3 Strategies for Product Growth

Tips for prod­uct growth stem from an un­der­stand­ing of how prod­ucts, or new tech­nolo­gies are adopted through­out the pop­u­la­tion and how that can co­in­cide with an ideal mar­ket share curve.

When we first look at a prod­uct adop­tion curve or bet­ter known as the dif­fu­sion of in­no­va­tion model, we no­tice it is a bell curve, and, if we are talk­ing about growth, we gen­er­ally don’t want this graph to de­cline at all.

Figure 1: R. Everett’s Diffusion of Innovation model (1962).

The dif­fu­sion of in­no­va­tion model was first brought to our at­ten­tion in the early 1960s by mar­ket­ing mogul, Everett Rogers. Looking closer, we see that the bell curve is ac­tu­ally a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of pop­u­la­tion group­ings which out­line the ap­prox­i­mate per­cent­age size of the pop­u­la­tion that will adopt a prod­uct or new tech­nol­ogy. What is even more in­ter­est­ing about this model is its map­ping against mar­ket share.

Figure 2: Cross ref­er­enc­ing the dif­fu­sion of in­no­va­tion with a gen­eral mar­ket share growth model

What we can see here is that mar­ket share lags slightly be­hind the dif­fu­sion curve un­til it hits the halfway point of the pop­u­la­tion, and then ex­po­nen­tial growth takes off.

These mod­els, make it look easy — so why is prod­uct-led growth not as easy as it seems? Questions an­swered by thought leader Geoffrey Moore through ex­tend­ing the mod­els and iden­ti­fy­ing piv­otal mo­ments in prod­uct adop­tion that if car­ried out strate­gi­cally will re­ward with suc­cess. The mo­ments are, cross­ing the chasm, the bowl­ing al­ley, in­side the tor­nado, and on main street.

Figure 3: Crossing the Chasm (Extension #1 of the Diffusion of in­no­va­tion) (Moore, 1990).

Crossing the chasm hap­pens be­tween the vi­sion­ary and the prag­ma­tists pop­u­la­tion group­ings. This jump is quite steep but the fo­cus is all about the core cus­tomer prob­lem. Pragmatists have a core is­sue they need solved, they don’t mind too much on the fea­tures, as long as the main func­tion­al­ity of the plat­form re­solves the is­sue. Also, as prag­ma­tists they don’t fear try­ing some­thing new, as long as it gets the job done.

So how can we get the job done? Think about a bowl­ing al­ley (I know, strange as­so­ci­a­tion, but stay with me). The bowler has one job, roll the ball down the straight al­ley and strike the pins (in an ideal sit­u­a­tion, of course). Now imag­ine the core func­tion­al­ity of a prod­uct, it has one job, and if done well, it can hit the tar­get pop­u­la­tion ef­fec­tively. This is the idea Moore had in mind when us­ing this metaphor to de­scribe prod­uct adop­tion. Staying true to your core func­tion­al­ity and so­lu­tion de­sign al­lows for you to fo­cus on the nec­es­sary el­e­ments and not get you caught up in the whirl­wind of the tor­nado.

Figure 3: (Extension #1 of the Diffusion of in­no­va­tion) (Moore, 1990).

Tornadoes are chaotic, de­struc­tive and can eas­ily lead you off course. This is Moore’s idea when he dis­cusses be­ing in­side the tor­nado. Your prod­uct is start­ing to get no­ticed and adopted, which is great — prod­uct led growth is tak­ing off! With more cus­tomers, there is more feed­back and mar­ket knowl­edge, so you start to hear more about the ul­ti­mate prob­lem you are aim­ing to solve. You dis­cover that there are more el­e­ments needed in your prod­uct to full cap­ture that prag­ma­tists pop­u­la­tion. But what el­e­ments, and what pri­or­ity, and at what cost/​ben­e­fit? These ques­tions, plus many more, can quickly put you in a tail­spin (or tor­nado!). This is a cru­cial part of prod­uct adop­tion and growth that can tick your prod­uct over the edge and into in­creas­ing mar­ket share. Or, the sheer vol­ume of the tor­nado can throw lead you astray and get­ting to the main street will take more re­sources than an­tic­i­pated.

Ideally, we want to spin out of the tor­nado and land firmly on the ground at main street. This is the place where your prod­uct is main­stream and that later ma­jor­ity or con­ser­v­a­tive pop­u­la­tion group adopts it. This is es­sen­tial to ex­pan­sive mar­ket share, and growth, but get­ting here is no walk in the park. So, what are some strate­gies we can im­ple­ment to en­sure that we aren’t just hold­ing on for dear life in the tor­nado?

  1. Understand and Hypothesise from Data

Finding data points that syn­the­sise how con­sumers are in­ter­act­ing with your prod­ucts is es­sen­tial in track­ing trends and val­i­dat­ing prod­uct de­signs.

For ex­am­ple, the plat­form I was work­ing on some time ago was a work­force man­age­ment soft­ware plat­form which re­quired team mem­bers to lo­gin to it and in­put their avail­abil­ity for man­agers/​lead­ers to pub­lish shift sched­ules. Our prod­uct and cus­tomer teams were cu­ri­ous to know why the team man­agers/​lead­ers were frus­trated with their groups not in­putting their in­di­vid­ual data. After cre­at­ing a con­ver­sion fun­nel in our an­a­lyt­ics soft­ware, we were able to con­clude what the drop off points were at each stage of the user jour­ney. We could see that the mem­bers were get­ting to the right page to do this in the plat­form and hy­poth­e­sised that the next steps were not clear enough to them as the drop off rate hap­pened here. Using this data, we en­gaged in an en­hance­ment piece which was di­rected at up­grad­ing the UX of this page. This ended up in re­sult­ing in more con­ver­sions on the page and most im­por­tantly, hap­pier team lead­ers.

This was an up­grade to con­tinue to solve the over­all core prob­lem our team lead­ers were fac­ing. This ex­am­ple plat­form is still in its bowl­ing al­ley stage of prod­uct adop­tion, there­fore needs to con­stantly be re­fo­cused back to its core func­tion­al­ity.

Major take­away: em­ploy an­a­lyt­i­cal soft­ware that com­bines data from your prod­uct into dash­boards and fun­nels so you can track be­hav­ioural trends and un­der­stand when your de­sign in­tent is, or is not, be­ing met.

  1. Demonstrate value in cus­tomer feed­back

It is easy to po­si­tion your feed­back por­tal merely as a sug­ges­tions box but there is some­thing very sim­ple that can demon­strate your prod­uct de­sign team val­ues cus­tomer feed­back by en­gag­ing with it.

Successful SaaS com­pany, Slack, has kept cus­tomers at the fore­front of their mind since they were first founded, es­pe­cially when they were shap­ing their prod­uct to tar­get prag­ma­tists. Through ac­tive en­gage­ment with is­sues or fea­ture re­quests posted about the plat­form on pub­lic fo­rums (such as Twitter) they al­lowed for all au­di­ences to see that they are en­gaged with their cus­tomers and they value their opin­ions of the prod­uct. More im­por­tantly though, their prod­uct de­sign mind­set al­lowed them to drill down on the feed­back they re­ceived and cen­tre it around their core is­sue of stream­lin­ing com­pany com­mu­ni­ca­tion with­out get­ting caught up in the tor­nado and pro­duc­ing some­thing that is fea­ture bloated.

Major take­away: show­cas­ing your feed­back loop in a pub­lic fo­rum demon­strates your prod­uct val­ues open com­mu­ni­ca­tion and lis­tens to the users ac­tively

  1. Consider users at every stage of the Product Design

It seems rudi­men­tary that I pose this as a strat­egy. How can we de­fine con­sid­er­a­tion? Or how can we im­ple­ment con­sid­er­a­tion? A sim­ple, yet ef­fec­tive mea­sure pre­sented by the founder of one of the most cus­tomer cen­tric com­pa­nies of the 21st Century, Amazon, Jeff Bezoz, and the one empty chair rule. This is the idea is to al­ways leave a chair empty to rep­re­sent that there is al­ways an­other group in the room (the cus­tomers). This be­hav­iour ac­tively de­vel­ops em­pa­thy for the cus­tomer. As with the chair, you al­most wait for them to say some­thing and an­tic­i­pate their opin­ions. Give this one a go! It’s low cost and su­per sim­ple (if every­one is re­motely work­ing, get an­other per­son to dial in on an­other de­vice muted and with no video, to give the sense that there is an­other per­son on the call).

Major take­away: a small but very tan­gi­ble change to your meet­ings could have the biggest im­pact on the way you think about cus­tomers.

As we can see, these con­sid­er­a­tions for prod­uct-led growth are heav­ily cus­tomer fo­cused. This is no co­in­ci­dence. When fo­cus­ing on the cus­tomer and de­vel­op­ing a prod­uct that will solve their prob­lem, half your mar­ket­ing strat­egy is done! Advocating for cus­tomer feed­back and en­cour­ag­ing strong user en­gage­ment im­pacts the sta­tis­tics you gather. When used ap­pro­pri­ately, these di­rectly im­pact the prod­uct en­hance­ments which flow into your prod­uct adop­tion and in­flu­ences your mar­ket share. Ultimately, as we saw in our as­sess­ment be­tween prod­uct-led growth strate­gies and sales-led strate­gies — the rich­ness of a prod­uct-led strat­egy does­n’t just get you to mar­ket share quickly, it also con­tin­ues to qual­ify your prod­uct through­out its life­time.

You will find our Guide to Creating a Successful Software Product ex­tremely use­ful in keep­ing your prod­uct alive for as long as pos­si­ble. Download it for free be­low.

If you are look­ing to set your prod­uct up for suc­cess, please con­tact us here.


Alice Spies

KPI mo­ti­va­tor and res­i­dent head chef

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