Twitter Building Product for its Customers – Brands

I am sorry to break this to you. Despite the fact that you have 15K tweets, 100K followers and call yourself a power user, you are not a customer for twitter. At best the term user describes you and I. At worst we are the raw materials. The real customers are those who pay for its value. So brands that pay for the data, get in front of us with messages and get us to do something are the real customers for twitter.

There is nothing wrong with that. Just making it clear.

Three recent major product announcements from twitter reflect their realization and focus on its customers.

  1. Direct Message Changes –  They removed the 140 character limit on DMs and added group messaging capability. I do not have data on how many DMs are exchanged between non-brand users as  way of communication. Anecdotally I can say all DM I received are promotional messages sent using a third party broadcast tool. I do have data on length of email messages that serve as proxy for DM length.
    We most likely will use twitter DM only as a mean to communicate privately with those with whom we do not have other connections – i.e., no email address, whatsapp, phone for text etc.
    There is no reason to believe DM pattern will be any different from emails. A recent analysis by The Journal says our median length of emails sent from mobile phones is 20 words. At an average word length of 6 (with spaces), 140 characters is more than enough. And more and more of our usage is moving to mobile and tablets from laptops.

    So the the only possible explanation for a DM feature couched as user experience enhancement is to help brands send longer messages.

  2. Moments – It is positioned as a way to get those new to twitter get to know it. For “power users” a way to find hand curated happenings. Do we really lack ways to find what is happening and popular? The different News apps use algorithmic ways to serve us what is popular and (remotely) relevant. That is a crowded field and some of popular darlings like Flipboard are being crowded out by platform players like Apple. So the only possible use case is for brands to insert “Paid Moments” and have Moments integrated into the timeline.
  3. Poll – This is a annoyance to all of us, users. And if you are a marketing research practioner you will be up in arms about how silly it is. It is as scientific as Fox News poll asking its viewers if Hillary Clinton is hiding something. Don’t even bother publishing your results from a twitter poll you did on your followers. The only valid use case is for brands to get people to interact with it. The results the brand will collect are immaterial but a crazy enough poll question will get the question and the brand in front of more people. A simple click of button makes it a low calorie effect than typing a reply. Brands will use it simply as awareness generation tool. Our timelines will be filled with such silly polls.


Overall I see three new product features that are not about users but about brands. That is fine as twitter has to build products for its customers. The focus is on customers not users. That explains the declining user numbers.


Veggie Burger Marketing

VeggieBurger-2How do you make and market veggie burgers? If you follow the  recipe (pun intended) of current players in the market, you will

  1. Try to make it taste as close to meat burger as possible – like Diet soda marketing
  2. You target the entire market without segmentation
  3. You position it as healthy alternative to meat
  4. You constantly overhaul and change the product to break the bad rep of how flavorless it tastes now

You leverage your product R&D, core competence and marketing machinery to sell as many veggie burgers as possible to as many customers as possible.

What is missing is the failure to ask,

  1.  Who are the customers?
  2. What are the different contexts?
  3. What job do these customers hire a veggie burger for under different contexts?
  4. Which of these customer segments you want to target and which job-to-done do you want to position the product for?
  5. What is the best product that serves that job-to-be-done?

When you fail to ask these basic questions you focus on your technology to make plant protein taste like meat. You take pride in that prowess and lose sight of customer job to be done. Having mastered the technology you fail to think why that would be important to a customer who has never tasted meat in their life.

That is Veggie Burger Marketing – Taking technology expertise and ramming it through the market regardless of customer needs. You see veggie burger marketing everywhere from enterprise software to SurfaceBook. Products filled with features whether or not they are relevant to us. Products built to maximize market reach.

What if you adopted an outside-in perspective? Will we have sawdust burgers, clunky enterprise software, complex storage systems, and million varieties of Febreze?

That is Not Our Competition

competition-2Most of us running a business, building a product or starting a venture think we get to choose who our competition is and exclude those who are not. It is commonplace to see the refrains,

“Their product is completely different from what we are building”

“Spunk is just a log analysis tool, we are about application analytics”

Well here is a sobering thought,

“We do not get to decide. Customers get to decide that.”

Here is a simple rule, for enterprise customers or consumers, whether you sell enterprise software or cycling class. Ask what budget is customer going to pay for your product? Everyone who gets paid from that budget is your competition, whether you like it or not. They need not be in the same industry classification, category, or provide same utilitarian purpose.

You need to focus on what job is the customer hiring the products for. Every product competing for that job to be done is paid for from the same budget and hence are alternatives.

Let me make this concrete with an analysis I recently did on Cycling classes. SoulCycle offers cycling classes at the cost of $35 per class. They position themselves as more than an exercise class at local gym,

“SoulCycle isn’t in the business of changing bodies. It’s in the business of changing lives.”

A quick analysis of twitter bios of fans of SoulCycle point out  this about customer job to be done-


They love life, they are into fashion, they are enthusiastic about life, they love music and food.

That means they are not hiring SoulCycle for just fitness but seeing it as part of their lifestyle choice. They pay for it from the same budget they would for fashion, pop culture or trying out gourmet food.

From the broader pattern from analyzing 44000 twitter followers let us see a specific  anecdote of one such customer,

“It’s definitely a bigger investment,” says Ms. Dougherty, who has curbed shopping trips and brought her lunch to work to afford her boxing-boutique investment.

So competition for SoulCycle is not just other cycling classes, Peloton that sells ride at home cycles, or other gyms. It is everything that is positioned as , “changing lives”. These customers pay for SoulCycle from the budget for “changing lives”.  Fashion, food, music, etc. all compete for the same customer spend.

If you do not define your competition this way and ignore a large swath of products positioned for the same customer job to be done you likely will not have a viable business for much longer.

Where do you start when you build a product?

bb810ea3c1ce83c2b7168e62c21476c1.jpgPeople ask me this question in different contexts – from casual acquaintances who are not into business, those changing careers from engineering to product management, to someone in product marketing wanting to write a series of blog posts for marketing, to those who want to hire me to build and scale their business.  I share with them my simple, testable, repeatable model to build products.

I find there is no single unified coursework in MBA programs to cover this. I find the methods described in books on product management dive too quickly and too deeply into day in the life of a product manager. I find most enterprises and startups get into hustle of doing things first or attending many meetings about it than put some rigor around this most important aspect. I find the blog posts and advice from pundits are based on myths, fables and selective anecdotes.

I want to share with you my model or framework for great product management. I use this method with every new product, pivots or feature additions. I coach the teams I hire on this method to help them become amazing product managers.  Here I present an infographic of this framework I call, CAMP.

Ask me how I can help you, your business and  your team put this into practice to build products.  Remember, it is not a product until you have identified customers whose problems it solves and who are willing to pay for it.

Pm Framework

Why you shouldn’t use your competitor’s pricing as your benchmark?

This is a guest post by Grishma Govani. Grishma builds and grows communities at early stage startups. She focuses on growth and customer retention by way of word of mouth, analytics and user behavior. You can find her on twitter as  @StrangeLoops

As entrepreneurs, most of us have studied our competitors thoroughly at least twice: once before we start building a product and once before we set our pricing. Before we start building a product, we gauge the market by understanding what products our competitors are selling, where they are lacking and what their customers are unsatisfied with. When it comes to pricing, most of the time, we wait until we are almost ready to ship our MVP.  At this stage, we tend to price our products proportional to the amount of value we are adding over our competitors.

For example, if we believe our customers will save time by using our product over our competitors, we will calculate how much time we are saving our customers. We will also try and understand how much that extra time is worth to our customers. The more time our customers save, the more value our product creates leading to a higher price point.

 The problem with this pricing method is it is a very short-sighted strategy. By using our competitor’s price as our benchmark, we will completely miss seeing all the new ways our product can possibly provide value to our customers. The portable bar code reader was one such product. The company that first made them used their competitors as benchmark to price the reader. They priced their product proportionally to the amount of time they were saving customers over their competitors. But they missed understanding how else they were adding value to their customers by completely allowing them to redesign their supply chain and logistics. Comparison pricing led them to undervalue one of the most innovative products in the market.

One effective way to address undervalued pricing is to get a full picture of where you plan on adding value even before you start building the product. You can start by mapping your customer’s minimum expectations and your competitor’s performance on the following three scales – product performance, operation/cost excellence (price) and service/community as shown in Dr. Barbara Kahn’s chart below for leadership strategies.


Based on this map, you can design a product strategy to add superior value on one of the three scales where customer’s expectations are high but are not being met. You, also, need to make sure your product is good enough on the other two scales too. This will form your hypothesis for a market strategy which you can then validate.

Evaluating your product along these three scales is a great way to understand value pricing while you solve actual problems your customers will pay a premium for.

Further Reading:

Read how a very innovative portable scanner completely missed the boat on pricing when they only looked at their competitors’ prices. Also, it gives an in depth look at how to develop your pricing. (

Here is a good article on why entrepreneurs are bad at finding competitors and tips on how to find your competitors. (

Marketing, Pricing and Value: a Black Friday Story

This is a guest post by Gerado A Dada, an excellent data driven business leader I met through my blog. Gerardo has been at the center of the web, mobile, social and cloud revolutions across more than 15 years of driving business strategy and product marketing for leading technology companies including Rackspace, Bazaarvoice and Microsoft. Gerardo is the author of the blog and is on twitter at @gerardodada.

Have you written your guest post yet?


Line at UGG Factory Store (1)Like most people in the US, during Black Friday week my inbox received an onslaught of promotional emails from every company I have done business with. All of them, without exception were promoting sales and discounts.

“When a marketer’s creativity runs out he defaults back to price discounts. “ (link: Creating a promotion or a sale is the default way to generate sales in the short term. Even though we know, deep down, that short term discounts erode value and train customers to expect discounts as JC Penney learned the hard way (link: )

It was Black Friday and we decided to stop by the Factory Outlet in San Marcos – my daughter had an eye on a pair of UGG Boots that I was hoping to get at a good price. This is what I found:

(picture with a line of shoppers outside the store)

It was not that surprising to find a line outside a popular store, especially on Black Friday, but there were a couple facts that made this experience interesting for me as a student of marketing and consumer behavior:

UGG Australia was not offering any significant discounts. Many models were being sold at list price. A few had a small discount. I did not see any pair of boots being sold for under $175. A few feet away, a store had a big sign promoting 60% + an additional 30% discount on everything. You could get a high quality pair of booth for about $50. The other stores with long lines were Coach and Michael Kors.

These are my observations in relation to the experience:

  • Customers buy based on emotions. How can you explain customers lining up to pay over $450 for a bag made of PVC plastic? (optional picture) – by the way this product was backordered at the time I am writing this post.

  • The value of the product is not in its specifications, quality of the materials, features or benefits. The value is in how it makes customers feel. When you wear UGG boots and a MK bag, you feel like you belong, you feel fashionable, you feel successful. The product is the experience.

  • It’s not the price, or the discount, but the feeling that you are getting a good deal that counts. The shoppers in line felt good, even if they really did not get a good deal. The end price was not as relevant as the feeling that they were getting a good deal. After all, who likes paying list price?

  • Even premium brands need to provide the feeling of offering a good deal. It does not have to be a discount, though: sometimes free shipping, personalization or an accessory could do the trick.

  • All the talk about brands going away? Nonsense. Brands are, and will continue to be, extremely valuable. You can probably get a handbag of similar quality and similar design for 1/10th of the price at Target, yet customers happily stand in line and fork out their hard-earned cash for a brand.

My call to action to you: before you start you next price promotion, think about how you can build a brand, an experience, that makes customers feel great, and makes them happy to spend more money with you.