Product Growth

with Gustaf Alströmer

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Spend time building growth tactics that you will benefit from in two years

Gustaf Alströmer

Growth & Product Expert, Airbnb, Community

Lessons Learned

The vast majority of all mobile growth happens when two people are next to each other.

All apps should have a magical moment where you get what the app is about.

If calling the CIO doesn’t work for channel development, go guerrilla through employees.


Lesson: Product Growth with Gustaf Alströmer

Step #7 Tactics: Spend time building growth tactics that you will benefit from in two years

I think on mobile, one realization that I had is that the vast majority of all mobile growth actually happens when people are next to each other, so you actually talk about the things you’re using and you’re right next to someone else. That, I think, isn’t necessarily going to be the case when you talk about web growth. You might talk about things, how they’re growing on the web but you’re usually not next to the computer.

I think a lot about how to optimize that flow up when you are actually showing this product in your hand and somebody’s looking at that, like what is the best way to take advantage of that moment. I think all apps have this moment when there’s someone magical, like you figure out, “Okay, I know what this app is about. I know what this product’s about. I know what it solved to me,” so having it can be the minute you walk into an Airbnb listing and it’s just beautiful. There’s no hotels that provide this and there’s no other product that can give you this experience.

In Voxer, it might be that first time you open Voxer and you have people you haven’t heard from in years who leave you a voice message, you hear the voice. In Instagram, you see those photos the first time. There’s always this magical moment where you’re like, “I get what this app is about. I get what this product is about. I get how it’s going to make my life better.” When you get that, you probably want to take a shot of that emotion, try to figure out how you take that emotion and share that story and enable people to share that story.

It’s not easy to make that work but that’s when people are in the best mindset of telling the world about the product. For web, I think there are historically a number of platforms that you can try to optimize for. The same principles around growth and psychology. If at Airbnb we’re trying to get more people to become hosts, we’re really trying to understand the psychology of buying, around why are you a host and what made you become a host in the beginning and how do you describe Airbnb when you talk to your friend. The same with Voxer, why did you start using Voxer in the beginning? What problems does it solve for you? So those principles apply on the web as well.

I think there are a different type of channels, like SEO is one channel that works fairly well in the web. Some of the social platforms have worked pretty well, like Twitter, Facebook, some other ones. On mobile, these platforms are just starting to work, so mobile growth on Facebook was not something people talked about a year ago. Now it’s something that everyone does. We all buy ads on Facebook. I think platforms change pretty fast sometimes.

I think when I started working at Voxer there were very few people that knew why things were going on mobile. They just said, “Oh, I have a great product and therefore it’s growing.” I think now people have a better understanding to say that, “I have a great product. I can track every single step of the growth funnel for that product and actually know why things are growing, actually know exactly if I have some certain growth rate or some certain number of downloads, I know exactly where they’re coming from.” That probably wasn’t true a year or two years ago.

Growth absolutely applies to more things than just consumer. So a good enterprise example might be, I'm trying to get this company on my products and one way to do that is to call the CIO and say, "Hey, do you want to buy the product?" You show that doesn’t work, so you want to get some of the users on the products. So you get some of the people that work at the company on the product and some of them actually might sign up with the company email.

And that's great, and then some of them might not but through data science, you might be able to figure out, okay, let's say it's Dropbox or Box. Okay, the same people that are using this personal email are talking or sharing files with this person is using my corporate email. You can build network of people that are actually using the app. And then you already have company using your products. You just don't have anyone who pays for it.

So there are definitely ways to figure out how to get from, "I don't know how to talk to the CIO," to "I can get people using my app or using my product in an enterprise environment anyway," and just try to go from there and say, "Okay, if you're already using our products, you should probably take control of it and pay for it and get all those benefits you get out of paying for it."

I think tactics change a little bit. In the very beginning, you want to get to critical mass to prove some hypothesis around your product. You want to prove that this is something people want to use and you might have to be super creative in the beginning. You might have to do content marketing. You have to put out your name everywhere. You might have to buy some ads. You have to really be creative about the first couple of thousand users because you need them really fast to prove some of the hypotheses you have.

You can't really rely on friends or friends of friends because they will give you a biased review of your product. You want to get the people that have no opinion, previous opinion, or preconceived notions about what you're building. Once you have that, you want to look at engagement of those users. Once you have people that are coming in, you want to see how they are engaged and engagement numbers can prove product market value. It can prove if what you built is what people want.

You can also do that by looking at customer development and interviewing people, and see them using your product. You can definitely do things around quality analysis as well. There's some customer development where you can just ask people how would you feel if you could no longer use this product and you usually get a pretty accurate answer. If you built something people want, they would be like, "No, you cannot take away my product." And we would be like, "No, we're just asking you how would you feel if we take away your product."

So if you get that answer, you probably have built something people really depend on and people really like. If people don't care when you say, "How would you feel if I removed this product?" You probably haven't built something that they actually care about.

I think on the engagement metric side, you can do some analysis on the quality measures. You can do some analysis. Once you have these things and you feel like I’ve built something people want, you just want to spend time focusing on growth rate and compounding growth. That's basically all you want to do. Spend time on building things for growth that you will benefit a year or two years from now.

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