Skip to content
Back to Blog

Your product isn't your product

Max Hersey

Feb 15, 2017 3:00:00 PM

When you think about ways to improve your product, focusing on the following often neglected areas can have a massive impact on customer happiness and retention.

Next to working on your core product, focusing on personality, marketing and support may seem like a waste of your time. It’s not. In fact, by integrating these things into your core product you’ll build a machine that’s fine-tuned to produce happy, loyal customers.

Positioning – is Part of your Product

When customers evaluate products they want to know who created them. They want to know where you come from and where you want to go. They need to know whether you will be a great fit for them now & going forward.

You want to be as clear as possible about who you are and what you stand for. This is the best way to make sure you attract the right customers.

"This is not a Rock"

Working on your minimum viable personality is at least as important as building the initial version of your product. Don’t be afraid to take a stand and state the obvious.

Find great answers to the famous Babylon 5 questions and you’ll be off to a great start …

  • Who are you? – Do I like you?

  • What do you want? – Do you want what I want?

  • Why are you here? – What do you stand for?

  • Where are you going? – Should I join you on your journey?

In the end it’s all about expectation management. If the wrong customers buy your product for the wrong reasons, chances are they won’t be very happy nor easy to retain.

Refine your positioning to attract the right customers & repel the wrong ones – killing two birds with one stone.

It is incredibly hard to satisfy customers who bought your product for the wrong reasons. On top of that it is way easier to improve your product if your main source of feedback is your actual target audience compared to people who became customers by accident. Ever got a feature request that doesn’t make any sense at all? Might have come from a mislead customer.

Invest in your positioning. Trust me, it will save you and your customers a lot of time and a lot of nerves.

Marketing – is Part of your Product

The “Build it and they will come” – mentality is a trap that many product people fall into. We just need to build the best product and the market will do the rest, right? Well, uhm … unfortunately not.

"It’s a trap"

There are a ton of examples from the past where the superior product lost – often even vanished from the market. This happens over & over again no matter whether we look at the consumer space, b2b, developer platforms, protocols or laws. Fortunately we can do something about it.

Try to think of marketing as a service to your potential customers. It’s not a distraction. It’s not a waste of your time. Quite to the contrary, it is an essential part of your product. Marketing helps you to attract the right customers. It helps you to communicate what you and your product are about and why we should care.

Here are a bunch of tips to help you get started with product marketing …

  • Read – the Customer Development Guide – it will help you to find the right words & phrases to use for your marketing material

  • Learn – what your customers are buying your product for & what the job is they need to get done.

  • Show – how people can use your product and what it is for – think “getting started guide” with focus on the value your product delivers.

I was quite skeptical about marketing myself but in the end great marketing helps your customers to make the right decision and to get the most out of your product. Great marketing is a service to your customers.

Customer Support – is Part of your Product

While customer support used to be a call-center designed to keep customers and their problems at bay, the best web & mobile apps of today are built with customer support in mind.

Poor customer support can cost you a lot of business. Did you know that 86% of customers leave because of bad customer support? By building customer support into your product you can not only improve your customers’ experience but also your product’s retention rate. In niches where great customer support is not status quo it’s also a great way to leave your competition behind.

If you are aiming for a great customer support experience, be …

  • Coach-like – You win when your customer wins.

  • Proactive – Build hints & links to support material and tutorials into your product

  • Open and gregarious – Make it clear that you are always ready to communicate & learn

  • Eager – Seek out new ways to be helpful.

Dharmesh Shah of HubSpot gave a great talk on customer happiness at Business of Software. His key message was to think about ways to produce happy customers instead of focusing on making them happy (again).

“Don’t make customers happy. Make happy customers” — Dharmesh Shah

More than meets the Eye

Your core product is extremely important. It is the vessel. The carrier of solutions. But without soul, it's just an empty shell.

Take your time to understand your customer’s journey through your core product and everything that surrounds it. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to find ways to improve your customer’s experience without much effort. I bet you can spot at least one low hanging fruit that you can tackle immediately.

Special thanks to for letting us post this excellent piece by Max Hersey


Blossom is a project management tool for building modern web and mobile applications. Unlike other project management tools that focus on managing vast amounts of tickets in the backlog, Blossom helps you to focus on the current iteration, who’s doing what, and what they can ship next. It introduces just-in-time production concepts from lean manufacturing to the world of software development. The ideal project management tool for agile companies that ship early and often.

Written By:

Max Hersey

Want to get our totally not sh*tty weekly newsletter?

Sometimes The Wayfarer is funny, sometimes insightful, but always the least spammy newsletter this side of Tatooine.