Speaker 1 00:00:08 Welcome to the breakout growth podcast, where Sean Ellis and Ethan Gar interview leaders from the world's fastest growing companies to get to the heart of what's really driving their growth. And now here are your hosts, Sean Ellis and Ethan Gar.
Speaker 2 00:00:26 All right, in this week's episode of the breakout growth podcast, Ethan Gar and I chat with mark tan, who is a leader in the community led growth movement. So mark is the director of product platform and community for wise, a smart home tech startup offering affordable cameras, lighting, sensors, and other devices. Ys has more than 5 million paying customers. And mark feels that community has actually been a really important part of driving that success. So Ethan, what stood out for you from this conversation?
Speaker 3 00:00:57 You know, you and I, and probably many of our listeners probably are a bit leery these days of the next three letter acronym and growth. So I think is community led growth a thing, or is it just packaging for good product management was the first question that kind of came to mind, but I'll tell you by the end of the conversation market really made me believe that not only is it real, but it can actually have a real impact for and driving growth for businesses.
Speaker 2 00:01:19 Yeah, I agree. Um, and we've heard too many examples in our 50 plus episodes of the breakout growth cup podcasts of, of companies that have succeeded with community led growth, or at least community has been an important part of their growth. So probably Glowforge is one of the best examples. They, they really, uh, crowdfunding themselves into existence with a white hot base of enthusiastic supporters, but we heard it with other companies like mere Evie box, uh, many others where customer advocacy has been important in driving growth in the business.
Speaker 3 00:01:51 Yeah, it's something we keep hearing over and over again, and that's usually a good sign that it's important. And this to me is something that our listeners can really benefit from is, and even, you know, in my own work with companies is I'm trying to help them accelerate growth. I'm starting to really try to be more intentional in looking for community driven efforts that can help them move the needle.
Speaker 2 00:02:08 Yeah. And mark was super credible and just introducing this concept to me. And, um, I think as, as we went through, I, you know, one of the challenges that really stood out still is the ability to actually measure the impact. But I think there's something that, that is here. And so it's, it's definitely an exciting conversation.
Speaker 3 00:02:28 Yeah. I mean, I don't know that community led growth today is fully matured. I think it needs to evolve. And some of those problems, like the one you just pointed out need to find a solution. Um, but I do think that'll happen. I think it's only going to, this is only going to become more of the way over time.
Speaker 2 00:02:44 Yep. Absolutely. Well, let's jump in with mark. Yeah, let's
Speaker 3 00:02:47 Do it.
Speaker 2 00:02:56 Hi, mark. Welcome to the breakout growth podcast. Well,
Speaker 4 00:02:59 Thanks for having me here. Uh, Sean and Ethan.
Speaker 2 00:03:02 Yeah. We're, we're really excited to have you on and, uh, as you just mentioned, Ethan is here as well. Welcome Ethan.
Speaker 3 00:03:08 Yeah. Thanks Sean. And mark. It's so great to have you here. I've been looking forward to diving in since you and I spoke about a month.
Speaker 4 00:03:14 Yeah, likewise. I love I've been following, uh, Sean's work as well since growth hackers also got the chance to pilot go practice with a leg in the earlier stages. So, so not even in front of you, so we're excited to be here.
Speaker 2 00:03:26 Very cool. Yeah. I actually just had my first face-to-face meeting with a go practice participant in, uh, in Croatia like a, a week ago. And I, um, yeah, I basically became part of the program during the pandemic. So I hadn't met anyone for the first time Ethan and I have met face to face and he's gone through the program, but it hadn't, I was
Speaker 3 00:03:46 Going to say, you didn't even give me credit for being,
Speaker 2 00:03:49 We knew each other for maybe 20 years already, but, uh, but yeah, it was, it was kind of just surreal to sit across the coffee table and talk to someone for a few hours. Who'd been through the program and we, uh, you know, get used to seeing each other across the computer. So hopefully the, the world is heading back in the direction of, um, you know, more face-to-face meetings. Cause I I've been missing those, but, um, let's get into wise a bit, um, you know, before we kind of kick into to growth and we want to definitely explore, uh, community led growth in, in particular where I know you've got, uh, a lot of experience and skills and, and um, I think that's what originally attracted Ethan to be able to, to chat with you. But why don't we start with, uh, for anyone who's not familiar with with wise, what, what it is, uh, what problem solves?
Speaker 4 00:04:34 Sure. So why is this a smart home tech startup that offers affordable, smart home devices? And it we're currently being used by more than 5 million paying customers? Uh, what's most exciting to me is our ability to deliver simple and affordable products to make people's home smarter. So for example, our cameras lighting, sensors and other devices are actually a fraction of a cost compared to larger brands and that allow to people to purchase and try out smart home tech.
Speaker 2 00:05:03 Got it. So, so the problem being is, uh, affordability probably and simplicity to some degree for a lot of people before you guys carved out, uh, what, what looks like is working really well. If you've got 5 million people on there,
Speaker 4 00:05:15 Definitely especially smart home, right. It's, it's a bit complicated for many people. Uh, so having the ability to enter that space at a lower cost encourages people to try this out.
Speaker 2 00:05:28 Yeah. I mean, it's, it's really interesting. I just got done building a house and uh, had to come very traditional contractor has been around for a long time and essentially any of the smart devices that I wanted to get into the house, he was like, oh no, we're going to have to bring in a specialist for the, I was like, just, just to Lee, I'll hook them all up. I'm not very technical, but they have gotten a lot easier. So, uh, it's, it's definitely a cool space to get into, but I can imagine that, um, there's some people that don't, don't how, how accessible they have become. So, um, I'm glad that you guys are hopefully making inroads on that.
Speaker 3 00:06:03 Yeah. It's such a dynamic space. I remember a couple of years ago at the growth hackers conference, uh, meeting, uh, the founder of ring. And it's just amazing just in that timeframe, how much has changed. So it's neat to see what you guys are doing over at wise. And it sounds like mark, you've been there about three years, uh, as director of product and you're now leading it. I think you started as director of product now you're leading community as well. Can you tell us about that journey a little bit?
Speaker 4 00:06:27 Uh, correct. So when I joined three years ago, they asked me to lead the mobile product team and I started to working on our core, uh, with our core community to deliver mobile app features. Uh, I helped launch our version from 1.0 to 2.0, to scale it to more devices beyond camera and specifically adding in-app commerce experience and user sharing features, uh, halfway, uh, along my first year, I noticed that some of our volunteers were very active and would spend hours each week helping us test the products. Uh, I remember sitting down with one of our senior lead community manager, Gwen, and they walked me through the conversations happening in a group chat. And I got the chance to look at what they're discussing. And I was just super impressed on how they're working as a team so slowly but surely I started doing more and more community work. And, uh, that became my, my space. It's a combination of bringing in community, the product building. So
Speaker 3 00:07:25 Was community something that you had been involved in previously in your career or did it really like, was that sort of like an aha moment for you
Speaker 4 00:07:32 Always been user-centric product management? So I remember sitting beside designers and user researchers asking for group feedback, right. Uh, but in the startup we're doing it at a much open or bigger scale, meaning we're doing it in larger groups or our four rooms in our sites. So I think that opens a lot of, uh, ideation in discussion that yes, it is an aha moment that things can be simpler and faster if you're doing it in more people.
Speaker 2 00:08:01 So is, is something, did, did you kind of start blasting down that community led path just through your own experience there or had you, had you heard that terminology and kind of seeing what was happening in other companies? So how much of it was sort of like you pioneering, just because you saw the opportunity or, and how much of it was seeing that there's kind of maybe a movement of this across other companies and that potentially influencing what you were doing.
Speaker 4 00:08:30 There's definitely more and more shift towards this trend. So I think it started with sales slip growth to marketing led growth to product led growth. So I've been hearing a lot of the product that growth, but over the course of a couple of years, I'm seeing more and more people talk about community and community led practices is also defined in many different ways, uh, uh, during these times. But to us, it's really how the co-design with the people. And that is something that I've been doing in lighter fashion in my previous companies, but more so right now in the current startup.
Speaker 2 00:09:02 So that's, that's the main benefit is, is that, that like fast feedback loop for, for product development,
Speaker 4 00:09:09 Feed that feedback loop, plus a more holistic sentiment coming from more people, right? Because like sometimes when you do user centric practices, you're talking to just a few people, but when you start opening the dialogue between these members, you can see, uh, you can have a better picture of how they think, which is more powerful because then you reduce the risk of like failure.
Speaker 2 00:09:31 Does it actually help drive better engagement among those users as well? Um, kind of by, by engaging with the community, they also engage more with the product or is it, is it primarily, primarily about just understanding how to make the product more valuable for them?
Speaker 4 00:09:48 You got it right, Sean? I think let's, what's interesting is the more you bring in people and listen to them, the more they become engaged with the product, because they feel that they're building the product with you, which is the most powerful thing that you can do, because then they get a strong, emotional connection to the product that they're building. They understand the complexity and the limitations. So by the time that you launched, they're actually super excited to use it because they know that part of that product is their inputs.
Speaker 3 00:10:17 So when you think about that, like with, you know, you mentioned marketing led growth, product led growth, you hear a lot of these terms. So do you see community led growth as something that can sit on top of all of those to enhance the enhance enhanced growth? Or do you see it as it's as a kind of a standalone thing?
Speaker 4 00:10:35 I think the other types of growth will continue to exist, right? Because there are so many ways that you can grow a product. But in my perspective, I think community led growth is pushing that mindset much earlier in the product cycle. Because like, especially when you're co-designing because like when you're doing sales, the product is usually done and then you're selling it right similar to marketing, you're launching a product, therefore you're trying to push for referrals and work in growth. But when you're doing a community led growth, that is really early in the process, as you're doing product building, then you're getting a sense of a customer wants much earlier. So to me, if you're right, one way to look at it is that it can sit on top of all of these, but it also depends on how you execute it. And if you're doing it in a user centric, product building fashion, then you can do it much earlier in the game.
Speaker 2 00:11:21 Yeah. And have you thought of, maybe there's not really anything beyond just like, you know, you're being more successful as a business, but is there a way to kind of isolate the impact to where you can really understand how the community led efforts are measurable in terms of, of the success that they're helping to drive?
Speaker 4 00:11:40 Oh, that's a tough question. I think what I learned over time is that it's very hard to track community impact, especially because a lot of these data sit sits outside the, the, your database, right? Like people are in Facebook and social media and all of these other groups and you don't have access to that. So I would say that, uh, it's, it's still very hard to get a sense of the true impact as a standalone metric. There are ways for you to pick that up by collecting feedback separately within the community. That you're a part of.
Speaker 2 00:12:14 So you could probably to some degree, to some degree, like no, which, um, which may be ideas emerged from the community. And if those ideas have a higher success rate, while at the same time knowing which, which users are more involved on the community side. And as you maybe remember from go practice, we talk about correlation and causation that, uh, you may find that, um, being a part of the community is correlated with more active engagement, uh, with the product. But, um, but at that, that doesn't necessarily mean that it caused it. It's just that, you know, they're, they're, they're just engaging with the product or the company on as many levels as possible, but, um, it would be, it'd be really neat to know if both you could, you could tie back the product improvements to the community led efforts and the individuals who participated in the community, or maybe you could even have like a holdout group where you say, um, we're gonna randomly encourage these people to communicate more on the community level and this other holdout group won't. And let's see if they're, um, you know, longterm value to the businesses higher. But, uh, I'm just thinking out loud here, trying to think of some, some ways to, you know, it's one of those things that I think, uh, so much of business does have to kind of go on faith, but if you can really know that something has an impact, it makes it a lot easier to, to justify a lot more investment in it. So,
Speaker 4 00:13:41 Yeah. So Sean, I, I like to say two things there. One is what are the things that we do is try to classify the type of feedback that we're getting. So sometimes they would suggest product feedback or ideas or process or issues posted publicly. So there are some tools that we use to collect that more systematically. And that's why that's one way to figure out their contribution. Another way is trying to figure out, like, what is the impact in terms of lifetime value when they, they become part of your community. And I was doing this even when I was in Amazon, we're checking behaviors of different members. If we can trace that they're active in a group, then we check their spending behavior. And most of the time I can see that when they're part of a community, they actually buy more stuff. So, so that's another way of looking at contribution. You look at the data that you have or you collect it directly yourself.
Speaker 2 00:14:34 Yeah. I know Ethan is probably chomping at the bit to jump in here, but I just want to make one, one quick comment on that. Um, Ethan and I, we actually were, where we met was a company that was, uh, called uproar.com. It was, um, a very big community driven game site, uh, back in the nineties. And, um, it was amazing to watch as people would burn out on a very commodity driven game like bingo. Um, they would still stick with it because they were so tied into the community and had so many friends there that I witnessed the power of community in, in driving kind of engagement or in the game space a long time ago. And it's, it's interesting to, uh, to see more and more companies, um, benefiting from that same, same community kind of layer on top of, uh, as you said, an Amazon being able to see people buy more, if they participate in the community and even the closer you are with the community, I'll give you just one more example there.
Speaker 2 00:15:33 I, um, I remember we had an issue with a technology update that was really hurting the performance of our website. And, um, I, I could see it pretty quickly in the, in the conversion numbers of new users. We were converting at a much lower rate, but then being able to, to, to be actively involved in the community, you could just, you could so quickly sense it from, from everyone in the community that the, that the whole site had become a lot more sluggish and, uh, and, and helped us address a big product issue that, um, surprisingly a lot of the people in the day to day building of the games, kind of, they didn't, they didn't actively participate in the game so much so that it was easy to miss something like that. So, um, yeah, I'm, uh, I'm a big believer in the power of community there, and it's cool to see what, what you're doing with it in areas where it made me. Um, isn't just so obvious, like in games where, where communities kind of been a part of that for a long time. Sorry, I didn't mean
Speaker 3 00:16:34 No. That's okay. Um, I, before I asked my, my, my next actual question, I just was curious, mark, if you had a, uh, like a favorite example from your, from any of your experience, whether it's a wise or elsewhere, where you really felt the power of community and the impact of it, or, and maybe, you know, you were able to specifically measure it, but I'm curious if there was this one example you really love to highlight.
Speaker 4 00:16:57 Sure. So let's double down on the video games piece. So one of the work that I've done before is redesigning or a landing page, a landing page for video gamers. And it's very hard to know whether this is something that they will like. And we started doing focus group discussion to collect feedback like with a select you, but at some point where we've done. So like a couple of iterations and our internal teams just couldn't agree on what the design would look like. So what I did is I went to university of Washington along with my, our principal designer. And we sat down in front of a class that he's happy that he happens to be teaching and just like had an open dialogue with them, uh, in this class it's big enough that you'll get a better sense of how they would the app as a, as a whole. And they told us what's working, what's not working. And that allowed us to go back with a more solid of what the, what the community of gamers would love. And that is really powerful because then you're not taking a one anecdote from one user, uh, you're looking at consensus through that hour conversation with them that that can help you, that helped us build the page after.
Speaker 3 00:18:08 So you were kind of stuck before that and that the, that go into the community helped you unravel that, or, or where you, you know, is it just sort of a, a progression from there
Speaker 4 00:18:18 It's yes. The community helped take the pic. They tore apart our design and told us what's working. What's not working. And the good thing about it is there, they're not just having a conversation with you. I think the community approach is really a conversation, uh, also between members and between the video gamers in this case. So doing that approach actually brought up new ideas because it's not just them giving their own opinion to us is them having that conversation, which sparks new ideas coming out of that conversation with team members. So like, I think that's a key keyword here. You're opening the dialogue between you, one member and another member, and that is a community that practice
Speaker 3 00:18:57 D D have you learned different ways to facilitate those conversations over time so that, you know, to actually to pull that out from that community,
Speaker 4 00:19:06 There are two ways of doing it synchronously and synchronously. So as synchronously is just posting some updates or ideas in a public forum or a private one, and then letting people react to it, and you can see already that the comments and feedback coming, coming after you post something is so rich that you can synthesize and reflect on what they're saying. So the way to do that is just keep conversations. Open-ended if you're ideating on something, and you're not sure whether this is a right thing or not, or make it more specific, if you're just getting a pulse of like how many people like a versus a B. So there are different ways to do that, depending on the type of info information that you need. And doing that in a bigger scale will allow you to collect that. And then the second approach is doing it synchronously. So like when we approach that, when we do that with a group of people, it's just a matter of having that open conversation and really listening to their pain points and letting them speak. So it's very important to just have people be there and share their pain points, because people want to be listened in the more vulnerable they get, the higher chances that you're going to get the real pain points that you may not see when you're doing a one way study.
Speaker 3 00:20:19 Is there a real value in getting them, speaking to each other, as opposed to just directly to you?
Speaker 4 00:20:26 There is. So this, this there's a fine balance there. The strongest evidence of the strong, one of the strong reasons why you want to do that is there will always be people who are happy and who are not happy. If you let them talk, people who are happy, become your advocates. And sometimes they are the ones explaining to the people who are not happy, why we're doing things a certain way. So it's very powerful because it's it's if people connect to other community members on the same shoes and then listening to other customers is more compelling than listening to the team was building the product. So it's great. Like actually you save yourself some work explaining what's happening. If you have people on your side supporting your costs,
Speaker 2 00:21:09 Is there a risk that the detractors will, uh, well, we'll pull the advocates to being less enthusiastic or do you not see that
Speaker 4 00:21:17 Mean? You see that right? And that that's always a risk, but I think it's good to have that within your community group, because if that's happening elsewhere, then you don't know, right. You see a shirt on a chart and you don't know what's happening, but if you're having that conversation in a more, uh, public, uh, Alexa discourse, then that's actually better because then you're tackling the biggest problems.
Speaker 2 00:21:40 Right. And if the advocates aren't strong enough to stay positive about it, then uh, then yet that's something you really want to know about. So even that is a net positive
Speaker 4 00:21:50 That's on you. So if the advocates are not thinking review, then you have a problem. Right. And then you fix it.
Speaker 2 00:21:56 Absolutely. Ethan, did you have another question? I don't know. I've got one here. I'll let you go. Yeah. So, um, one of the things I've found pretty interesting is that, uh, I've seen probably more mentions of, of advocacy and community in some of the hardware companies that we've interviewed than the software companies. And you'd almost kind of think it's it's backwards. Like hardware, hardware is kind of a little bit more disconnected. And, um, but I'm, I'm wondering if it maybe is a function of, uh, of just like software companies online services have, have become more iterative and can kind of track usage a lot more. And, um, so they have that feedback loop where hardware companies maybe desire that, and haven't had the opportunity as much. So they have to, they have to kind of try to engage a community to get that same feedback loop benefit, or if there's something else about hardware, that's making it happen. But I'm just curious. Um, if you see it something, if you see it as something that hardware companies tend to embrace this more, and if you have any idea, why,
Speaker 4 00:23:03 So I think first off it's important to all businesses. And I think at the heart, in the hardware space, it's even more important to collect feedback because the iterations are slower and there are so many variables in the physical environment that need to be tested. And there's, there's a much higher risk in terms of building something, manufacturing it in mass, producing it without testing it. Right. So maybe that's one of the reasons why, uh, cardboard companies tend to be more careful.
Speaker 2 00:23:32 Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. Yeah. The cost of an error is a lot harder to unwind.
Speaker 4 00:23:37 Exactly. And then in, in software you can see the conversations flowing more easily, and there's a higher chance that if one person is experiencing the issue is, is likely to be, to be present in other areas too. But when you're testing devices installed in your home, you don't know if it's the wifi network or the room or the walls of the room that is impacting it, and you have to put it out there and you have to collect as many as you can.
Speaker 3 00:24:05 Yeah. Um, I definitely want to dive deeper into the organizational process, but just wanted to ask you one question before we jump that way. Um, we're always curious about how companies, um, align on growth. And I was wondering, does Ys have a north star metric and do most people in the company like pay attention to that metric?
Speaker 4 00:24:24 Sure. So the along the north star metric is all about longer-term customer attention, right? So we want to make sure that when people purchase device devices or products, they're going to stay with us for a long time because I'm leading more of the community area. We also have specific metrics around customer sentiment as measured by NPS or their, their feedback around our product. Right. So those are important because that speaks about the quality, which then in turn speaks about the likelihood of them staying, uh, in, in our ecosystem for a long time. So yes, there is a north star and then we have different levels depending on the groups in the organization, within the company.
Speaker 2 00:25:06 Okay. Just a follow up question on the NPS in particular. Um, I did an interview with, uh, the head of growth at TransferWise. One of the first interviews I did. And it was, uh, it was a really interesting conversation because they, they had basically used NPS to, um, almost as a feedback loop on everything that they did when they, when they saw that their, uh, support team was getting overwhelmed. They were able to see that a delay in getting back to people on support would reduce their NPS. And it almost became this like modulator of all business activities. Um, but even, even when they were trying new things, they were trying to experiment to improve that NPS. Do you look at NPS as something that is kind of more of a overall business health and customer satisfaction, or do you think it's something that you can, as, as TransferWise was trying to do, tie it back to specific parts of the business and actions that you're doing in the business almost use it as like an experiment feedback loop. Have you thought much about that? Yeah.
Speaker 4 00:26:13 Yeah. I think it's more of the second one, because you have to understand what types of questions you're asking and then to which part of the business they're acting. So for example, NPS probably won't get a sense of like really new products that you are creating or piloting, because that is not a huge chunk of the business, right? There are certain services features that are not being used by a lot of people. And unless you surface that in your questions, then that is not the MTS itself is not going to be a good measure of that. So it's always good, like figure out to what areas of the business they are reacting to.
Speaker 2 00:26:49 And then, like, that would be another interesting piece of kind of what we were talking about earlier on the community led growth efforts. Like, uh, if you filter down to NPS for only people that had participated in, in more of the community efforts, how does their NPS compare to those that have not, uh, be, be interesting to see if, uh, if it actually creates a more, um, kind of engaged advocate customer or, or if it's not as connected there, have you ever run any kind of filter like that? Or, um,
Speaker 4 00:27:23 We have, because part of the survey, sometimes it will be, we'll be asking whether they're active in the groups or not. And like, in, in, in some cases they are, in many cases, they don't even know that the community exists. Right. Because we, again, we have like 5 million people in this, a hundred plus thousand in the group. So I, it depends sometimes it's higher, sometimes it's lower. And actually those are the interesting inputs to see, right? Because that people who are in the know will have a better sense of what's happening and comparing that with the general population is always interesting.
Speaker 3 00:27:54 I'm just curious within then, I'm guessing it'd be difficult to know, but like, have you, have you ever tried to correlate NPS within your community to actual referrals? Like, because I always think of that NPS is it's this number that says, would you be likely to, you know, would you recommend this, this product, but it's an indicator of your mindset. I'm curious if it correlates directly to, in the community to people saying, yeah, I actually went out and told people about this.
Speaker 4 00:28:21 Well, the answer is no, we haven't done a good job unifying the data. So we'd love to see if there are companies out there trying to fix this. And we'd love to use that. So we'll, we'll try to use some, we try to ask questions that will help us better understand by asking again, the question of whether they're part of a community, or sometimes we ask them to leave their email addresses, right? So we have a subset of data that you can compare, but as a whole, I think that is always a struggle to connect the dots.
Speaker 3 00:28:47 That was really a curiosity question. I'm not being critical. I think that's a tough one too. I was just curious if it's something, you know, just being that involved in the community, if it's something you ever got to that level of granularity with. So that's interesting stuff though, for sure.
Speaker 2 00:29:00 So I know you had some more organizational questions. Ethan, did you want to,
Speaker 3 00:29:03 I was just interested, you know, from your many hats that you've worn around product and community, what can product leaders make? What, what mistakes can product leaders make that prevent strong community development and what are some of the mistakes that you've learned from in your tenure at wise?
Speaker 4 00:29:18 So I think the first one is over promising, especially because I'm community facing, right? So you tend to have the desire to please your community members. So saying that this is going to release on a certain dates and then not making that a reality is always a risk. And that happens a lot because project teams and part of teams are always late. Not always, but most of the time, there are a lot of reasons it's going to be late. And then the second one is thinking of the communication as one way. So usually when you're working for a product, tend to be very focused on yourself and the stuff that you're doing, but being community mindset or driven really means that having that two way conversation, it's you not only collecting inputs from people, but also asking what can you do for them? And that can be sharing, uh, good information or knowledge or, uh, giving them tips and tricks to use your product better, whatever it is, it's important to have that two-way dialogue. And yeah, so those are those, those are the stuff that I think product leaders have to keep in mind to make sure that you're doing this correctly with your most loyal customers.
Speaker 3 00:30:25 That's really interesting. That's really those conversations within your community really have to be a two-way street. So any other insights you can share just about creating an effective product organization with our, with our audience.
Speaker 4 00:30:36 So there's a lot of different product orgs. I think the two most common ones are like one PSI per product feature. And then you sort of, uh, aggregate those PM, uh, PMs. And then the second one is more, cross-functional like the Spotify squad model, right? Uh, I'm a strong proponent of teams that are structured, like the second one, because I feel like it's important to bring in different perspectives and look at metrics from an overall experience. And sometimes we think there'll be focused on like individual feature that doesn't reflect what the customers will see or feel when they're using the product as a whole. So I'm all for a product org that will be more empathetic to customers, uh, and not more and less internally focused.
Speaker 2 00:31:20 Yeah. It's an interesting, um, I've, I've seen that trend in, in recent years of, uh, you know, you traditionally you think of kind of growth and marketing as sort of being the same thing, but I, I think more and more, you're seeing a blending of growth and product. And, uh, I think it's, I think it's for the reasons that you're talking about is that like product without growth is like zero impact. You haven't, you haven't actually had anyone engaged with that product where if you can get people engaging with the product and, uh, and get that feedback and you, you, you make better product, you get better at acquiring people. And that those really go hand in hand. Um, do you, uh, how do you think about that evolution? Do you agree with that assessment or do you, do you feel like growth is a pretty separate function than product longterm? I agree.
Speaker 4 00:32:10 I feel like you have to do it together, right. Again, the product sometimes will not tell itself. You have to figure out a way to, to grow it. And the combination of marketing and product and other functions I think is more powerful. So again, this speaks to the more cross functional nature that I prefer over more isolated teams.
Speaker 2 00:32:31 Yeah. So, so I think on that note, how does, how does community led, uh, growth and led product fit in with your other growth initiatives at wise taking wise for, for example, like, is it, is it a really important component of your growth or is it, is it just one of the many things that you need to get? Right.
Speaker 4 00:32:52 It's one of the many things. So the community will be with these partner teams across the product life cycle, uh, especially in the engagement side, as you're about to launch a product or right after that. And then the retention piece. So what happens is we have our own set of community initiatives to actively engage this community members, even, actually, even before that, even during the testing phase. So we have beta programs, early access programs, and again, at attention retention initiatives around raffles and give giveaways, giveaways, and all of these are us community team working hand-in-hand with marketing or with product.
Speaker 2 00:33:29 Yeah, it's just, I, I heard the, um, maybe it was someone on the, on the Uber team years ago kind of talking about like the difference between growth and product product's about creating potential and growth is about fulfilling potential. Um, but, but increasingly it feels like, um, you know, especially through these conversations that Ethan and I have had over the last year or two, that the, um, the product market fit is such an important component of growth, like probably the most important component. And so as you talk about like the community efforts that you have and, and how those really seem to be like dialing in product market fit first and foremost, but then, then there are some more tactical things like maybe, maybe you're going to be able to build a better referral loop and maybe better activation and engagement if you leverage the community. But, um, I want to explore what that growth engine looks like, and we'll, we'll use wise as the example, so that we're not kind of, uh, talking like up in the air, but, um, I'm curious, sort of what, what your assessment is on, on sort of the community efforts with product market fit and then the community efforts with the growth engine in general.
Speaker 4 00:34:43 Yeah. I'm glad that you separated that because when you talk to a lot of people doing community led, another definition is skewed towards that growth engine, right? When the product is built, but moving earlier in the stage, I think you answered it. Uh, initially when you said that it's a good way to accelerate exactly the product market fit because you are collecting feedback, uh, around quality and sentiment or early in the process. Right? So in, in, in, in, in simple terms, you're asking the people early on, do you want this product or not? And if you do want it, like show us some evidence that you are using it by actually taking some, taking some of our samples or installing some of our beta products and then actually using it in, because if the numbers are not showing that, then what they're saying is not in line with what they are doing. And there's a gap there in terms of product market fit. And that is something that is super hard to find when you're just talking to people without involving them in a much deeper way.
Speaker 2 00:35:41 Yeah, it's, it's, uh, I've been a little obsessed on the, on the topic lately. I actually just recorded a presentation for the growth hackers conference. And, um, it was, it was all about referral in SAS businesses. And, you know, I mean, just like with anything you could so easily build a great viral product that has no core user value. You don't retain any of the users and you grow quickly, but not in a real way. And then, then the whole thing crashes. And so I think through this conversation, I'm becoming much more of a convert to a community led as a, as, as a way of just building a super great foundational growth engine in a business that keeps you really dialed in on the product market fit side. And then it can help the tactical side as well, which I, which I do want to explore there, but I think, I think that's the nuance that's so important here is that the tactical side doesn't matter if, if the product is not totally dialed in on a need and an, and it's not just a snapshot of a need, it's an evolving need. And so that's where the community piece really helps to be able to stay in that evolving needs. So I know I'm supposed to be asking questions and I'm sorry that my, uh, the light bulbs in me getting excited as I'm, um, more making observations, but I promise you that they're based on things that you've said that you're, you're kind of triggering my enthusiasm here. So I'll let, I'll let Ethan follow on with a question since I'm good at asking them to
Speaker 3 00:37:10 No, I think, I think it's more of a, more of a comment just to that is, you know, what I found just sort of an interesting nuance there is, you know, if you, we always talk about dialing in that must have experienced, but understanding that over, over the course of a, of a user's lifetime that must have experience evolves with the product and, and their own personal use of the product, it seems like community led is such a great way to continuously understand from passionate users why, what their must have experience is and why and how it's changing over time. So I, yeah, the, the, I think Sean and I will probably have a lot of follow-up conversations after this discussion, but, um,
Speaker 2 00:37:49 And we're both sucking it, asking questions. We're just more making comments. I will follow. I will follow with a question, but what does that overall growth engine look like? Like how do most people discover wise?
Speaker 4 00:38:00 Oh, I mean, we have direct channels for a site and they can also purchase this on Amazon and other channels. So that's one when they're actively seeking or exploring. And then another route is what we've been discussing around referral and word of mouth, because when people see, uh, either their friends or families using it, or they see content that is watermarked by the logo, right, then they start asking, where did you get that? And then that becomes an accurate, uh, acquisition flow, uh, to us,
Speaker 3 00:38:27 Since you're talking about the referral side of things, I was curious, do you see referrals as the purpose of, of community led growth or is it more community led growth impacts referrals?
Speaker 4 00:38:39 I think it depends on the product maturity, the resources that you have, and then that just, just the type of product that you're trying to launch. I think the acquisition is one part of it, but it goes back to how confident are you that you're building something that people want, if you are not, then the community can help, help you in figuring that out. And it becomes much bigger than acquisition itself.
Speaker 3 00:39:03 Gotcha. Is there, you know, is there sort of that moment like that you can describe from how, how a customer sort of finds, becomes aware of your products and then that moment where they, you know, that aha moment where they say this is a product I have to have, can you kind of walk us through that experience?
Speaker 4 00:39:21 Oh, this one, let me see. One example is, uh, content, right? So we're fortunate to have a product that is recording, uh, content, uh, around the home, or if it's pointed outside surrounding your house. So there will be a couple of videos who will be captured in share in social. And those are some of the ways that people discover our product, because it, again, this is something that they did not really expect. These are moments that are captured by the devices, without them putting out their phone. So, so when these moments happen, usually the, the recorded videos are interesting and unexpected, and these are some of the ways that customers discover our products.
Speaker 2 00:40:05 Go ahead, Ethan, share your, uh, share your story.
Speaker 3 00:40:10 Yeah. Some of our audience probably heard this before, but, uh, I led growth for robo killer. And one of the cool features of our, of our app that stopped robocalls on your mobile phone is that it would actually answer the calls at blocked, uh, with these things called answer bots, which would talk back to the robots and waste their time. And I just had this very like visceral moment where I was, uh, I was telling someone was like, oh, this is the robo killer guy. And this guy, his face just lit up and he was like, pulls out his phone. And he starts playing his answer about recordings for other people in the room, like, well, actually on the, on the, on the dock. And, uh, and I just, at that moment, I, I saw the community in action. I saw people understanding why this product was different, why it was valuable and why they cared so much. So, uh, I definitely understand how, um, how those, how those motions can take this
Speaker 2 00:41:04 Surprising content gets created as a almost unexpected aha moment. Like I would have when I signed up for robo killer. I never thought about that as one of the benefits I was signing up for. But the first time that I heard a, a spammer threatening to kill, uh, beat up the, uh, the machine on the other end, that was just messing with them. Um, it was, it was hilarious. And I shared it with a lot of, I think I even like posted it on social. It was so funny. So, um, yeah, I think that the content side, I'm curious on that activation though, if you, if you also see just a matter of, because there's that, that like, you gotta, you gotta connect it and have it work. Um, and that, it's probably easier than a lot of people think, as you had, you had talked about if, if just knowing that you've, you've connected a hardware device that is now working, if there's an aha moment in that, or, um, or if that's just like table stakes, they, they expect that piece.
Speaker 4 00:42:00 There is actually, if you go to other, like, if really want to go on the other side of social media, I ticked off, for example, there's so much great content of people just posting and doing what they're doing around the home, especially during the lockdown. And when people show the setup and say, actually, this is just as easy as 1, 2, 3, and they can condense that in six seconds. That's even more powerful because then people will see that, oh, actually, if this person can do it, then I can do it. And again, this goes back to showing use cases, whether it's the activation state and off the product, or just like what's being captured overall, I think it's very powerful to attract more people into your ecosystem.
Speaker 2 00:42:38 Very cool. And then I assume that that kind of the engagement side is, is both, you're continuing to use the hardware device, but, but also to some degree, um, kind of expanding their footprint across other devices is a, is there, uh, are you guys really intentional about both of those and, and what do you, what do you see sort of the interplay between them?
Speaker 4 00:43:02 Yeah, I think it starts with one, right? So people would buy one device and then check out if it works and we delighted them. Then it's a, it's a gateway to looking at more and more products. And the more that they are involved with other members who have a lot of devices, the more that they can see that combining more than one device is actually going to make their homes smarter as a whole. So I'd say, I'd say we're not pushing it out too much. We're not overthinking, uh, which products go like this. Customers will see because the community is all about just exchange of knowledge across different members. We're letting out, we're actually letting them have this discourse and show their, their setups so that other people will be inspired. We're not dictating what that looked like, because we want, we want the, we want it to come from them. And I think that's more powerful than us trying to oversell stuff. Right.
Speaker 2 00:43:50 That's super authentic when it, when it's coming from them and, and authentic means trustworthy and trustworthy is as much more likely to be something that someone takes action on.
Speaker 4 00:44:00 Yeah. It's like reviews, but reviews in real time, because then they're showing recording and posting images that are powerful right. In, in a group, not just when you go to like a, like a commerce site in this, like a star rating there, you're actually seeing how this reading is happening in real time.
Speaker 2 00:44:17 Yeah. I mean, it's interesting. I've, I've even just generally in social about just like home automation conversations found, uh, not surprisingly like in, in, on Facebook or something, I'm like connected to a lot of other people in tech. And so, uh, you know, someone will post a question about what's, what's the best, this type of smart device. And, and, uh, and then people really quickly passionately start talking about what their whole stack of smart devices looks like. And the one they didn't expect to be valuable is one they liked the most. And so I can, I can already see that people do get kind of passionate about that. And so, um, you know, creating more of a forum and encouraging that type of activity around a particular suite of devices makes it makes a ton of sense.
Speaker 4 00:45:01 Yeah, for sure. Especially during lockdown, right. DIY is home repairs and stuff that people do around their rooms. Like that's becoming increasingly interesting because people have more time and they want to make sure that when they are in front of people, they look presentable. Like me. I have like a lights behind me.
Speaker 2 00:45:18 Yeah. It's funny. The DIY stuff, watching my wife suddenly, um, fixing things that I would have thought were way too complicated in the past, but she's like, oh, I just pulled up a YouTube video. And so then I'm like, uh, you know, my, my car breaks and I'm like, wow, I could probably pull up a YouTube video and see if I can let you know, I start switching out little parts that I would've never thought in the past. Uh, but I never really connected that as being part of the pandemic. But I, uh, it makes, makes sense that you just, you have maybe a little more time to, to, to, to try to do things yourself. Hopefully, hopefully I didn't do things in a way that's going to lead to a car blowing up on the freeway. Um, Ethan, do you have any questions before I ask our, our traditional wrap-up question?
Speaker 3 00:46:03 Yeah. I thought maybe just cause you know, this, this particular conversation has taken us really in a, in a direction around community led growth. I thought it'd be interesting for you to market for our audience to tell, tell them where to get started. If they're interested in community like growth. I mean, obviously, hopefully this gives them a little bit of a primer, but like what are the kinds of good resources that you suggest for getting people started?
Speaker 2 00:46:23 Yeah. Like just, just to build on that question, like, is it, is it really digging into the best practices of product management today or is it, is it going down more a path that's specifically around community led growth?
Speaker 4 00:46:37 Yep. Very interesting question. Because I'm wearing two hats and right now I'd say there's not that deep of an overt overlap between the tool. I'd say start by looking at product management practices. So there's a lot of resources out there and communities that you can join and then thinking of what the user centric approaches are. And then trying to scale that in a bigger, uh, in a, in a bigger way, if you can, within your communities and then go into community heavy resources. So for example, CMX or community LA club are resources around communities. And then trying to see what the overlap overlaps are, because if you combine the two, it becomes more powerful. And right now there's, I don't think there's a lot of resources who's trying to advocate for both because usually the community folks are more on the growth side or the referral side and in the product folks more on the development side. So I suggested, try to compare notes, uh I'm in, in both channels. And it's interesting to see what people are saying. I always try to be at the intersection of the two,
Speaker 2 00:47:40 Uh, Ethan and I are both reading empowered right now. And, um, we both read it inspired in the past. And, uh, as you were talking, I, I picked up so many concepts from empowered that, uh, like I wouldn't have thought a really good product management book is, uh, w would overlap so much with us, but, but it, it does. That's why I was curious where, where, uh, you know, even if Ethan was the one who asked the question, I also was very curious to, uh, to, to where those resources might be for this.
Speaker 4 00:48:10 Yeah, for sure. I'm actually, there's a lot of concepts, right? There's the mom test, listen to your customer, have empathy. Uh, I think what's missing is that connection between the users. I don't see that a lot. So it's community driven practices is the community members having a dialogue. So I think that's, that's the part that you have to dig a little deeper.
Speaker 2 00:48:29 That makes a lot of sense. In fact, there, there might, there's probably a lot more honesty when it's community members communicating with themselves where they may hold back a bit when they're giving you feedback and thoughts about your products. So that's, uh, that's very cool. Well, I, I think both Ethan and I have gotten a ton out of this conversation and would, would love to just keep picking your brain, but we gotta, we got a time limit on these. So I'll, I'll wrap up with our last question here, which is, um, what do you personally feel like you understand about growth now that maybe you didn't understand so well, even a couple of years ago.
Speaker 4 00:49:02 Oh, there's quite a lot. So I learned that there, one of them is that there's so many types of growth that will vary depending on the need of your company and then the, what the, what the community resonates with. And there's an evolution. Like I said, at the beginning, from sales marketing, all the way to product and community led growth. So I now really believe that community led growth is the future, as it's the best way to win it's in simplest terms, it's extending your team, right? You're inviting people to co-design with you and be more involved in your journey. And to me, that's the most powerful thing that I've seen. And I have no doubts that a community led growth will continue over the next couple of years.
Speaker 2 00:49:43 Awesome. I love it. What do you think?
Speaker 3 00:49:46 Ah, it's fantastic. I like, I really have enjoyed this conversation. Like I said, I think Sean and I are probably going to have a long debrief after this one, because there's so much to unpack. Um, yeah, probably, you know, maybe the most insightful thing for me that I, uh, that I kind of pulled out of this was, you know, community like growth really, as you said, reflects the empathy for your customers into your product. And it's, that really explains why it's really like a cross-functional approach to product management, you know, and really getting, you know, that, you know, PM's talking across your, your organization is going to, you know, has the potential to really bring that empathy into your products and services, you know, as a, from a more holistic sort of point of view and hopefully, um, more effectively in terms of driving your north star as a, you know, from the perspective of how do we move the mission forward. So really great stuff. And I really appreciate you sitting down with us today to chat mark. It's been, it's been great. Yeah.
Speaker 2 00:50:43 Yeah. My key takeaway on there is, uh, is, is that whole idea. I was thinking of this as more surface level, more tactical, but, but realizing that product market fit is, is that thing that matters most to growth and that not just the community as a, as a place to get feedback from customers, but as you said, customers talking to customers, there's, there's a different level of insights that I think can help you stay more tuned on that product market fit so that you, you have just a really good tailwind behind the business. And then from there, you do have those opportunities for kind of tactical growth drivers that, that can also come out of that community led growth effort, but ultimately right. Product serving the right needs is, is going to be the most important driver of long-term growth in a business. And this feels like a great way of just really dialing that in.
Speaker 2 00:51:37 I really mark appreciate you showing up and sharing everything that you did with us today. And clearly you, you, you triggered some things for Ethan and me and I'm sure we'll, uh, we'll, we'll have some follow-up questions for you even after we, we, um, wrap up here, but, um, congrats on everything you've done. And, and particularly recently, um, how, how you and the team are approaching community led and growth at, at wise and, uh, and for everyone tuning in, thanks for tuning in and we'll, uh, look forward to connecting with you again soon. Thanks for
Speaker 3 00:52:10 Having me here. Thanks to everybody.
Speaker 5 00:52:17 Thanks for listening to the breakout growth podcast. Please take a moment to leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform and while you're at it subscribe. So you never miss a show until next week.