Community Series | Tapping Into Community
What does it mean to develop a product with community in mind?
Over the first two seasons of Better Product, we’ve found that many of our conversations seem to involve community, whether the word is blatantly spoken or not. In many cases, it’s a matter of how much a company wants to invest in community that dictates the impact its community has on the success of a given product.
In this first episode of this new series, we’ll be looking into a few examples of product stories that were heavily influenced by their communities and how it looked differently for each of them. We’ll also hear how being intentional about community stands to benefit both your product and the experience of your users.
Listen in to hear part one of our new series on community.
Past Episodes Mentioned:
- Scaling a Product While Building a Community with Sara Mauskopf
- Creating a Better Product Starts by Solving a Real Problem with Pieter Omvlee
Resources Mentioned:Listen Now
Christian Beck: And we're back.
Anna Eaglin: Welcome. If you heard our trailer, you know that we're trying something new here on Better Product. For five episodes we're honing in on a specific theme that has surfaced in many of our conversations so far, community.
Anna Eaglin: Better Product, the only show that takes a behind the scenes look into how digital products are created.
Christian Beck: The businesses built around them and how you too can innovate Better Products. I'm Christian.
Anna Eaglin: I'm Anna.
Christian Beck: Welcome to today's show. I'm really excited for this. We'll have a chance to explore some topics and dig deeper into the different components that lead to a great product.
Anna Eaglin: For anyone wondering, Christian, what made community the right theme for this first series?
Christian Beck: That's a great question. I think one of the biggest reasons I was inspired to do this was really by the types of guests we were having, and the big one being Scott Belsky, from Adobe via Behance, which will be in an upcoming episode, but even a lot of the conversations we have with founders that are starting products. We've been hearing more and more lately that people are using community to actually drive product growth, and to figure out what to even do with the product.
Anna Eaglin: I definitely agree. I think we're seeing a lot of entrepreneurs, a lot of people running companies talk about this. I think this really started with Dave Gearhart. It surprised me, at the time, that Drift had a product marketing community before they ever had a product. That to me was very surprising that they did all that work to build those people and now we're seeing that they're really starting to build those communities, sometimes before the product even comes out. They helped build the content or helped build the product.
Christian Beck: Yeah. Maybe what else is interesting for you and I, and maybe marketers already know this, and that's just old hat to them, but from the product side, I think it is a little bit new, and to me it almost feels like an extension of marketing that's more two way rather than just marketing to people. Community then takes the other side like, "Okay, we're going to market to these potential customers or the users, but then they are going to feed back." I think that's where community comes in and it seems like it's a blend of marketing mixed with product, but I think it's really fascinating to look at what community means for product growth.
Anna Eaglin: What made community worthy of a full series, in your opinion?
Christian Beck: Well we'll find out, but my guess is that it would be that there's more depth to what it means to establish a community. The last thing I think people should take away from this community series is understanding how community works alongside product at different stages in the product life. We'll cover what community is when you're spinning up a product, and then what community is once your product has grown and more mature, and how it helps scale the product, how it helps continue to establish yourself as a thought leader. With that in mind, let's dive into the first story.
Peter Omvlee: We saw that there was a need here where we could, with a relatively simple drawing, just focus on those things we could make the lives for you, as designers, quite a lot easier. So that's where the idea started.
Christian Beck: That's Peter Omvlee, CEO of Sketch, and just full disclosure, Sketch is one of my most favorite apps in the entire world. If you listened to our show last season, you heard us talk with Peter about how Sketch succeeded by simply identifying a need and building a product to meet that need. In this case, it was creating a platform for designers to create prototype and collaborate. But as we spoke with Peter, something else became clear. The reason Sketch grew so rapidly, despite the company's growth reluctant mindset, which I also admire, was due to the devotion of their community of evangelists. A community who actively shared their product with others. It's a dream scenario, right? How does that happen? What was unique about Sketch resulting in an engaged community? We're going to talk about that, but before we do, I want to introduce you to someone else. Adam Fry-Pierce, and you may already be familiar with his name because he's the Director of Design Community at InVision, a digital product design platform where he serves as a curator of their design leadership forum.
Christian Beck: I'm sure if you've heard of Sketch, you've most likely heard of InVision. It's huge in the design community, so that's why I wanted to talk to Adam, because I personally have sort of witnessed their community grow over the last few years, and I wanted to understand why fostering community is so important to InVision. As we talked, I was surprised to find that although Adam's role is obviously all about community, it's right there in his title. Literally everyone at InVision is invested in their community and they are driven by this concept that he calls the three P's.
Adam Fry-Pierce: There is no community strategy owner at InVision, a community that's basically split up into three P's. You've got community that's split up into the people side of community, meaning not at all connected to practices or platform, but it's all about how can we give back to the people in the industry and help guide them on their journeys. Then as we can help accelerate their journey, the thought is that InVision will essentially be rising up the tide of the entire industry, and it is that belief that all ships will rise with it, InVision being one of them. You have practices which is more like design education. Just because somebody holds a hammer doesn't make them a master carpenter. Same thing goes with using tools. You have to know how to use them.
Adam Fry-Pierce: The entire reason why the design education unit exists at all is to help people become master in their craft. We can't just assume that giving them the product and then teaching them how to use it is the end all, and that's going to be a career maker. We have to teach them as to how to use tools and how to solve problems well outside of what we can offer. It's much more about training the mindset. We went over people, we went over practices, the last one is product and that's our support team. We've got a community that manages a program called the Ambassadors Program where it's exactly what you'd think. Masters of the InVision tool set who don't technically work for us, but they are massive brand champions, and advocates, and they are thought leaders in some spaces that we own and also thought leaders in spaces that we don't own.
Christian Beck: The more you think about it, the more this idea of the three P's make sense. InVision clearly places community at the core of their growth strategy. How can these same concepts be applied to everyone looking to build community around their product? What we found is if it all begins with people, Peter Omvlee and Sketch certainly had the right approach when they started out. Instead of investing early on in marketing and advertising efforts to get the word out and attract customers, they simply took their product to actual designers, let them try it and then let the users spread the word.
Peter Omvlee: Not only for the first six months we were thinking for a very long time and maybe still the most effective marketing we've had is just like viral marketing. One designer liking it, convincing his or her coworkers to switch. We've never done much in the way of advertising or other forms of marketing. It's always just gone mostly organically. We try to help Adobe by supporting user meetups and the like, but really active marketing is not something that we do much of.
Christian Beck: It sounds risky though, right? What if you can't grow your user base quickly enough? In order to build adoption as the good word spread, Sketch offered up their product for free, another potentially risky move, but for Peter and his team it made perfect sense. Just come try it or practice if you will.
Peter Omvlee: Sketch had a free trial from day one, because that's just the way things are done. The way things were done on the Mac, the product launched at I think $40, and that's just not something people are going to pay for without ever having seen the product, or in the early days, not even having heard about. Now someone might buy Sketch without trying it because they got it recommended from someone they trusted. When we got started and people find Sketch for the first time, they just want to try the app before buying it.
Christian Beck: Simple. Sketch took their product to the people it was built for. They allowed them to use it and they continued to develop and evolve their product based on what the users wanted, but that's not the whole story. We will explore in one of our later episodes what to do with user feedback. Now back to today's focus. I want to share one other example of a product developed with community in mind, and how the concept of a product community can look different from the example Sketch gives us. You may remember our conversation with Sara Mauskopf of Winnie, a platform focused on making parents lives easier through childcare resources and community.
Christian Beck: Really, when we talked to her, that's truthfully when we started realizing there was a theme around community because that's kind of all Winnie was for a long time, was just a community. When Sara became a parent, she had a million questions and no place to get answers. She set out to find a solution, which for her meant building a product. For Sara, defining her community was easy. New parents, and I can say this from experience, have similar issues. Yet what she quickly found was as her community of users grew the specific focus of her product became more clear.
Sara Mauskopf: It really took building the product, and seeing how the community started using it, to really hone in on the thing that we could do that would change lives. For us, that thing was helping parents find daycare and preschool. We just found that childcare was a bigger pain point than pretty much everything else we were imagining. It was the thing that without it you couldn't really do anything else. When we helped parents find childcare, we were changing their lives and they were telling all their friends about the product, and they were able to go back to work. It really took building a thing and launching it to identify the real kernel of what we were doing that had true product market fit.
Christian Beck: In the case of Sara, it was product then people, and the early challenge was clear. As parents search for a resource and flocked to Winnie from the app store. They had a hard time finding what they were looking for, which was child care. The old adage stands true, practice makes perfect. As she uncovered the true need of her users, she took that feedback to develop the product her community needed.
Sara Mauskopf: Because a lot of users who were downloading us just because they were finding us on the app store. Until we made childcare front and center, they didn't even know it was there, so it was kind of crazy. We had this amazing part of Winnie that was changing lives, and if you just downloaded the app you wouldn't even necessarily find it. We really had to bring it out from underneath search, and underneath filters, and make it a key part of our product and really the action you should take when you download Winnie or when you go to winnie.com.
Christian Beck: The great news for Sara is that parenting needs don't actually end after you find childcare. Since her products still offered the opportunity for parents to connect, talk, and share ideas, she could keep listening to her community and expand Winnie's tertiary offerings to continue to align with parent's needs as their children grew.
Sara Mauskopf: The kind of amazing thing about all the things we were already doing with Winnie is childcare was sort of this overarching need that everyone has when you have a zero to five year old, because even if you're not initially looking for infant daycare, you will need preschool at some point. There's really no public preschool in the United States. We were going after the exact market already who would be interested in childcare, and childcare is a long buying cycle. It's at least three month buying cycle. It's a very considered purchase. You do it multiple times in the sort of zero to five years, and so it was kind of perfect.
Sara Mauskopf: Even people who find us for other reasons, because they hear that Winnie is a place to find cool activities to do with your kids, or a place to nurse a baby, or just a community where you can ask your parenting questions. All those people are pretty much the target market for childcare services, if not today, then at some point. We have this nice community and product that retains people over time and at the point where they are a childcare buyer, Winnie will be top of mind for them. Hopefully they're using it already.
Christian Beck: If you search for Winnie, you'll find that it exists to help parents find local childcare providers, including daycare and preschools. It's so much more than that, which is what our community of users has come to find. Practice led Sara to craft the perfect product for her people at every stage of their journey. While not every product will necessitate the need for a community ambassadors program, like the one at InVision, or an online forum for users to converse as can be found on Winnie, I can't help but feel like so many of our conversations on Better Products seem to involve community. Whether the word is blatantly spoken or not. It's often a matter of how much a company wants to invest in community that dictates the impact its community has on the success of a given product.
Christian Beck: Placing an emphasis on community makes sense for InVision, Sketch, and Winnie. Do we know though how to tell when community works best and what does listening to your community mean for product developers? These are questions we'll be exploring in the coming episodes. Up next, we'll dive deeper with Adam, and Mike Davidson from InVision, to learn more about the core principles that drive their commitment to community.
Anna Eaglin: Thanks so much for listening to the show this week. If you haven't yet, be sure to subscribe, rate, and review this podcast. Until then, visit innovatemap.com/podcast and subscribe to learn how you can take your product to the next level. As always, we're curious, what does Better Product mean to you? hit us up on Twitter at @innovatemap, or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christian Beck: I'm Christian.
Anna Eaglin: And I'm Anna, and you've been listening to Better Product.
Christian Beck: Better Product.
Anna Eaglin: Drop mic.