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Servicing your customer better than anyone in the market is how you win.

– David Cancel

Today I’m sharing a concept that I haven’t been able to get out of my head after talking to Samuel Hulick a couple of weeks ago.  Samuel spends his time helping software companies make their users more successful through his work as a UX designer and onboarding consultant. He's also the creator of one of my favorite websites on the internet - Here’s a short expert from our conversation.

"The really relevant question isn’t, “How do you show people your product?”

but instead, 

“How do you actually help them do what they want to do?” 

and presumably,

"How do you identify what they're even supposed to be doing—or want to be doing—to begin with so you can help them?"

This concept really resonates with me. One thing I’ve learned as I’ve gone deeper into the world of Jobs to be Done interviews, and user research, is that the progress people are trying to make often has nothing to do with your product.

Your product is just a vehicle to get them from where they currently are, to where they want to go. It’s really a mindset shift from thinking about product features and functions.  Samuel and I talked about what this actually means when designing software products and how thinking about our products as providers of superpowers can be an effective lens for innovation.

"You want to design for assisting people, in whatever context of progress they're bringing your product into. And ideally, you want to make your product or service as self-aware as possible, so you can identify what change somebody is looking to make. 

Kathy Sierra has been a major influence in my thinking in this regard as well with her notion that your software gives people superpowers or capabilities."

Samuel told me he believes if companies asked: what do you want to do with the superpower? more often, they’d have greater success identifying the end goal. And ultimately, build more valuable experiences. I certainly agree with him. To extend the superpower metaphor a little further imagine your product is a cape.

Do you sell a nicely hand-stitched piece of material that people wear once and put in their dresser? 


Do you sell a magical cape that allows people to fly when they put it on?

"In economics, there's a concept of goods vs. services. In the goods section, you’re manufacturing tangible objects for sale. Whereas services are more inherently nebulous and more outcome-focused. Designing a product as a material good leads you to ask all sorts of the wrong questions. Instead, you want to be a designer of outcomes for a user, your user base, or people in general.

It's much healthier to think of your product as an intangible value delivery system. 

For example, you just have this code sitting on a server. It doesn't exist in any genuine capacity, outside of when a real user is requesting it onto an actual device and actually looking at it and engaging with it."

Mind blown. This reframing of how to think about software products has been a night and day difference in my thinking. It forces us to take into account factors outside of our product interface to provide the right contextual triggers that guide users to the value they desire.  

So what actionable steps can we take to ensure we’re building an effective value delivery system?

"From a customer development or user research standpoint, I love asking people a really simple question after they sign up. It's not hard to shoot an email to each person individually and say, “Hey, thanks a lot for signing up. Why is {the problem you solve} on your mind? What is causing this to be relevant?” or “Why is this of interest to you right now?

And then my recommendation would be to really think about how comprehensively helpful you can be. Pick the most frequently identified pattern, and think about how you can curate an experience to be more in line with the particular aspiration people have.

To Samuel, designing effective value delivery systems is what it’s all about. Building that system starts with understanding what your customer is trying to achieve and creating a holistic experience to help them get there.

So here's my question for you. What superpower do you give to your users? Hit "reply" and let me know.


Business Progress

The first few months of being independent have been great. I've learned a lot and have been incredibly fortunate to have built some great relationships that I think will lead to exciting future opportunities. Here’s what I’ve been doing “on the business”. 

Most of my focus has been on client work but I did have the opportunity to speak online about the work that I'm doing.

Product Qualified Summit - I made my first online summit presentation about how product teams can use Jobs to Be Done interviews as a tool for building more valuable products.

Nxt Step Podcast - I was a guest on the Product Launch Podcast with Sean Boyce where we discussed the importance of starting with understanding and finding ways to test your product assumptions.

Finally, I spent some time creating a separate website and brand for my productized service Customer Discovery Sprints. I have some exciting ideas for how I can expand this service in 2020 and I'll be sharing more details in the coming weeks.

There are less than 40 days left in 2019 so I'm trying to get all my ducks in a row and make sure I'm ready to kickoff 2020. I hope to have 3 things completed by December 31st.

  1. Personal site migrated to Webflow (how have I not done this sooner).
  2. Publish Chapter 1 of the Outcome Driven Guide
  3. Clean up my business administration and ensure I have my finances correctly allocated for tax season.


What I've Been Reading

Crafting the first mile of product (9-minute read). Adobe CPO Scott Belsky discusses why your new customer's interaction with your product deserves as much if not more attention than the new features you build for users who already know who you are.

The past, present, and future of FYI: How Hiten Shah turned an obsession with customers into Product Excellence (9-minute read). An in-depth interview of FYI founder Hiten Shah by the team at Product Board that outlines the process Hiten used to validate and launch FYI to the market. 

UX Research: Objectives, assumptions, and hypothesis (9-minute read). Rick Dzekman outlines why user research always needs to be done with a clear purpose and how being intentional about your research goals can ensure you don't waste your time and instead increase your learning.

This will be my last newsletter before thanksgiving. Happy holidays to you and your family and I hope you have a great day with friends and family. 

Talk soon,

- Stuart

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