Building SaaS is Product Management

Dan Martell, CEO of Clarity and Investor in Intercom, Unbounce and Udemy, shares his best techniques for validating SaaS product and feature ideas and how he aligns his team when changing the product roadmap.

The size of the software as a service (SaaS) market is growing rapidly. And Dan’s started, invested in, and advised several successful SaaS companies. He’s sold three of the five companies he’s started, and invested in more than thirty companies. It’s safe to say that Dan knows a thing or two about building SaaS products!

In this episode, he shares his best advice for each step in the product lifecycle.

When considering what features to build, Dan encourages listeners to ask a very powerful question:

“How can I create more value for my customer than anyone else in the world?”

He then shares how feedback from his customers motivated him to make an important improvement to his product roadmap at his current company, Clarity.

Dan also shares a great technique for leading a team when experimenting and iterating based on customer feedback. Eric Reis advised him to schedule a recurring meeting called “Pivot or Persevere.” In this meeting, the team discusses the customer feedback they’ve received and Dan decides whether they will continue with the current product roadmap, or make a change.

This technique is brilliant for a reason that I didn’t fully understand at first. Leaders strive to inspire trust that the product they’re building will be successful. However, continuous experimentation and iteration means that the product may change. This requires leaders to have humility, rather than blind certainty.

By scheduling a recurring meeting, as opposed to a one-off meeting, iterating based on customer feedback becomes expected and integrated with the product strategy.

Dan adds that it’s important to go to the board (or senior stakeholders) after the decision is made. You don’t want to report that you don’t know what you’re going to build. If you don’t know exactly what to build, tell the board what choices you’re deciding between and explain why. Have a plan and show the strategy.

You’ll learn a lot from this episode about customer development and building SaaS products.

Here are the highlights:

  • Dan describes how he generates new SaaS product ideas (4:40)
  • Dan breaks down how he conducts user research and develops his product roadmap (9:15)
  • Dan provides best practices for aligning your team during change (13:05)
  • Dan explains how companies can make the transition from providing a service to delivering a digital product (16:50)
  • Dan’s suggestions for how product managers can manage their time and energy to get more done (25:15)

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