How can you make sure that you’re solving a problem that matters?
This is the fourth episode in the 2022 Product Awards series. In this conversation, Wayfair Product Leader Nacho Andrade speaks with Amplitude SVP of Product Justin Bauer. At Amplitude, says Justin Bauer, the customer is part of the team. From the company’s origins, to its evolution into new product directions, the direction comes from spending time with customers.
Subscribe to the Product Talk podcast on Spotify and Apple Podcasts and catch every conversation with leading product executives. New episodes go live every week. Episodes in the Product Awards Series drop on Fridays.
On why the customer is part of the team
One thing is for sure in the world of product: customers are never satisfied. There are always competitors offering alternative solutions. Accordingly, the key to standing out is solving customer pain, and geting the solution on the market quickly. So how can a product team stay one step ahead? In a word, spend more time with your customers.
“Our first product principle is that the customer is part of the team. To build a great product, to be truly innovative, means you live in the minds of your customers. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so many startups are founded by people who are actually solving their own problem. They were their first customer because they truly understood that pain.
“And that was very true for us. Even in the early days of Amplitude, we hired people who are founders, people that really understood product analytics. We were all power users of product analytics. Now eventually, that doesn’t scale. Because there’s only so many founders out there. And also because your customer base changes, right? You go from just building for power users to building for more and more different types of personas and use cases.
“So that’s why you need to spend so much time with those customers. To make sure you still have a really deep understanding of what their pain is. Our PMs and designers spend 15 to 20% of their time talking to customers. Getting feedback from customers, developing products with our customers. It’s the most important thing in building a great product.”
On the new digital power users
The digital revolution means that more and more companies are interested in data. And it isn’t just tech companies. Legacy companies are now taking seriously the idea of digital innovation, says Justin.
“There’s a lot of new people that are building data driven products for the first time. PMs that maybe hadn’t used data before in their careers. And that’s obviously exciting for us, because that’s our mission: to help companies build better products using data. And so we’re literally seeing that happen in front of us.
“And it’s not just in traditional tech companies, who are the heavy users of our products. But it’s the companies like Burger King, or Allstate, or Ford, that are now becoming power users. I would never have guessed that Ford would have been one of our largest customers when I started back in 2015. And it’s really impressive to see that they’re embracing digital as a driver of innovation. They’re thinking about how the connected car can help them win. That we can play a small role in helping them do that is something that I’m really proud of.”
On how to build a good CAB
Especially in a b2b product, it can feel like the best input to listen to is that from your highest paying customers. But good input comes from diverse opinions and voices. Otherwise, you’ll end up just building for your power users, which can actually hamper growth. This is why Justin recommends a Customer Advisory Board, or CAB, though he feels it is often isunderstood.
“I feel like people actually get the CAB concept wrong. I think you see this a lot in b2b. People kind of build their CAB with a bunch of their top paying customers. And then they talk to them and then build their strategy off of that. I actually think it’s the other way around. You should be talking to lots of different customers, users using product data. Use all the different inputs that you have to come up with your strategy, and then use your strategy to then develop your CAB.
“And so once you have your strategy, then you figure out which customers you have to actually build the right product that fits your strategy. And so actually strategy develops the CAB, not CAB develops the strategy. I think a lot of b2b product leaders get that wrong.”
About the speaker
Justin Bauer is the Head of Product at Amplitude, where he strives to make it easy for companies to make better decisions from their data. He’s a 2x entrepreneur as well as an alumnus of McKinsey, Stanford GSB and Carleton College.
About the host
Big idea product leader specializing in the space between 0 to 1, digital transformation, and innovation.