think those two groups are here to stay. And our challenge is to say, let's make sure that we remain ever conscious that we don't run one event for 100.

We run one event for two separate audiences, and we need to map out their journey separately. The online experience will be you buy ticket like this, you get your information like that. You attend on the day like this, you engage like that. And it's very, very different to the physical event. And we need to recognize both of those as independent audiences.

If we're trying to treat them both the same one group or other would end up feeling like second class citizens. And that's absolutely not what. Yeah, and it's a tough place to be as well, coming from a space where you were like experts at the, uh, in person, uh, conferencing and new to this world now of subscriptions and building the model and then trying to create this equal experience for both, uh, must take a steep learning curve as well, uh, from your [00:28:00] perspective.

But I think we've got incredibly strong product people within the business by virtue of who we are. And. If we keep those feedback loops nice and tight. If we keep listening to our audience, if we get using the analytics and understanding where are people using it, where are they? Where are they spending time?

What's not getting touched, that should guide us on investing in the right places and sunsetting the wrong things. Um, and I hope we can continue to wish right on this, uh, on the, of the customer experience, essentially at the same speed we have over the last couple of years, um, it is a more complicated model that's emerging, but it feels doable.

Um, we've got a great team. Very good. Uh, I see we're running up on time. I want to make sure I have time to ask you a couple of questions that I ask every guest. Uh, let's imagine a hypothetical scenario now that you join a new company and turn our attention is not doing great for you at this company.

And this year comes to you and says, Hey James, like we've got a problem. We need to turn around. Turn fast. We have 90 days to do it. You're in charge. What do you do the catch? You not going to tell me I'm going to speak [00:29:00] to my customers. Like you've been telling me all along and learning from their experiences.

You're just going to pick a tactic that you've seen work previously at a company and run with that blindly hoping it works. What would you. Uh, I think one of the ones that's a lot of companies overlook is that question of, if we took it away, how much would it hurt? Let's figure out what that feature is or what that function is and what that benefit is.

What could we take away that would really hurt? And now we know for sure what the bit, well, the best bit is to go invest in, go double down and really drive that engagement. Uh, that for me is a place where a lot of companies don't really understand, you know, if we do these sessions, Which one really hurts if we remove it.

Um, I think most companies could stand to do a little more research in that, and that's something that you can do fast. That's interesting. And I liked that aspect of pulling things where, because the more like most of the time people think that what else should we be building? But, uh, it's more often than an artist like trying to remove.

And I think there's also this, I can't remember. It's a specific bias around buying and we realized this sort of ad hoc show. Was [00:30:00] it where this suite of tools all in one eight tools and. There's actually this negative impact of having stuff that people don't use as well. Uh, in the sense that if like they start to think, okay, where does he going?

I'm paying this amount of money and I'm only using two out of the eight tools back and maybe need to go find something. And I'm just using the one. So in one hand you might think, yeah, It has a double-edged impact. I wonder, firstly, it's, you're looking at it from a value point of money value. From my point of view, you think that you're spending on things that you're getting, so you feel like you're having a hard time there.

And the second that you've got the cognitive load of thinking, there's these four things here that I'm not using, but I should be, and it creates undue pressure and stress on. Yeah, there's not a priority. So it creates a disingenuous user experience. I think for sure, there's a specific bias for this. I can't remember what it's called, but this is something we realize and get, like you say, this is what you mentioned now, what can we remove versus like, what should we should be adding falls in separate to, what can we move with as the pain?

Like, then you really see like, okay, where should we be spending IRA? So I love that. [00:31:00] Um, I've, I've heard a number of people saying know one of the most, one of the most important words in any product managers dictionary should be the word.

Yeah, should be her posts on the wall and the office or in your home office behind last question. Then what's one thing that you noted about general attention that you wish you knew when you got started with your career. Uh, I'm going to bring this back to, um, ask the question that Jana told me years ago when I first started looking at products, what problem are you trying to solve?

If you don't have a really, really clear answer to that? Everything else around channel retention is going to cover. You need to be incredibly clear on what problem you're solving and then everything else comes into much sharper relief more quickly. Absolutely. I love that as well. And I think that's a great way to end the show today as well.

James, it's been a pleasure chatting with you before we go into those. Any final thoughts you want to leave the listeners with anything they should be aware of? Uh, Uh, I think it'd be just graduated with given what my department does as it evolves with Pendo. [00:32:00] Um, I'm hoping we can set a real example.

Having seen a number of communities acquired over the last couple of years, some of them have made a bit of a mess along the way. Um, I've got a really good feeling about how we're working with Pendo the kind of statements they're making, the questions they're asking. So I think we've actually got some really exciting stuff to come over the next 12 months.

Fairness. And we'll obviously we'll leave a note in the show notes, any links, any references to things we chatted about today. If people want to find me afterwards on super easy to find on social complainant. Awesome. Well, thanks so much again for joining the show and I wish you best of luck now going forward as you never get through this acquisition.

My pleasure. Cheers.


James Mayes
James Mayes

The show

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.


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