Hi, I'm Sachin.

I've written 150+ essays sharing lessons learned from over a decade here in Silicon Valley as a product manager and startup founder.

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Podcast: How to Get Actionable User Feedback for Your Product

Listen: Lean B2B Blog | YouTube | Transcript

I joined Etienne Garbugli on his Lean B2B Podcast a few weeks back to share my best practices on getting actionable user feedback for your product.

We covered a wide-range of customer feedback topics, including: developing and validating your product's initial product/market fit hypotheses, assessing whether you are building a vitamin or a painkiller, the benefits of conducting waves of customer discovery interviews, the 3 top dashboards you need for understanding how you are doing post-launch, and developing a continuous feedback loop for your product, complete with a feedback river and feedback system of record.

Positioning for Product Managers

Positioning, while classically considered part of the marketing world, is absolutely essential for every product manager to understand. Positioning refers to the place that a brand occupies in the minds of customers and its perceived differentiation from its competitors. Positioning ultimately dictates the frame of reference that your customers leverage when evaluating your product. Positioning is in reality a business strategy exercise and thus product managers need to be deeply involved as effective positioning ultimately defines critical elements of your entire product strategy.

The most classic literature on positioning comes from Jack Trout's book, Differentiate or Die. Jack Trout clearly conveys why positioning is so important in a world continuously filed with more and more product options in every category and less and less attention available from customers to spend time deeply understanding your individual product offering. As a way to cope with this reality, customers quickly develop a position for your product and make their product decisions based on it. Given this, it is incredibly important for brands to strive for their desired position to be created in the minds of their customers. While back in the day you could get away with simply using brand advertising as the primary way you conveyed your product positioning, today every touch point your customer has with your brand has become a critical element of conveying your positioning, including your marketing website, customer service experience, and what your existing customers are saying about you across the web.

Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke

I was first introduced to Annie Duke's concepts in a recent podcast with Stewart Butterfield interviewing Ben Horowitz and Marc Andreessen on the 10th anniversary of A16Z. In the interview Stewart asks Marc about any mistakes he believed he had made building A16Z. Marc starts off by referring to Annie Duke's work and the concept of resulting, which is the tendency to equate the quality of a decision with the quality of its outcome, which is a risky and incorrect thing to do with any decision that has a probabilistic outcome. And he shares how A16Z has significantly improved the quality of their decision making over the years by focusing on the very process by which they make their investment decisions in the first place.

As someone who deeply values being an infinite learner, I saw an opportunity to improve the quality of my learning cycles from decision making so decided to take Marc's recommendation and read Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke. Annie brings such a fascinating perspective to decision making based on her 20 years as a professional poker player. As someone who has had to make thousands of split-second decisions whose quality determined whether she immediately won or lost tens of thousands of dollars at a time, she's had the opportunity to refine her decision-making approach. And ultimately to apply it to the world of business in her more recent consulting work.

Podcast: 3 Types of Product Managers

Listen: ProductCraft | SoundCloud | iTunes

I recently had the opportunity to join the Product Love podcast to talk about all things product management with Eric Boduch. I spent a fair amount of time detailing my framework for the 3 types of product management roles that exist in the industry, which I affectionately call builders, tuners, and innovators. The builder is probably the most classic product manager. They’re focused on driving the roadmap and building features to serve user needs. They understand how to prioritize feedback, solve real user problems, and deliver delight. On the other hand, tuners try to optimize existing experiences such as monetization or growth flows. Tuners can be likened to growth hackers who focus on metrics and want to move the needle. And finally, when you are bringing a brand new product to market, regardless of whether you are at a startup or at an established tech company, the task requires a unique set of skills as an innovator to discover and reach product/market fit.

3 Compelling Concepts from Basecamp's Shape Up

I always love reading each new book the Basecamp team publishes as they are inevitably chock-full of unique perspectives that preach an approach to working better that goes against conventional wisdom and established best practices. I don't always agree with every practice they preach, but I absolutely love reflecting upon diverging opinions that challenge my own assumptions. The Basecamp team does a fantastic job of thinking from first principles, questioning the status quo, and coming up with novel practices that they've carefully battle-tested on their own team over the last 15 years of developing Basecamp.

Their latest book, Shape Up by Ryan Singer, delivered another compelling read on effectively managing software projects. The book shares the full software development process that the Basecamp team currently uses across it's 50-person team to build and enhance Basecamp itself. As always, it preaches a uniquely Basecamp way of doing things. Jason Fried says so himself in the foreward:

For one, we’re not into waterfall or agile or scrum. For two, we don’t line walls with Post-it notes. For three, we don’t do daily stand ups, design sprints, development sprints, or anything remotely tied to a metaphor that includes being tired and worn out at the end. No backlogs, no Kanban, no velocity tracking, none of that. We have an entirely different approach. One developed in isolation over nearly 15 years of constant trial and error, taking note, iterating, honing in, and polishing up. We’ve shaped our own way.

While the book covers many aspects of the software development cycle, I wanted to share the three concepts I found most compelling.