At this point you’ve almost certainly heard about “ Product Led Growth” ( PLG) if not been hit over the head with it. The main premise is that a simple & fast-to-value product, combined with a self-serve trial and viral sharing mechanisms, can create a flywheel of growth.

A lot of PLG reads like it’s for B2C companies, or really simple B2B products. But the broader premise is that the product experience itself should be part of the discovery, evaluation and purchase funnel, which could (and arguably should) apply to all software. …

I use a lot of real-world analogies to describe abstract or digital experiences. Lately, I’ve spoken with a number of founders, Customer Success leaders, and growth PMs about great customer (and product) onboarding.

The 2 weird analogies that keep coming up in rotation:

1. Turn your buffet into a Prix Fixe

Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

Products are like buffets.

Features are usually organized by some topic like “Settings” or “Analytics”. And within each section, the goal is to lay out your tool (or webapp) in a way where it’s really obvious how to use the feature. That really should be done natively by the product. It’s funny to see people creating onboarding…

Photo by Les Anderson on Unsplash

If onboarding is hard to do well, then “everboarding” is a whole new frontier. Put simply, everboarding is the idea that onboarding and activating customers never stops. Why?

For one, your product keeps changing. Every time a new feature is launched, existing customers have to be “onboarded” to the new functionality. Second as your customer’s employee base changes, your product user-base changes.

As Jonathan Rivers, CTO of Fortune Magazine put it:

“All B2B sales are actually B2B2C processes.”

Finally, each customer can only absorb so much at once. …

Photo by Tyler Lastovich on Unsplash

First of all, what is onboarding?

For all the talk about how PMs at every company are different, a lot of the problems we solve are the same. One of the most common and critical projects a PM will work on over their career is product onboarding, either because they join a team owning the new user experience, or because they’re launching a new product and need to figure out how customers will actually learn and adopt the new functionality. But what exactly is onboarding?

Onboarding isn’t about being led around an office, rather it’s about diving into that first bit of work

Onboarding is not…

Photo by Frans Vledder on Unsplash

When I first became a product manager, the biggest skepticism I faced was that I didn’t have a technical background. That was important in part because PMs were sort of an extension of the development team, and a lot of the job was focused on scoping problems & solutions with engineers and brokering those tradeoffs with business-facing teams.

Yet over the last decade, I’ve seen the function expand and grow — certainly across companies, but even within. My friend Jon, the VP of Product at Optimizely, has seen the product function evolve across his 6+ years with the company. …

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

Across 3 companies where I’ve been a product manager, tracking tasks (whether eng tickets or project tasks) has always been a core part of being a PM.

At Teespring, we used Jira and seemingly scientific methods of estimating story points with the whole dev team ro-sham-bo’ing Fibonnaci numbers. At Intercom, we had a white board, and a weekly list of goals and tasks (plus a million google sheets). At atSpoke, we used Github issues and Zenhub to devise our own Kanban board.

There was at times, a hilarious amount of energy put into tracking burndown charts, velocity, status, etc. But…

An interview with Rohini Pandhi, product lead at Square

Adam Grant in his book Originals, shows us that many of the people we consider great innovators didn’t just strike gold at the first shot — they were deeply prolific. Mozart composed over 600 pieces, Edison, over 1000 patents. Moreover, it wasn’t just about being prolific in a single style or genre: the prolific output of these famous artists and inventors tended to span multiple domains. Picasso was a painter, drawer, sculpture and ceramicist.

I’ve found that a penchant for “variety” is a common trait in product leaders I admire and I think it’s more than pure coincidence.

Rohini is…

Photo by Matt Hardy on Unsplash

The people working on Bento have spent our careers working in cross-functional teams. None of us have built, shipped, or sold something on our own. Yet projects and initiatives come saddled with memories of “overhead”, “process”, “chaos” and “nagging.” We want to be empowered with the right context to do our jobs well and to avoid inefficiencies of duplicate, or worse, throwaway work. We strive to be good leaders and teammates and minimize how often we interrupt our coworkers and disrupt their flow.

Over time, this has only gotten harder: our teammates went from using Office 365 to a collective…

“Scaling” is one of those buzzy words thrown around in the startup community. It’s used to mean a host of things like scaling technical infrastructure, hiring people (and hiring processes), being more cost-effective with customer acquisition, etc.

It’s so buzzy, that one of Sarah Cooper’s 10 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings is to simply ask: “Will this scale?”

For product teams, scaling can mean: (1) increasing usage/customers, (2) expanding product area/offerings, (3) speeding up the pace of development, or a combination of these. …

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

For PMs, designers or engineers, receiving customer feedback can elicit a range of emotions ranging from “Great! Let’s add it like all the other suggestions and we can prioritize later” to “Ignore it! The customer doesn’t know what they’re talking about anyway. That feature makes no sense.”

The product culture at a company has a strong influence on which end of this spectrum you might more frequently fall on, but at its core, this tension is natural. How do you strike the appropriate balance between staying true to an independent product vision and being receptive to customer asks?

Ignoring feedback isn’t an option

To start…

Emily Wang

Founder at bento, formerly askSpoke, Intercom, Teespring

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