Peloton, Amazon, and the pillars of being product led

Written by Tom Relihan  | 

8 min

 

You hop on the exercise bike, put your water bottle in the holster, and get ready for a grueling cycling session. But it’s not at the local gym—it’s in your living room, on your Peloton. After showering off, you pop down the street and into the nearest Amazon Go location to pick up your protein smoothie ingredients. Berries, yogurt, whey—check. You snap up a bottle of a coconut water for good measure, then it’s out the door.

Throughout both experiences, you don’t encounter a single living human being. Your only interactions with Peloton and Amazon that day are through their products—and it’s completely seamless. 

What do these two experiences have in common? Both companies have settled on a strategy of putting their product at the center of their customer experience—indeed, it’s at the center of everything they do. They’re both product-led companies.

For Peloton, it’s all about providing users with immediate feedback and delight as they pedal up a sweat, such as a personalized call-out and welcome on their first ride from a live instructor. For Amazon Go, it means removing points of unnecessary friction, such as a long line to the point-of-sale checkout, resulting in increased efficiency and happier customers that stick around.

These aren’t the only two organizations who’ve figured out that their product is uniquely positioned to be the perfect conduit between the customer and the rest of their organization to improve the user experience and, thus, drive growth. Titans of technology, social media, entertainment, and even the auto industry like Facebook, Netflix, Apple, and Tesla, are all using similar strategies, and their success speaks for itself.

It’s the same approach we take here at Pendo, and it’s one that rests on three pillars: Leveraging data for product decisions, putting the product at the center of the customer experience, and adjusting how your product is delivered. 

In our latest webinar, Pendo Chief Product Officer Brian Crofts and Cameron Moll, VP of product design, discussed each of these aspects of a product-led organization, and how to put them into action at yours. Here’s some of their biggest takeaways:

1. Leverage data for product decisions

Becoming product led hinges, predictably, on having a really great product. To be sure you’re making the right product decisions and improvements, you need to make sure you’re leveraging the data available to you in the right ways and to the fullest extent. As the old adage goes, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”

Fortunately, these days it’s not as hard to come by the data you need. There’s a galaxy of tools available to collect and extract it for you, Crofts noted. But to get the most mileage out of it, you need to know why you’re measuring it. To do that, start with your goal in mind. Maybe it’s increasing conversion, or increasing retention based on behaviors that you want customers to do. It could be financial, or product-related.

And it’s not just the quantitative data you should be paying attention to. It’s important to combine it with the rich qualitative data from customer feedback and surveys. Having NPS data is useful for benchmarking your product against your competitors’ offerings, for instance, but the really useful stuff lies in the comments your detractors are leaving behind with their score. At Pendo, we feed all of that into a Slack channel for team members to discuss and address.

“Our customers rely on our product to do their job, so their feedback is very rich and we take it very seriously,” Crofts said. “It’s been a huge benefit in building a better product when we can combine these two data sets.”

Running iterative experiments in your product development is another excellent source of data, and a good way to validate that you’re heading in the right direction and allocating your resources wisely, Crofts said.

2. Putting the product at the center of the customer experience

As a product-led organization, there’s no work more important than ensuring your product is constantly improving to become the best offering available in your space. Everyone in your org should be laser-focused on this goal, because that product is going to be the centerpiece of your customers’ interactions with your organization, right? The best possible product leads to the best possible customer experience, which directly contributes to the success of every single part of your business.

For marketing, excellent experiences with your product drive word-of-mouth promotion—and we all know that’s the best way to raise conversion-driving awareness of your product. For sales, a polished, product-led freemium experience primes prospects for conversations with reps and closes deals faster. For customer success and support, effective in-product onboarding leads to easier task completion, a better relationship with the customer, and more bandwidth to address lower-volume, more challenging problems. And a highly-regarded product will attract top talent to your organization to make it even better. 

Now that’s a virtuous cycle if we’ve ever seen one.

Moll said some of the best ways you can position your product as the primary experience for your customers is to examine your traditionally human-led custom touchpoints, like support and onboarding, and automate these with product-led touchpoints. You should also ensure the design is cohesive across every aspect of your organization, from the marketing website to the app itself. We did this at Pendo by positioning both the brand design and product design teams under the product function. That means design is seamless, from product awareness through the sales process and into using the product itself and beyond.

“It’s all one experience, with a product-led aura by nature,” he said.

The next opportunity you’ll have to nail the product experience for your users is the moment they first log into the app. This is the point at which you must have an efficient, effective, and polished onboarding process, one that leads the user to your product’s “aha!” moment—the action that drives home the value it can provide and makes them sticky—as soon as possible.

“When people realize that benefit earlier rather than later during their onboarding, they’re much more likely to renew and use the product over and over again, and recommend it to somebody else,” Crofts said.

In-app support is another effective way to minimize user friction or get users who run into trouble un-stuck before they need to reach out to a human. You can leverage the knowledge of your customer support function to identify the most common sticking points or questions and preemptively address them.Offering up a version of your product for free, as we recently did with Pendo Free, can also be a good way to get your product out in front of prospective customers, so that when they sit down to talk with a sales rep, they’ve already experienced the value. “That’s absolute product-led growth,” Crofts said.

3. Adjusting how your product is delivered

It used to be the case that you could decide on a product vision, disappear into your workshop, and emerge with a fully-baked version to cast out into the market. Those days are gone, Crofts and Moll noted.

At Pendo, we engage in a very thoughtful beta testing process that involves constant iteration and feedback at multiple stages, so that when we do release a feature or product to all of our customers, we’ve worked with our power users to iron out as many of the gotchas, bugs, and friction points as possible. “Innovation is a community exercise, and we now have the tools that allow us to do that,” Crofts said. “It’s another way of leveraging the product to get better outcomes.”

“Whether you’re building for 700 million or 700,000 users, it’s a trusted model that we’ve come to rely on,” said Moll of the method, which he also employed during his time working on Facebook’s Events platform.

If you haven’t already, it’s also time to stand up a product ops function, Crofts said. This team serves as the “connective tissue” between product, customer success, engineering, and other functions to make sure they’re aligned, streamline launches, and communicate priorities. “It’s something that’s really helped us scale these processes,” he said.

Want to learn more about becoming a product-led organization? Check out our co-founder and CEO’s new book, “The Product-Led Organization.”

To watch the full webinar with Brian and Cameron, check out the recording here: