Welcome to Short Loops. A weekly newsletter by me, Stuart Balcombe, about my explorations and learning in customer research, product design, and personal growth.

Do you have a brand that you're just obsessed with?

A brand that stands above all others in your mind? A brand that does all the little things right?

And most importantly...

A brand you're actually excited to hear from?

For me, back in 2016 that brand was Intercom. I was relatively new to the concept of product management and had been tasked with managing the product for an early Ecommerce subscription brand called Manpacks (more on that another time).

The content they produced introduced me to: Prioritization frameworks (RICE), Jobs to Be Done, Product Marketing, Onboarding Optimization and a whole range of lessons that fundamentally changed the way I thought about my work.

The lesson that's always stayed with me?

What makes products successful isn't the features they build or the customers they acquire...

What really drives sustainable growth is a product that helps people make progress in their lives.

As Maggie Crowley, Senior Director of Product Management at Drift (yes I know that's ironic because Intercom vs Drift 🤷) put it when I talked to her last year:

“The problems customers have and the things they care about in their day to day, means more than anything to do with our product, roadmap, and goals.”

Simply. Company stuff comes second and is in service of customers.

It might be easy to check off tasks on a list that we have full control over because they are outputs - I shipped this, I published that, I polished, I optimized, I reported...

These checkmarks might look good on a report card but do they actually matter?

🚢 Shipped is not done

✍️ Published is not done

Customer outcomes > Company outputs

Here are 5 steps to define successful user outcomes

  1. Talk to your customers without showing your product (this could be all 4 but what do we ask them?)
  2. Ask what are their OKR’s? How do they get their bonus? Next promotion?
  3. Ask what they wake up thinking about? What is the one thing that could stop them achieving their goal?
  4. Make one small change to nudge them closer to their ideal "progress"
  5. Repeat.

For every new project, product or feature we work on we need to be honest about what the customer needs from us and ask ourselves:

Who does this serve? You, or the audience?

Maybe that flashy new feature on the roadmap, or that pseudo thought leadership piece of content could be replaced with something much smaller but much much more impactful.

Talk soon,


PS. This newsletter was repurposed in part from a conversation with Maggie Crowley. Would you be interested in getting the best bits of this and other conversations in podcast form each week? One topic per episode. Less than 15 minutes each. Hit reply and let me know if that's interesting to you.

PPS. Know someone who’d find this newsletter valuable? Please share it on Twitter or LinkedIn or point them to to sign up.

3 resources I found helpful this week:

The Big Project Syndrome. Itamar Gilad wrote a thought provoking post on the the impact of top down "big projects" and the misinformed pursuit of outputs.

Turn webinars to snacks. Rand Fishkin and Amanda Natividad hosted a webinar on the amazing benefits of Sparktoro for consultants and agencies. The Procket team repurposed the 60-minute original to a 4-minute edit which led to this.

How to create irresistible content. Devin Reed shared his formula for creating content that's insightful, relevant, and actionable.

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