How to Build Products People Love: Lessons from Kevin Hale

I’ve recently been listening to Sam Altman’s startup class videos again. I’ve listened to them before but after working as a PM at a startup, I’m gleaning more from them. Here’s a brief summary of the important points of the talk by Kevin Hale on How To Build Products Users Love.

  1. Startup customer relations are like dating. If you think about it, you’re flirting to get your customer’s attention. You like the right type of customer that you think your product could be a great fit for and you want to attract their attention in order to build a long-term relationship. The best relevant metaphor Hale shared is that performance matters, especially how fast you are and how long you’re up (speed and server uptime respectively, don’t be dirty…).
  2. First Impressions Matter. The very first time a user is introduced to your product, they’re going to form impressions. If it’s a mobile app and it’s super buggy, it’s unlikely that they’ll give you a second chance in the near future. Build a product that’s intuitive and a pleasure to use that solves a real pain point.
  3. You can either be the best at price point, product, or overall solution. Walmart is a great example of best price point. The best products need strong R&D and Apple’s a strong example. The third one anyone can do as long as they’re an expert in their customers.
  4. Strong Customer Support is Key. If your users encounter bugs, issues, or have complaints, make it a priority to listen to what they’re saying. If enough users are having a problem using your product, it means you haven’t designed the best overall solution. Listen to their feedback and question the root cause of their problems (not their feature requests). Small delights like Wufoo’s “Since You’ve Been Gone” modal (it gave returning users a modal with updates of Wufoo’s progress) can mean a big deal to users. Paul English at Kayak had an interesting approach to forcing engineers to handle customer support (http://www.inc.com/magazine/20100201/the-way-i-work-paul-english-of-kayak.html).
  5. Add emotional touches to please the user if possible. This is similar to Adam Nash’s feature bucket of Customer Delight features (http://blog.adamnash.com/2009/07/22/guide-to-product-planning-three-feature-buckets/). Hale gives a couple examples, such as the Wufoo dinosaur tooltip that said ‘Rawr’, Stripe using code examples with your personal API key, and Mailchimp help guides in the form of magazines.
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