How to achieve Product Market Fit - AMA with Vlado Hruda

Hey folks! We are back with The Product Folks weekly AMA! This week we had the pleasure of hosting Vlado Hruda, Head of Product Growth at Around.

Vlado worked as an Associate at The Boston Consulting Group, post which he transitioned from an Account Strategist to a Product Lead at Google. After seven years at Google, he served as Staff Product Manager at Mixpanel and is now working as a head of Product Growth at Around. He is analytical, empathetic and focused. He envisions and builds customer centric products that solve complex problems.  

Everything about Product Management

A lot of questions in the AMA were around how one can develop good product sense, set early metrics for new products and ultimately how to become a good PM. Some folks were curious about managing multiple stakeholders while allocating time for actual focus topics. Others were curious about sticking with one idea during hypotheses and product development. Vlado touched upon all these topics and stated examples and his experiences in Around. Let’s jump straight into it!

How did you develop your product sense as you started your product career?

Vlado shared that the key is to be humble and focused on the customer problems in hand. One shouldn’t have specific solutions in mind instead should follow qualitative and quantitative data to uncover actual problems. Multiple iterations of this process eases and builds better product sense and taste.

What was your main focus while building the onboarding flow to keep it smooth and simple for first time users since you are offering so much with the Product?

Even though lifecycle emails can help, the first experience in-app is absolutely crucial after a user signs up for the product. Margot shared her vision of the onboarding on Around. They showed a short onboarding video of a team member in the replicated experience of Around. This ensured that users quickly understood Around in a similar interface creating an “aha” moment. A 5% increase in retention rate was seen after the video’s addition.

How to stick with only one idea and give 100% focus on it? I see myself doing multiple side projects at a time!

“I also struggle with doing a couple of fun projects on the side for personal development and often I am eager to jump to the next thing to learn something new. In my day job, I apply a different framework though and it might be useful for you too.“

Vlado suggested that the essence lies in being long term focused on customer problems and short term focused on the tactics. He explained this with an example of a video calling platform. Through the process of building a great product one tries multiple hypotheses and tactics over a couple of weeks, which helps funnel down on actual problems and gain deeper understanding.

How do you handle the multiple stakeholder meetings while also taking some time for "focused" work?

“Well, you've hit the nail on the head. This is the #1 day-to-day problem of every product manager. My low meeting week has only about 20 meetings, the busy one can go up to 30-40.”

Vlado shared some meeting productivity tips here is a list of those:

  • Always ask for a clear agenda
  • Limit meetings to 25 minutes and end shortly if there are no more topics to discuss - everyone loves time back!
  • Say no to recurring meetings that aren't problem-specific and ad hoc in nature
  • Book personal time for thinking on your calendar
  • Always start your day with 2-3 things you want to accomplish and defocus on the rest
  • Use async communication and double-down on writing clear specs, so there is a better team alignment and less need for unnecessary meetings.

Becoming a good PM

Vlado quoted Einstein “I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and then 5 minutes solving it”. Instead of honing one’s solution, they should focus more on understanding the problem. Best value of a PM lies in gaining a deep understanding of the customers and then partnering with the designers and engineers in collectively finding the best solution.

Early stage Product Managers should try to maximize their learning rate and should focus on getting on board in the role deeply. He shared that he transitioned from an outsider to an insider within a month of his joining at Around.

What are the earliest metrics that you decide when launching a new product in the market? How do you know the product is moving in the right direction? 

Vlado suggests that one should  always start with DAU, WAU, MAU metric to track adoption of the product. Post which they should move from surface level metrics to retention and understand whether the product is sticky and if the product reaches market fit. The below chart can be referred to understand retention flatness and ensure that at least a subset of users come back. This video can also be referred to find greater insights.

What kind of metrics should be tracked for Licensed SaaS? 

Vlado shared that SaaS platforms have easier market paths and higher multiples than Licensed based products. The key with any metric and especially with the SaaS product is understanding the value add and the focus metric for one’s business. Vlado also shared insights about Around and its goals of ensuring fun and productive meetings. Focus Metric set for Around is weekly active users who completed meetings with at least 2 participants.

Do you have any high-level framework in mind to address growth? How do you set targets for your products and track them?

First-time founders are obsessed with the product, second time founders are focused with the distribution. One should understand not just product-market fit, but also the product channel fit. The key for every successful product growth strategy is to understand the product loops of how customers perceive value in the product and how either they invite more of their peers/colleagues into the product or how one can create additional channels & loops of how new users discover their product.

How once a market leader but now a laggard can reposition/ re-pivot their product(s), build differentiation/ competitive advantage once more and gain back market share?

Vlado shared his experience about Mixpanel which saw exploration of their customers in other industry solutions because of an internal change in leadership. He suggested that like Mixpanel, companies should refocus on understanding essential customer problems and hone the experience. Mixpanel doubled down on user experience, and simplified the onboarding path which led to triple NPS score and word of mouth in 18 months.

Is the hybrid model here to stay?

Vlado believes that the success of the hybrid model is dependent on meeting the best of both worlds. Essential team time to build rapport and relationships while supporting remote work so collaboration can fit everybodys’ needs leading to better productivity. 

Vlado’s favourite product resources are:

Want to join the next conversation? We’ll be having another Product Chat soon, get your invite to our Slack community to get all the details. See you inside. 

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