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?
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
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