Make Company Name and Product Name the Same

At Pardot, we originally named our product Prospect Insight, thinking we were cool with a product that was abbreviated PI (Note: You can still go to prospectinsight.com and it redirects to Pardot). Only, at the time, we didn’t understand that it was a bad idea to have a product name separate from the company name. As we started to gain traction, customers would refer to the product as Pardot, and not Prospect Insight. Eventually, we realized that to our customers the product was one and the same as the company, and we dropped the product name Prospect Insight.

The company name and product name should be the same. It’s hard enough to build one new brand, let alone two simultaneously. Make things easy and simple: keep the names the same.

What else? What are some more thoughts on making the company name and product name the same?

Going Deep or Broad with the Product

One of the product questions entrepreneurs need to ask themselves early on is if they’re going to go deep or broad with the application. In general, as customers ask for new features, they have a tendency to be broader requests (e.g. can you add adjacent feature XYZ?). Keep in mind the importance of product focus, especially the part about being opinionated.

Here are a few questions to ask when considering going deep or broad:

  • Is this product a point solution or a platform (everyone wants to be a platform but point solutions are much more common)?
  • Does this feature request strengthen an existing feature or does it introduce a new concept?
  • Are customers asking for more product depth or more product breadth, generally?
  • Does the product roadmap reflect more depth or breadth? Is that direction intentional?
  • How does depth and breadth reflect reflect the current customer base vs the desired customer base (e.g. entrepreneurs often want to expand upmarket over time)?

Entrepreneurs would do well to think through their product strategy when it comes to going deep or broad with the application. Deep is the more common successful route.

What else? What are some more thoughts on going deep or broad with the product?

Platforms and Microservices

Steve Yegge has an epic rant on Amazon being a poor place to work but more brilliant than Google when it comes to innovation at platform scale from 2011. David Skok recently published a post on his blog titled Microservices Essentials for Executives: The Key to High Velocity Software Development. The idea is that tech companies start out building their product as one large, monolithic system because it’s simpler and faster. Then, as the startup achieves greater levels of success, innovation slows down considerably even though more and more people are added to the product team. What gives?

The larger the product, the harder it is to make changes to it due to all the dependencies. Amazon was the first major technology company to realize that Internet scale, and it’s greater levels of complexity, requires a new way of building large-scale systems: microservices. Microservices are simply smaller, self-sufficient special purpose products that form a platform (e.g. tiny apps that are used to make a big app). Amazon went further and built Amazon Web Services (AWS) to make the backend of these microservices even easier to manage and scale, and now AWS is one of the fastest products to $10 billion in annual revenue, ever.

Tech entrepreneurs need to understand the benefits of microservices and start planning them once they hit the growth stage, but not before. All major platforms going forward are going to have some form of microservices underpinning them.

What else? What are some more thoughts on platforms and microservices?

User Experience to Get Small Committments Early

Continuing with the Science of Persuasion video, at the 6:20 mark in the video the author talks about the importance of consistency. From the video:

Look for, and ask for, commitments that can be made

This is a valuable technique in the software world, especially during free trials or onboarding new users. Instead of saying “hey, we’re a great software product with 100 features, good luck” the idea is to direct the user to accomplish something small and simple, as quickly as possible (e.g. connect your Twitter account and we’ll show you three immediate insights). Then, once the small commitment is made (e.g. using a simple feature) the user is much more likely to take the next step and use the more complicated feature (e.g. now that we’ve given you these three insights, answer these 10 questions and we’ll suggest 100 new people to follow on Twitter).

Start small. Get the user to do something. Show value. Build on the experience and get the user more involved. Much like micro apps for lead generation, give value as quickly as possible and ask for small commitments.

What else? What are some more thoughts on the idea of getting small commitments early to help with persuasion in the user experience?

Product Engagement and Usage Understanding

One of the areas that I want to better understand is that of product engagement and usage metrics in the context of a B2B SaaS app. I’ve looked at a number of usage reports from Google Analytics and other apps but haven’t had the opportunity to see an expert in action combined with a system that adds insight.

Some of the product engagement and usage questions I’m interested in:

  • What are basic product engagement elements that every B2B product manager should know?
  • What are some of the more advanced techniques and best practices?
  • What metrics should be tracked daily, weekly, and monthly?
  • What are the best apps and tools to to track and analyze product engagement?

I’m confident that staying close to the customer is one of the most important things to do and understanding product engagement and usage is a critical part of this. Now, I’m interested in learning more.

What else? What are the answers to these questions and what other questions need to be asked?

Sell in Advance of the Roadmap

Last year I was talking to an entrepreneur who was recounting how they had just lost a big deal they thought they were going to win. Curious, I asked for more details. The prospect was pitched by a competitor where the competitor spent an hour doing a vision call talking about their direction, upcoming features, and general approach to the market. This call, which was about what was potentially going to happen, sealed the deal.

Entrepreneurs need to sell in advance of the roadmap.

Meaning, have a vision for the future and sell features and benefits that are coming soon, not purely what’s there today. Now, this can get tricky as we’ve all had sales people promise us things that were not true. That’s not the idea here. The idea is that when prospects buy a SaaS product, they’re not only buying what the product can do today — they’re also buying what the product will do tomorrow. Find the right balance between making sure the prospect will get value right away and promising things to come.

Don’t underestimate the importance of selling in advance of the roadmap — customers are also buying a vision of the future.

What else? What are some more thoughts on the idea of selling in advance of the roadmap?

7 Elements of a SaaS Platform Company

Within the B2B SaaS world, one of the common entrepreneurial aspirations is to build a platform company. A platform company, like it sounds, is one that achieves a level of success and market penetration such that a number of other companies build add-ons or integrations to programmatically interact with the platform. Salesforce.com (owner of Pardot) is the most well known SaaS example.

Here are seven elements of a SaaS platform company:

  • Large, fast growing customer base (thousands of customers)
  • Publicly available API
  • Mature partner program with hundreds of integrations
  • Major annual user conference and regional conferences
  • Continued thought leadership and innovation
  • Category definer
  • Often publicly traded

For SaaS entrepreneurs, building a platform company means a tremendous level of success. While there’s no single definition of a platform company, these seven elements are often a good indicator.

What else? What are some more elements of a SaaS platform company?