The 10 Biggest Myths About Your Customer Base with Google Product Leader, Dan Chuparkoff

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This edition features Dan Chuparkoff (Google). The full video recording is here 👇🏼

Or read the transcript of some of the highlights:

Blake: "If you're a software vendor, if your product is software, of course you're going to be very software driven. And obviously nearly every business today is software driven. But put yourself in your customers shoes that software may not be the product. It might be insurance or financial instruments or rubberized nylon gaskets for boat engines. Who knows what it is?

And it's important to remember that a lot of the perspective that your customers and even if they're the ones buying and using and implementing your software, they're in a business that the whole organization is geared towards driving value in a completely different way, in a way that's totally outside of shipping code and that comes with myriad changes and cultural impacts. But it's important to sort of realize that when the shift is, hey, are we selling software or are we using software to sell something else? And if you haven't worked in a company like that, you could easily miss that."

Blake: "And you take it for granted, especially if you're in a leaner or more sort of modern organization, like, the switching costs or just like the implementation of bringing on another tool like... you think, wow, what a headache to continue doing that in Excel. What you don't realize is what a headache... damn near impossible it could be to bring on a replacement for that or to bring in something else that you could do it in instead.

So for the general population in these teams, it's like, cool, we'll make this work in Excel. That's easier than bringing on something else. JIRA, whatever."

Dan: "Yeah, I've seen that a lot. A lot of people are not shifting to those modern work tools that we all sort of take for granted."

Blake: "It's incredible. Yeah. The last startup I was at was actually a workflow management business process management tool. And we did a lot with helping customers modernize their workflows and we get an inside look at their Excel process workflows and it's astounding some of the things that people have built out and often they're as.. I hate to say as complex as software.

But in a lot of ways like, they had a working running program that they built out - yeah - there's a like there's no price tag incentive that can create that shift to another tool. In that case, it's like you've got to do some major attraction to pull those folks off of that tool."

Dan: "Data storage, and data residency, and data access is becoming a more and more controversial thing in the world, especially if you start expanding outward into EMEA. Talking about what happens to data from a company in Germany, right. Where's that data stored? Who has access to that data? Those kinds of things are hotly debated right now.

Yeah. Imagine for a second I'm working at a consulting firm that is doing a merger and acquisition due diligence, right? If that consulting team is using Slack, they're talking about the details of that project... that data says really specific stuff about that merger and acquisition that the public cannot know. And so it just can't be anywhere except on that consulting company's servers.

And that kind of stuff happens a lot. People take customer information and upload it into tickets. People talk in their chat program, or they send emails with attachments that have huge amounts of customer PII in them. All of that stuff happens way more frequently than you imagine."

Blake: "Yeah. And I think the best product managers and product thinkers I've worked with at least have empathy for this and make an effort to understand the sort of nuances of this challenge. It can be easy, I mean, especially if you're earlier in your career or you haven't worked in an organization like this.

It can be easy to be kind of flip about these concerns and sort of write them off as, oh, that's old fashioned, but that's really just a recipe for misunderstanding your customer."

Dan: "I think organizations sometimes are putting that change tax on their people so often that their people are exhausted by it and they're just done. They're just done learning, trying, trying to learn the new thing that somebody else picked that wasn't them. They don't have enough budget to go to a training thing. They're just trying every day with 15 different tools that they're trying to use to get their job done.

And all of these things are things that will remove friction and pain from their job. But they get a different friction and pain...

  • the friction of needing to learn
  • needing to figure out who to ask
  • needing to confess that they don't understand, when they feel dumb, when it should just be intuitive.

Those are all some of the struggles in the employees of the customers that you're building for."

Blake: "It's misunderstood how big of a hurdle that can be to get over. And you know, if you're sort of analytically oriented, you might perceive the friction towards success with your product is like well, that's kind of an 8.9 to get to that place where you're trained up and implemented and using it's great. But you're going to get to a 9.2. So it's a net balance gain. So what's the problem?

You need to be providing an order of magnitude more value to that person then the friction to get to that place. Like it needs to be a multiple of how hard it is to get set up. Not a little iIterative bump."

Blake: "You're definitely touching on something super important here which is give them the tools and content and education. And I especially think you think of the folks who are coming up in the modern workforce if you're in your 20s, 30s, earlier in your career, maybe getting to mid-manager or director level and organizations in some cases.

You're dealing with some very digitally native people. Like, you're dealing with people who have been on smartphones since high school or earlier. You're dealing with people who have been using consumer grade software tools most of their life and consuming like some very consumer grade content.

Like think of if you want to learn Photoshop on YouTube, there are fantastic tutorials that are colorful and engaging and informative and there's a lot of this folks coming up in this environment that the B2B instruction manual that you're giving them is not going to pass the test. It's going to look like hieroglyphics to a lot of these people.

You really need to come correct with providing those tutorials and best practices and content and empowering.... if you can empower your users to do the same. Like talk about a powerful like the most powerful companies have that. It's Salesforce where their end users are then out there actively creating content and materials and sessions and courses on how to be successful. That's a kind of dream scenario."

Dan: "If you take your possible cohorts of potential customers and divide them into segments, right? You've got your early adopters at the top of that list, and they're probably going to respond to what you're already doing right now.

But then figuring out who your next cohort of customers. In the book Crossing the Chasm, they called those the early majority. And figuring out how to reach the early majority takes a different collection of stuff. They'll be more focused on risk and cost. They will be more focused on things like privacy. They'll be more focused on endorsements from other clients that are like them in size or industry.

So figuring out one, recognizing that this is the plan, and then just like you make feature roadmaps where you gradually build functionality, you've got to do that with your customer acquisition too. Right? Figure out:

  • What is your marketing strategy for getting early adopters
  • And then what is your marketing strategy for reaching the early majority?
  • And then what is your marketing strategy for reaching the late majority?
  • And then maybe you throw out the laggards.

Maybe you just accept that those people are still 20 years away from being ready for the change that you're trying to make in the world."

Blake: "Yeah, great point. Totally different motions and mind frames you need to have to be successful in each one. And you certainly can't copy and paste across all those different cohorts. That's a recipe for disaster."

Dan: "I think the mistake a lot of teams make with personas is they're imagining all the companies sort of look like the one company archetype that they imagine. And so they're dividing personas up and there's a director level persona person and there's an engineer person and a marketing persona. But they're not thinking about the difference between a director level person at a start up and a director level person at a 15,000 person organization.

And so when you look at your potential customer cohorts: early adopters, early majority, late majority you should have a persona for each of those cohorts.

  • You should have the leader level, the decider person at a modern early adopter
  • You should have the decider persona at the early majority
  • And the decider persona at the late majority

You should have a matrix of personas and adopter types because they make decisions in very different ways."

Dan: "So if you have ever worked at a place that had a fairly mature sales organization, there's always a shared sales presentation that's been made collectively by the whole group, and they all use the same one. People add some custom things, and they tweak it a little bit to match their voice. But there is always a sell kit or a media kit.

And that is there to help the people that are evangelizing your product, win over their audience. Your customers need that same thing.

And so making something that helps explain:

  • why you're better
  • how it compares to the competitors
  • what the pain points are
  • what is the ROI over time
  • what is the privacy concerns

Answer all the questions for them. When I go into my VP office or their virtual meeting, I need to give them a presentation that explains why LaunchNotes or why Slack or why JIRA is a great idea.

And they're going to give me questions, and I'm going to have to answer them. I'm going to be tap dancing a little. The more you can pre answer those questions, the slide deck literally make the slide deck that that person can give to their boss will get you pretty far."

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