Product Launch: Getting 100M Users
Michael Palermiti is the Head of Product working on Outlook for iOS. His team works closely with all disciplines and several partner teams across Microsoft to design and build a differentiated mobile email and calendar app that enables users to connect, organize, and get things done on the go.
He recently spoke at Mixpanel HQ in Seattle and discussed how Outlook is not the default email and calendar app on iOS devices. So, they must win every user by choice — and that requires intense user-driven focus.
If you watch the video or read on, Michael Palermiti discusses the product launch for Outlook and what it means to have to win by choice. For Outlook mobile to have grown to 100M users, his product team and the app had to not only win by choice but to earn trust and win across multiple platforms.
To do this, Palermiti and his team follow seven principles for a successful product launch.
1. For a successful product launch and good growth, start with the “Why?”
Palermiti frequently has customers and users come up to him that ask about features they enjoyed on the desktop app that they’re not finding in the mobile experience. He always asks “why?” to try and understand what they’re trying to accomplish.
“You’re really trying to understand them more deeply than the “what” they’re trying to accomplish and “how”, but “why.” It reminds me of the old Henry Ford quote, which is about how if he built what his users were telling him to build, he would have tried to build a faster horse.”
2. Hustle, but don’t compromise
After a product launch, it’s important not to compromise on core fundamentals. Products are shipped with bugs in the process of moving quickly. Users can forgive that, but compromising your fundamentals will catch up with you. Palermiti shared an experience with acquiring a company that began as a 4.5-star product but fell to 2.5 stars in the app store.
“For a few months, they just lost sight of some of the fundamentals and that that translated in a loss of user trust and, frankly, user ratings. When I was handed the job, I was like, the first thing we’ll do is get us out of 2.5-star hole. We literally did no features for a few months. We just hustled on core fundamentals. And ever since then, it was like a mind shift for the team.”
3. Everyone is a Product person
This is a lesson from Palermiti’s startup days that he’s carried over to a bigger company like Microsoft. Everyone needs to buy into the mission.
“If you can’t articulate the product value in the mission, then we don’t really want you on the product.”
4. Ship fast and often
A peer of Palermiti’s once told him if they weren’t shipping weekly, then they were a productivity black hole. He went on to explain the benefits of doing so after your product launch:
“Every week, we have an opportunity to fix fundamentals and improve fundamentals. It also enables us to ship features whenever we need to, but more importantly, iterate on things.”
5. User Driven, Data Informed
When it comes to product, put users and the experience first and use data to help you determine iterative enhancements. The data will get you to the top of the mountain you’re on, but won’t tell you which mountain to climb. Listen to your users to figure out what to ship. Then, pay attention to data once you ship so you can iterate and get it from good to great.
Palermiti pointed to his experience with Outlook as an example:
“No data would have told us to build dark mode. We were inundated with user feedback. No data telemetry would have told us to go build that.”
6. Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.
To demonstrate the importance of simplification, Palermiti shared a story of paring down the Outlook app and hiding or removing some features.
“Overwhelmingly, people were like, well, I don’t know what you did, but the app just feels cleaner. It feels lighter. They don’t realize we actually just reduced. Through reduction, you can create focus.”
7. There is no safety net
Especially for a third-party mobile app like Outlook, Palermiti and his team have to remind themselves that they don’t own the platforms and have very little influence on the Stores. In every decision a product team makes, you will win or lose by user choice, and they have no incentive to be loyal.
“When we trip, when we stub our toe, when we ship a bad build, we lose users. Users are not loyal, especially in our space. Email is the most open communication platform in the world. There’s no shortage of communication apps that allow you to communicate via that protocol. S,o we have to have a very high bar.”