The Secrets to Building a Product-Led Organization
If you’re a tech CEO, you’ve probably heard of “product led growth.” But what about a product-led company? In this episode of Powered by Battery, we speak with Todd Olson, the CEO of software company Pendo*, who’s written a book on how to build what he calls a product-led organization—one intensely focused on creating products that delight customers and easily anticipate their needs. Pendo, founded in 2013, is a software company whose technology helps other companies accelerate digital product adoption among customers and internal employees.
Olson also chats with us about steering Pendo through the Covid-19 pandemic, adapting company operations for work-from-home and what it’s like to build a unicorn tech startup in Raleigh, NC. Have a listen.
Always be thinking: How can I leverage my product to deliver better experiences for my customer? Too many companies focus on product-led activities only early in the customer journey, perhaps at the time of customer conversion. Olson believes companies should, instead, always be figuring out how to offload work from humans into new functionality inside their product. This could take the form of in-product customer service, customer onboarding or even monetary collections. This leads to better customer satisfaction and more revenue over time.
Focus on potential “a-ha” moments. Many software products are too complex and are, essentially, overthought. Instead, product managers should focus narrowly on designing features that will quickly hook a new customer—those that, if adopted by a new customer, make them more likely to stick with it and not churn. “If you can identify those a-ha moments and get users into them fast, then you’re much more likely to capture a user for life,” Olson says.
Product-led techniques can help companies get through economic downturns. Customers stick with products that delight them—and those that adapt with the times. A company like Home Depot, as an example, now has more customers ordering goods online and picking them up, in their cars, outside a store via a curbside app, versus shopping inside the physical store. The company has “had to be creative and become digital in ways that they previously weren’t,” according to Olson.
Companies also must adapt their own operations, from product launches to conferences, as times change. Just last month, Pendo launched a new, free version of its product and held its annual user conference, Pendomonium, online. Pendo’s marketing team quickly evaluated online solutions and wound up tripling the size of the audience to more than 3,000 people. Online keynotes came from speakers including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the CEOs of Blue Apron and Superhuman.
As a CEO, never (or rarely) turn down an opportunity to tell your story. When you’re located outside of major tech-funding centers, it can be harder to attract investment and take more time to fundraise. But even after you’ve raised significant financing, Olson thinks it’s a good practice to continue networking with investors—even those who might not have partner titles. At the same time, keep building a great business.