This post was written by Dan Larsen, Senior Product Manager at Henry Schein and host of the Founder Story Podcast.
One of my all-time favorite books is titled Strengths Finder, authored by Tom Rath. The opening paragraph of the book reads:
“At its fundamentally flawed core, the aim of almost any learning program is to help us become who we are not. If you don’t have a natural talent with numbers, you’re still forced to spend time in that area to earn a degree. If you’re not very empathetic, you get sent to a course designed to infuse empathy into your personality. From the cradle to the cubicle, we devote more time to our shortcomings than to our strengths.”
Wholesale ignoring areas of weakness isn’t my recommendation. Being well rounded and having basic skills in many areas is essential, but if you struggle with numbers, then dedicating a huge portion of your time to being an accountant probably isn’t the best idea. I think Mr. Rath makes an interesting point, why do we spend so much time focused on improving what we’re not good at? Instead, we should spend that valuable time on our true talents, and our real opportunities at greatness.
I believe this same logic of focusing on your strengths, rather than your weaknesses, can be applied to your product strategy.
Recently, I was pouring through NPS results in Pendo. Naturally, I jumped right to the detractor comments, each negative comment was like a dagger to my heart. I put so much of my life into my product, why don’t all of my customers love it? I take everything personally (not one of my strengths) and any negativity weighed heavy on my mind for days. Honestly, it was pretty consuming at times, and seriously made me feel upset.
Fast forward a few weeks. I received an NPS survey inside of Pendo asking the famous question. Of course, I gave Pendo a 10, I’m a huge fan. I left a comment, and then, something happened that I didn’t expect — Pendo displayed a message that read “Thanks for your support. Are you willing to spread the word about Pendo?” I clicked the link and was taken to a simple landing page that asked how I would like to be involved with spreading the word about Pendo, with checkboxes for case study, sales reference, etc. I clicked several boxes, entered my name, and proceeded to think about that simple experience for several days. I also thought back to Strengths Finder, and the personal pain and anguish I felt while reading any negative comments about my product, and it dawned on me.
Maybe the answer isn’t trying desperately, to please everyone, but in celebrating and accelerating, the undeniable strengths that my product does have, right now.
Don’t ignore your detractors, but don’t obsess over them either. Celebrate with your promoters and you’ll bring more people to the party. Chances are, you’re going to win more customers by continually spotlighting your killer strengths, then you will by trying to compete in every feature race. I really believe you’ll win more deals and have happier customers if you focus on the areas where you can be great and different, rather than trying to be all things to all people, or trying to develop every conceivable feature you’ve been asked to create, or changing your product strategy for one noisy customer.
Know your strength and be the best at it. Spend more time focusing on your strengths, engaging your promoters, and spreading the word about who you are, rather than who you aren’t.
Strengths Finder is a short read. Most of the value is in the robust personality test that provides you with what it believes to be your top 5 strengths, which are personality attributes like Competition, Focus, Individualization, Achiever, etc. There are 30 different possibilities. After the test, you can come back to the book and read about your personality strengths and talents. I have no association with Tom Rath or the book. He has no clue who I am, I’m just a fan.
Bio Dan Larsen:
I make SaaS your dentist uses. Weekend warrior. Coldplay fanatic.
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