Ep. #1104 - WTF is a Product Manager?
In today’s episode of Startup Hustle, we will tackle what a product manager is. Matt Watson and Nomiki Petrolla, founder and owner of Nomiki Petrolla, LLC, are here to discuss it. Aside from that, learn their insights on product management, product-market fit, and product placement.
Covered In This Episode
How should you define a product? What are the differences between a product owner, product manager, and business owner? Moreover, why must your team be empowered to know their “why”?
Matt and Nomiki are here to guide you through all that and more. These entrepreneurs also talk about why you need a product manager. And why you should understand consumer-market behavior and connection above all things.
Get the latest updates about product management. Tune in to this Startup Hustle episode now.
- What does “product” mean? (01:24)
- About product managers and product owners (04:24)
- The middle ground between technical and business speak (07:31)
- Why do you need a product manager? (09:18)
- Level setting before the actual software development (10:52)
- Empowering your team to understand the “why” behind their ideas (13:52)
- How does Nomiki choose companies? (18:06)
- Defining product-market fit (20:13)
- Duration of consumers figuring out the reason for visiting your website (23:51)
- Product in big companies (27:03)
- The cognitive load that comes with specific types of projects (28:35)
- Product-Led Growth (PLG) and product positioning (31:07)
- Early adopters are your brand evangelist (35:55)
- Nomiki’s advice for early-stage entrepreneurs (40:03)
They had built software, or attempted to, without anyone like me in product that understood the middle ground of technical and business speak, in general. And we’re not able to effectively communicate to a development team that was essentially building a product. So, what you got was a really broken product and a lot of upset customers.– Nomiki Petrolla
But people in startups they’re built a little bit differently. And they want to be in the weeds, understand, know, and have a voice.– Nomiki Petrolla
It’s all about that product market fit, right? And so when things work, that’s the point; they just work. Like, people get it. Like, the customer gets it. Everybody gets it.– Matt Watson
It’s vital to get the best team together when building a tech product. That is why you should work with Full Scale which specializes in helping you build a highly qualified software development team quickly and affordably. The Kansas City-based company also has a platform to make it easier to manage your team. Take advantage of these solutions!
In addition to that, are you looking for other business solutions? Look no further than our podcast partners.
Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!
Matt Watson 00:01
And we’re back for another episode of the Startup Hustle. This is your guest today, Matt Watson. I’m super excited to be joined by Nomiki Petrolla. She works as a consultant and fractional head of product. Today, we will talk about what the hell a product is. People talk about products and reference software development and startups. So we’ll spend some time today talking about what the hell does that even mean? Before we get started, I do want to remind everybody that today’s episode of the Startup Hustle is powered by FullScale.io. Hiring software developers is difficult. Full Scale can help you build a software team quickly and affordably and has the platform to help you manage that team. Visit FullScale.io to learn more. Now, Nomiki, welcome to the show.
Nomiki Petrolla 00:41
Hey, thanks for having me, Matt. It’s great to be here.
Matt Watson 00:44
So maybe we should start with, what the hell does product mean?
Nomiki Petrolla 00:51
Let’s get to it. So that’s such an interesting question. And everyone would answer that differently. People in the product come from all walks of life, right? Everyone’s background is different. Their expertise is different. What they do on a day to day is different. Depending on how big your company is and what your expertise is like, it’s very different. The product came about probably eight to 10 years ago. I think when project management was huge, you probably didn’t even hear about project management anymore. And jobs right. Now, there was a natural progression in technology over the past decade where project managers were actually having to make strategic decisions. I was in a couple of companies that were actually doing this, but they didn’t have the hierarchy and the company to be making those decisions. So they’re working with developers day to day, but they don’t understand at the base of why they are making all these decisions. How are they building software in general, and basically, the entire premise of the company and what the decisions they’re making are. So product came about, I think there’s a hybrid model over time between account management, product management, customer success, developers, and designers, and they culminated into this title, this role that we call a product that really at the base of it is problem-solving. Right? So product managers, no matter what level you are, there are people that solve problems every single day, big and small, medium, depending on, you know, anything development design customers.
Matt Watson 02:32
So I would describe it as even simpler than that. So as a software developer, it’s my job to figure out how we do things and make them come to life. And to me, the product is like, what are we going to do? What is the priority? Do you guys have Dr. Priority? However, what the hell are you going to figure that out? And then we’ll just go build the thing. Just go tell us what to do. And we’ll go build it right. Like me, I think it distills down to almost that simple.
Nomiki Petrolla 02:54
Yeah, I can see that I think I have a background in both design and business management. And I’ve made strategic decisions. And I’ve been, I guess, a co-founder in some ways of companies where for the product for me, in those small size companies, it actually means a lot more than that. And I’ve heard people say like the product was the simple version.
Matt Watson 03:19
Yeah, absolutely. And we can get, we can talk about this for an entire day and still have so much more to talk about.
Nomiki Petrolla 03:23
But generally, when people ask me what the hell a product is, and like, well, it comes down to people that like to solve problems. And it’s We’re building something that is customer-facing the majority of the time, and it is a direct reflection of your business objectives.
Matt Watson 03:44
And so for a SAAS company for a software company, a lot of times it starts with one of the founders who have, like, the product vision product strategy, what are we going to do, right? But then you’ve got a product team that’s going to take it from there and figure out, okay, what does that mean? How do I actually do this crazy ass idea that he has whoever, right? And then, you know, potentially what other vendors we work with, we have to integrate with this thing? And, like, how do I do all this? And then how do I argue with everybody else in the company that this priority is more important than the other crazy idea from the week before? Right? Like you start juggling all the things. And you usually have a product manager that helps drive all of that right. And then most companies will have a product owner. The product owner is usually more in the weeds on a day-to-day basis of stuff. And I mean, you mentioned product, the term product kind of coming around, you know, 10 years ago or something like that. Do you think it kind of came around as part of a byproduct of agile, like we’re doing Agile lately, and we have to have a product owner? And do you think that’s, did that help cement that terminology?
Nomiki Petrolla 04:52
You know, probably when you’re talking about the difference between a project product manager and a product owner, I’ve only seen that in one cup, and that was when one of the companies I was a part of got acquired by a really large company. And that large company had product owners and then a slew of product managers and account managers. And then many team members associated, I work primarily in really small startups, well, that might only have seed or precedence. Once you get to like series A, I kind of get out of it. And primarily because I like to have my hands on a lot of different aspects of the business so that I’m making more informed and better decisions. So when you’re talking about having both of those, I think that really comes down to the size of the company, and how they’re distributed and their roles and what kind of decisions they’re making.
Matt Watson 05:44
Well, so what at my company, Full Scale, we have, like, over 100 clients that we work with doing software development, and like, if somebody comes to us to be a customer of ours, a lot of times we won’t be, we won’t even take them as a customer if they don’t have a product owner or a lead developer. Because if you just have like the founder of a company that has some idea of how to create something, a lot of times that just doesn’t work, like you have to they need somebody on their side that has either built software before or can act as like the product owner on a day to day basis to work with the software development team to help, you know, translate from software developer speak to human English on the other side because they’re kind of different languages. Right? And, you know, we actually like, people come to us, and they don’t have any kind of product owner at all, people that have experience with this, they don’t have any kind of developer at all, like, and so you deal with a lot of these early-stage companies. So I’m just curious, what are you? What do you see? What kind of advice do you have for these super early-stage companies that maybe don’t have a product owner? They have no money at all? I guess your advice would be to call you.
Nomiki Petrolla 06:51
Yeah, call me? No, but you bring up an awesome point because one of my clients is actually in this exact predicament, where they had built software, or attempted to, without anyone like me in the product that understood the middle ground of technical and business speak, in general. And we’re not able to effectively communicate to a development team that was essentially building a product. So what you got was a really broken product and a lot of upset customers. So now they called me, and I am now in this middle ground where I communicate. I essentially do project management, in addition to designing and business strategy for the product and for both the web and that website and the application. But the goal here is that I’m a part of every conversation, I understand the business, and I understand how to take the business goals and put them into something that’s digital. Tangible, right. And I think they’re seeing, you know, I’ve been, I’ve been told a couple of times now, like, we never had someone like this, we didn’t actually know what this process was like, and you’re gonna get a lot of people like me, I’m not the best in the world, right. But I am really good at being able to translate, you know, the needs, from a business perspective, all the way down to something that can be used by customers. And I might not be a developer in the background, but being able to speak technically understand how APIs work. What the difference between the front end and back end is, is really important when you’re working with customers and developers and to make sure that they understand how to scale at the end.
Matt Watson 08:38
Well, and you’re absolutely right about all that. But maybe even more important, even at a more simple level, is having somebody that can manage all this and translate it. Because otherwise, you may get the founder that keeps telling the developers to make it do this, make it do this ad this feature and this thing, basically, you end up with something that’s a bunch of features. And there’s no product, there’s like no product to it, right? So it’s like, at a minimum, you need somebody that works all day long, not necessarily all day long, but is just helping think about this as a product as a whole. Yeah, and thinking about a lot of little details like how does somebody sign up for an account? Like how do we build people? How do we like a lot of basic things that you need to think about when you’re building a product, not building just a bunch of features, like add this report, I need to do this thing, make it do this, right? You need to make a filter for all that. And that brings up another good point. Another big problem is when you have the founder business owner, who just tells the developers to do all sorts of random shit. And they change the priority every week, right? It’s like every week, they have a new big idea. And honestly, the developers don’t know what to do with that. And they like, they get everything like 80% Complete, they drop it, they move on to the next thing because the founders got like ADHD, and they’re like, crazy. And so this is where you need a product person, right? You need a product person to sit in the middle of this and say, Hey, uncle, wait for a second. We’re not doing this. You told us to do this thing last week. I got to protect the team, right? I got to protect the team, they got to finish the crazy idea from last week. So before we start this one, like, you need that traffic cop. Does that make sense? Yeah, so one thing I really like to do is a level set.
Nomiki Petrolla 10:12
I’m a really big advocate for boundary setting. And that obviously, for personal reasons, but also for business as well, when I’m working with teams, part of my goal and being a part of the communications of what the business goal is, what are you trying to achieve? Why are you doing this? Understanding those basics before we actually get into building software is really important. So anytime that we start, you know, listing out a bunch of features that we want to build, part of my goal is to categorize them and understand the priority, but most importantly, what is the impact of those on your business? And then understanding financials, like what is your budget, because one feature might cost 10 times as much as another one. And putting something out as an MVP version, or even a fast release, might be worth it to wait six months so that you can get something out the door, get some customer traction, and understand, you know, what is working, what’s not working? So in terms of those conversations, you probably will hear me say it two or three times a week. Okay, let’s pause. And let’s remember why we’re having this conversation, is that something that we need to be discussing right now, if it’s not, then I’m going to take a note, and I’m going to put it into my document of ideas that we will revisit and prioritize and groupings of releases. But for this very topic, we need to understand what we need to do? What are our blockers, and how we’re going to get to tomorrow? Basically, you know, what you should do is actually do that with sticky notes.
Matt Watson 11:50
And then nobody can see the video right now. But you know, behind the wall, you should just be covered with sticky notes. And it should be like a great visual for your clients, like, look, all of these ideas, you have all of these ideas behind. I can add another one to the list. But my job is to help you figure out which of those is important. Yeah, I organize them, right? Because that’s the biggest challenge as a business owner, especially when you’re at an early stage, right, you’re like, somebody wants this thing. And I could pivot and do this whole different industry, or I could do this, and it’s really hard like I get it like I’m trying to. I’m trying to start a new company here soon. And the same thing, like we could go five different directions with this thing. And, like, 60% of the product is the same, right? But the other 40% could be quite a bit different. How we sell it, you know, if we’re using resellers, we sell it direct, you know, like the go-to-market strategy is different. Yeah, all of these things change. And that’s where startups are hard. Like, it’s a messy process, I get it. But you’re, you know, the value that you’re providing your clients, as you’re kind of their coach, like getting them to stop and think right or like, no, hang on. Let’s go through the pros and cons of all these scenarios. What are the strengths? What are our weaknesses? Which one of those things we do, which one of those terrible ideas should we never mention again? Which ones are great? That’s right.
Nomiki Petrolla 13:12
I think what’s interesting too, is that, in small companies, like a lot of the companies that I work with are under 10 people, right? They’re really small, which I prefer. I really like being in the nitty gritty every day and kind of seeing how people work and diving off of them. That’s something that I enjoy, and why I don’t do series A and above. But generally, I think it’s important to also get everyone on the same page. Because when you’re working with really small companies, everyone has an impact in the business and has a lot of ideas, just like you’re mentioning, and they want to be heard. So to give everyone that platform and empower them to be able to speak about the ideas and why they have those ideas. It all comes down to those 10 or less people being a part of a mission. When you’re a really small company, a lot of times the people that you’re hiring really feel strongly about the mission that you’re trying to achieve. And it’s not necessarily because they want a job to pay their bills. Of course it is. But people in startups, they’re built a little bit differently. And they want to be in the weeds and understand and know and have a voice. So part of that conversation is about boundaries. And you know, building prioritization is really also about empowering your team so that we understand the why behind these ideas.
Matt Watson 14:39
Well not and so having ideas is great, but having ideas is also really dangerous, right? Because everybody has to agree, like talking about the goals and a roadmap Northstar, like you know, whatever terminology you want to use, like everybody’s got to know like, this is the ultimate goal we’re trying to get to. Right and then every time these ideas come up, everybody has to stop and think okay, is this an opportunity? For a distraction, right? And because everything needs to kind of go through that filter, because there can be a lot of them that are just totally distractions away from where you’re trying to go. But a lot of times, we see all of them as opportunities, right? And so it’s like, we never get to our original goal because of that. And one of my favorite sayings is just like every time you say yes to one thing, you’re saying no to everything else, right? So if you say yes to this distraction, you’re here saying no to everything else. And people don’t think about it that way.
Nomiki Petrolla 15:29
Sometimes, when I’m working with companies that might already have some revenue, the majority of them have a little bit of revenue. It’s rare that the companies that I work with are starting from zero. But a lot of times when they’re asking questions about priorities, and they’re, like, shiny objects, I’ll ask them, What data do you have to support that? Are you making an informed decision, or are you going off of your excitement because you heard someone say something, and then you took that in, and you decided you wanted to do it for your product, but you don’t actually understand the impact it has. I feel like more technical founders do understand that or more seasoned founders that have, you know, created more than one business, I definitely have learned those lessons the hard way. But I do work with people that are in the business for the first time, and that they just got a couple million dollars in funding, and they don’t understand how to prioritize that. So asking them informed decisions like well, what does your market research tell you? What does your data tell you? Are you making an informed decision? I sometimes say things like, you know, I have to be data driven. But really, yeah, data is all over the place. But actually learning what your data is and understanding your data to make impactful decisions is more important than just gathering it all under the sun. Right? Yeah.
Matt Watson 16:53
So I do want to take a second to remind everybody that finding expert software developers doesn’t have to be difficult, especially when you visit FullScale.io, where you can build a software team quickly and affordably. Use the Full Scale platform to define your technical needs, and then see what developers are available to join your team. Visit FullScale.io to learn more. So most of your clients that you worked with, you mentioned, they’re kind of series A or before they’re kind of seed stage and stuff like that. So is your goal to help them kind of come in and figure out product market fit? Or like what is usually kind of your goal when you ideally, when I’ve worked with someone they already know they’re fit, or like, are attempting to get into their PMF.
Nomiki Petrolla 17:26
Ideally, I have worked with people that don’t know that yet and just have an idea. But at that point, I’m expensive. So I’m like, you don’t want to be wasting your money on me when you should be spending your money on figuring out if building with me makes sense first, right? Like, I’m really conscious of that businesses spending and why they’re spending and when they should be spending. And of course, I’d love to have a billion clients and you know, make more money, but generally, I know when I’m a good fit, and when I’m not. And if you don’t have your product market fit at least somewhat stable, or you haven’t figured it out yet. I might not be the right buy for you. Right.
Matt Watson 18:21
So you want them to figure out Product Market Fit first.
Nomiki Petrolla 18:26
I think generally founders if they’re going into business, and they have an idea, it shouldn’t just be an idea. They splattered on the wall. Yeah. And there should be something backed by it. And there are you know, when people come to me and set up meetings for like, 20 minutes be like, Alright, what do you do? And like, can you help me? I will ask them, How long have you been in business? What have you done in that year or two years? Are you bootstrapped? Do you have funding? What you know, who’s on your team? What have you learned? And why are you talking to me right now, like, there’s got to be a reason that you decided, okay, I don’t want this band aid solution anymore, where you’re combining like five or six different, no code pieces into one product, and that you want someone to come in. So why now? And usually, if I ask that question, they’ll have a good reason. Or if they say, you know, maybe that pushback actually dawns on them, we’re not ready for you. And I want them to be aware of that before they’re coming in and bringing in a team because otherwise they’ll be wasting money on me. And that’s not good for either of us.
Matt Watson 19:33
So how would you define product market fit?
Nomiki Petrolla 19:37
That is a can of worms. It is because I feel like depending on the type of product that you’re building, but generally at a very base level, you’re solving a need that you know, people are wanting to solve in their own software and you want to build it, I guess.
Matt Watson 20:00
But you’ve proven that right? In some way, right?
Nomiki Petrolla 20:03
There’s been customer feedback, or you have gone out and done testing, you’ve done surveys, there’s lots of things that you can do. The only reason why I like smiling and hesitating is because there’s a cost to everything. So you can build something that you know is a need, but your software could cost a lot of money. And then at that point, your product market fit might not actually be what you thought, oh, yeah, it’s a complicated term. But generally, Product Market Fit comes from knowing, and already having evidence that you’re solving a problem that people need.
Matt Watson 20:40
So I have a good example of this, I ran across a guy named Matthew Curtis a couple of weeks ago on LinkedIn that had a new AI related thing. And it’s called Insight, insight. voice.ai. So check it out. But it is a cool, cool service where you could record a video of a founder, and it would take the video, transcribe it, and then create blog posts and social media posts and all this stuff. And the value that he would provide was doing the questions and answers right, so the founder could just, like just show up, boom, here’s the question. It’s already loaded up just to answer the question. So I’m gonna answer the question, we do everything else. And he uses AI. So it’s kind of a hot topic. But you know, one way I can, I can say that he had product market fit. And that’s the point of my story here is he was smart. He’s doing market research, he sets up calls eight calls a day, with potential clients, almost every single one of them is signing up on the spot. So that’s when you know, like, you’ve got like a Grand Slam of product market fit, right? He’s doing market research. He’s talking to customers, almost every single one of them wants to sign up on the spot. We’re on the flip side of that, if you were doing that, and everybody’s confused, or not sure. Like, why would I buy this thing like Excel is opera it cost, like $100 a month?
Nomiki Petrolla 21:54
Okay, that’s not that bad. Because as soon as you’re telling me about this, I have another business, that’s an e-commerce Store. And content is really important. And as soon as you said that, I was like, oh, instead of using like, chat, GPT, I could actually just do that and regurgitate a bunch of content for myself. So that SEO picks up on who I am. And my business, so maybe I should do that.
Matt Watson 22:18
There you go. He’s got product market fit, you’re sold right? So yeah, that’s, that’s the thing, it’s all about that product market fit, right. And so when things work, that’s the point when the things work, they just work like people get it, like the customer gets it, everybody gets it. And one thing that I always talk about from like a product and marketing perspective, I want to talk to you more about product and marketing too, is people should have a self selecting right like to be able to go to your website and be like, I get it that makes sense to me, I would buy that thing. And I think that is the pinnacle of product, right is getting the product from a perspective that a potential customer can see it. And they can easily relate to it and self-select and say, Yeah, I would buy that thing. But that also means a lot of other people may not buy it, but those aren’t the customers you’re trying to target, right? Like you’re trying to simplify it down to your niche. So your niche when they immediately see it, they immediately say yes, I’m gonna buy that thing.
Nomiki Petrolla 23:11
So Matt, let me ask you a question. When you go to a website, how long does it take you to figure out if you know what the hell they’re talking about before you leave that website?
Matt Watson 23:20
I mean, hopefully, I figured it out within a few seconds, right?
Nomiki Petrolla 23:22
And then if you don’t, you’re like, wait, what?
Matt Watson 23:25
And maybe, maybe I’m going to click one or two times on the website and look around. And so a good example of this is, let’s say I was looking for a lawyer, but I need a lawyer to fix a traffic ticket. Right? If I keep going to a lawyer’s website, and none of them talk about traffic tickets, I immediately just like to go to the next one, right? Because it could be for divorce or child things, or all these different types of lawyers, right? So that’s the thing is like, if whatever your product is, from a marketing perspective, you want to simplify it down. So people can self-select anything like boom, traffic, boom, if I’m sold, right? And from a product perspective, people always mess that up there.
Nomiki Petrolla 24:02
They actually do and every time so what companies have marketing websites, all of them do. You go to, if you’re trying to find software, they have a marketing website that has their product plastered all over it, right? A lot of times using terms they try to come up with like a simple buzzword. That’s like five or seven words as we do this.
Matt Watson 24:24
Yeah, that nobody’s ever heard of it.
Nomiki Petrolla 24:26
Yeah. And it’s like, What the eff does that mean?
Matt Watson 24:30
And you’re like, well, no, no, what do you actually do? Like, yeah, oh, yeah, tell me exactly what you do.
Nomiki Petrolla 24:33
And then you scroll down, and the good ones have figured out that okay, I’m going to show you a 32nd clip, or I’m going to show you a quick drag and drop of a GIF of what our software actually does with keywords that you might be searching for, like, obviously, SEO is really important, but understanding like what are our users searching for? And I have a friend who is brilliant at SEO and has taught me so much about, you know, the power it has and that you don’t have to use ad dollars, essentially, because you’re already putting yourself on the map by using keyword searches, right.
Matt Watson 25:21
And I think a lot of times, there, there might be a category that you’re actually trying to create in software, that not every category has been created, every year, new ones are being are popping up, which is a very difficult and almost bad place to be, by the way it blue ocean is the worst.
Nomiki Petrolla 25:24
It’s the amount of education that you have to provide in order for people to understand.
Matt Watson 25:32
Yeah, and people are buying it, they don’t have a budget for it or not buying for it. And my favorite example of this is like, it’d be like going to the Philippines and trying to sell them toilet paper. They don’t use toilet paper, like no other thing there. So that’s not a category, right?
Nomiki Petrolla 25:49
I think, yeah, Blue Ocean is tough. And I’ve been in a company that is in Blue Ocean Territory. And while what you’re building is incredible, there are so many challenges that go with it. And it’s just like, Well, how do we educate? And if that’s not your expertise, then trying to find the people that can educate and put out content, you know, content is king, right? We know that as long as you have content, nonstop and all different formats, video, text, blogs, like social media all over the place. I mean, this is product marketing.
Matt Watson 26:23
So yeah, and so I was gonna say it kind of brings this back to the rest of our conversation. So products in general can mean a lot of different things. But product and marketing, product positioning, product strategy, all of these things are part of the product. And when you’re an early stage startup, maybe you’re thinking about, Okay, what features do we build and the roadmap and all of that, but product marketing is a whole different, whole different, really important part of this and product. So if we talk about product and really large companies for a minute, and no, that’s not your specialty, either, right of like what you normally do your early stage companies, but product has a topic, even a really large company, could be something as simple is whoever is trying to get the blue checkmark at Twitter, it’s like you own the blue checkmark, your job is to is to get more people to get blue check marks. Right. Like that’s literally a job at Twitter, somebody has that job.
Nomiki Petrolla 27:20
Yeah, well, actually, that’s probably why I got laid off last month.
Matt Watson 27:24
But the point is like products at big companies could be like, Hey, we added this new widget, or this new add-on package, your job is to market that package, get user adoption of that package, figure out how many people fall off in some workflow or clicks or usage. Like, there’s all these different things that are product related at bigger companies that are like product usage, product, adoption, help, documentation, all this kind of stuff is also a form of product, I’m glad that you brought that up.
Nomiki Petrolla 27:54
Because when people reach out to me to work with me, there is a cognitive load that comes with specific types of projects, right? And I will only take one client at a time that is working on an entire rebuild, because that involves so much cognitive load for me to be able to put my best foot forward, that all the other projects, if I was doing a full re redo of their product, I wouldn’t be able to give 100%. So if I have like one that is doing that whole thing, then I might have one or two on the side that are that blue checkmark, I mean, a little bit bigger than that. But the idea is to be able to, I guess, like to spread apart where the cognitive load isn’t all upon that, because otherwise I’d be burning out, right. And I think you’re right that people reach out to me, not just for, hey, we want to build this entire product. But one company I’m working with that starts in April, they are building a new section one feature, but they don’t know how to do that. And they need someone to come in and do all of the market research, customer interviews and ideation and, you know, exploring different technology that we can use for the integrations, and then working with the developers on building that. But I’m not even touching any of the other products that are their base business. So I think it’s a great point that every company is different. And even small startups also have that depending if that company is like 30 people, I think, well, I got another example of this is at my last company stack fi, you know, product, lead growth was important to us, like we needed, we were a lower cost product, we need people to sign up for the product, install it, use it and get to that aha moment, right as fast as possible.
Matt Watson 29:30
And like that, part of that was like everybody’s job, but especially the product team. And so one thing we looked at a lot is trying to figure out okay, what percentage of people install what percentage of people actually use it? And then all the demographics The former graphics the, you know, for us, it was like, what programming language did they use? What kind of servers did they use, like the hosting provider? Like? We’re slicing and dicing all the usage data as the product team, right, trying to figure out how we increase adoption? How do we increase trial conversion, like, that’s the other part of the product that you potentially get into the weeds of like product, lead growth, trial optimization, customer retention, all that kind of stuff?
Nomiki Petrolla 30:27
Yeah, it is an interesting area. I think being able to dissect data and understanding product analytics in general on what those moments are that you can convert users, I’m working on a team right now that we are launching a freemium model, but we are going to then do a fast release of a paid subscription. And we are talking about what is the fine line between free ad? And yes, we are juggling on what we have, like definitely a paid version, and definitely a free one. But there’s a piece in the middle that we’re like, what do we do with it? Do we add a second tier? Do we give it to them for free? So they see more value? Like how do we build that? Do we do an MVP version and then add the full version to the paid like, you know, 30 or 40 bucks a month thing? And conversations like that happen every day? And trying to figure out what is the right balance, but eventually, what we’re going to do and what I keep telling them is ask your customers, you have a half a million customers asking them, because editors are doing it for free, or doing it as a paid model. But you have something that they don’t offer. Ask your customers like, do they want that information in the first place? Like is that valuable to them? And look at your data? Are they looking at it?
Matt Watson 31:47
Well, that brings up another topic of which the product team has to help with pricing packaging? Who are the target audiences, right, who’s your ICP? Who is the ideal customer profile? Yep. And so I’m curious, how often do you get involved with the market market positioning because the problem is with a lot of products, you could try and sell it for $100 to a lot of people. Or you could try and sell it for $1,000, but only for like the enterprise clients? How often do people figure that out all the time, I’m even involved in like funding and how they’re going to get funding and putting this slide together specifically for their funding round like.
Nomiki Petrolla 32:16
So generally, my goal is to deduce what a general number would be that someone would be willing to pay based on research and what they might have already. And using numbers to kind of come up with that magic number from that’s not necessarily the right solution. But from that number, we then can take the extra measures to say, Okay, we have a general area that might have like a five or $10 window, I mean this depending on the product you’re working on, or what people are willing to spend. Now you have to go out and do more research and ask people and understand I guess your customer profile, like what are they willing to spend on this specific topic. But for one customer that we’re working on now, they already have some product products on the market, some digital services and some tangible goods based around this topic. And what I tried to say is like gather all of that now, see what everyone is spending in each one of those categories, and not try to transact that into your digital service? And will you be able to come up with a number that makes them feel like they are getting their worth out of it every single day? Now from that number that’s coming from your gut and a little bit of data. Now go out and you have half a million users on social media. Put a quick, simple survey out on your Instagram profile. Hey, what do you guys think? I think we have the power, a lot of software, a lot of companies that are smaller, they are able to build a following, but they’re not using their following. And I see that constantly that like you have this many users, 60-70,000 people following you every day that are interacting with you that are obsessed with your product because they see the value. Now why aren’t you asking them to be a part of your community community, you talked about product led growth, community led growth is right now. So God was a few years ago, of course, it’s still around and it’s transacted now over to appeal, so product led sales. But community led growth now is the big new thing. So asking your community to empower them to feel like they’re actually helping drive your own mission is something that they love and that goes all the way into web 2.5 And then you’re gonna get into web 3.0 Over time, and using that community is really important.
Matt Watson 34:46
Well, especially if you have a subset of people that are really fans of what you do right, yes. And that’s another way to know that you really have product led growth and and like the Insight voice guy mentioned or like he’s got Got some early fans are like, Man, I really love what you do. And he can definitely go back to them. And they’re all like, super supportive. They’re like, how can we help we love this thing? How do we use it? How do I provide feedback, right? Like, that’s another indication that you’ve really got product market fit. Yeah, those early adopters are your unicorns and you should treat them extra special, if you can give them out like a promo code that gives them more access to other things.
Nomiki Petrolla 35:15
Because ideally, what’s going to happen is they’re your product influencers, oh, yeah, right. And they’re gonna go out there, and they’re going to talk about it, they’re gonna see the value in it. And even if there are things that are broken, they’re more forgiving. They are. They’re way more forgiving. And they’re willing to say, You know what, I don’t care if that bug happens, because they’re helping me solve this problem.
Matt Watson 35:46
They’re your evangelist.
Nomiki Petrolla 35:48
Lean into them. Yeah, absolutely.
Matt Watson 35:51
So when you ask the clients that you’re working with, How often would you say that they don’t price their product high enough? Like they go to this default mode of trying to be the cheapest?
Nomiki Petrolla 36:00
Um, I would say that I have the opposite problem. Really? Yeah. So I guess there’s a middle ground because I’ve worked with some med tech and fintech companies. But at my current juncture, and the few clients that I have, I actually think it’s the opposite. And part of it is not necessarily because they want to charge more, but it also comes down to not solving other problems like logistics and supply chain. And that comes down to other systemic problems that we are dealing with in the world, right? And it’s not necessarily about them wanting to charge more, but trying to figure out what is the right balance that for our business, makes sense, allows us to continue growth, but makes it feasible for our customers. And also, I’m working with subscription based companies that were not subscription prior, but want to transition over to subscription. And I actually advocate for that, because I think that if you’re going to download something or use a product, you’re more willing to get those early adopters or gain, you know, a bunch of users faster. If you show them that you have value. Be transparent about what you’re building, and then try to convert them, it’s a lot harder upfront to give them something that costs money. I mean, we know that even from really expensive companies, right? So it’s not just the smaller ones that cost you five or 10 bucks a month, but even the ones that are like one or $2,000 a month, they give you a 30 day trial, they give you that free option that just restricts all the functionality. The goal is always to show them, we show we have value and we can solve their problems. And then that goes into all those other roles like customer success, that helped bring them in, and then convert them so that we have more users for the product to build for. Absolutely, it’s a full circle, right?
Matt Watson 37:58
If you need to hire software engineers, testers are leaders. Full Scale can help us have the people and the platform to help you build and manage a team of experts. When you visit FullScale.io. All you need to do is answer a few questions and let our platform match you up with a fully vetted, highly experienced team of software developers at Full Scale. We specialize in building long-term teams that work only for you to learn more when you visit FullScale.io. So we’ve talked a lot about different aspects of the product today, which is awesome. Because I think a lot of people don’t know what a product is, or they think it’s one of the things. And I go back to my original statement from the developer’s perspective. It’s all about just telling me what the hell the bill just told me is. And don’t change the damn story next week, right? Like, from a developer’s perspective, I still simplify it down to that, but we know it’s a lot of different things.
Nomiki Petrolla 38:48
Yeah, I mean, at the base level, I guess, I always come down to what problem are we solving? I wouldn’t. You know, how are you solving it? And then we get to the developers? All right, now solve it this way?
Matt Watson 39:00
Yes. They just told me what to do. Yes. And that’s hard to do.
Nomiki Petrolla 39:03
Because then you have to tell. There are so many things that we can get into. We could talk about this all day. But yeah.
Matt Watson 39:10
Well, thank you so much for being on the show today. And as we run this out, what other do you have any final tips for people that are at an early stage and are like, Hey, do I need a product person? What should I do?
Nomiki Petrolla 39:23
I guess my tip would be to sit down and reflect on what you want to build and why you want to build it. And if you have an understanding and you know what you want to do, and you’ve proven it, or if you haven’t proven it and you just want to spend a bunch of cash. I guess, like, figure out why you want to do it first and then determine, okay, I’ll do it. Validate that, you know, that idea, and come up with someone that can help you strategize around it before you just go build out of nowhere.
Matt Watson 39:56
Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for being on the show today. Show Today, again, this is not Mickey patroller Ken that your website can find you on LinkedIn. We’ll have links in the show notes and everything as well. Awesome, thank you so much for being on the show.
Nomiki Petrolla 40:11
Thank you. Thanks for having me, Matt.