We are eager to share the twelfth episode of The Product Management Leaders Podcast with you! Our aim with this podcast is to connect you with some of the top PM leaders and share their real-world strategies and tactics for building world-class products. In today's episode, Grant Duncan speaks with Darren Guarnaccia, SVP of Product at Hootsuite, a social media management platform with over 1,500 employees that probably most of you know about. Darren was previously CPO at Crownpeak, EVP at Sitecore, and a strategic advisor to startups. So let’s hear what he has to say!
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Grant Duncan 0:05
This is the Product Management Leaders Podcast in which you hear from some of the top PM leaders about their real world strategies and tactics for building world class products. It's sponsored by Voximplant, the leading serverless communications platform and no code drag and drop contact center solution. Voximplant enables product leaders and developers to integrate communications into their products, such as embedding voice, video, SMS, in app chat and natural language processing. Join over 30,000 businesses trusting Voximplant. Now let's jump into the show.
Hello, it's Grant Duncan, your host. Today I'm speaking with Darren Guarnaccia, SVP of product at Hootsuite, a social media management platform with over 1500 employees that probably most of you know about. Darren was previously CPO at Crown Peak, EDP at Sitecore, and has been a strategic adviser to startups. So let's hear what he has to say.
Hey, Darren, it's great to have you on the show today. Thanks for coming on. So to start, can you give people a brief background about yourself and your role?
Darren Guarnaccia 1:15
Yeah, thanks, Grant. Darren Guarnaccia, I'm the SVP of Product at Hootsuite. And that means Hootsuite product runs all the product management function, of course, and then as well product marketing. And then we also have our ecosystem team, which is really our product partnerships that kind of connect with all of our alliance partners and technology partners in our kind of ecosystem of integrations.
Grant Duncan 1:39
Yeah that's interesting, I'm starting to see a little bit of a trend to have product marketing sit under the product team, can you share a little bit about why you have structured it that way.
Darren Guarnaccia 1:51
I really enjoy working in orgs, that those are very closely related. I've seen it done lots of different ways, as I'm sure you have to. And what can happen when they're not partnered really closely is this sort of the bad habit of like throwing the product over the wall. I see product marketing and product management really is sort of two halves of the same coin. You know, Product Marketing, in an ideal state Product Marketing is the inbound function and an outbound function. So it's the market research, it's really understanding customer needs and behaviors, it's bringing that into product. And then product is of course, partnering closely with that and doing their own research as well, but then creating products, solving problems and bringing that back out to market. And again, partnering and bringing that product out successfully to market with and through product marketing. So to me, it's a virtuous loop. And in an ideal world, they work really closely together, it can live in marketing, too. But I find it works really well when they're partnered in the same org and aligned tightly.
Grant Duncan 2:53
And did you have to convince people to make that change, or was it already set up when you joined a year and a half ago?
Darren Guarnaccia 3:00
It was actually already set up that way. But my previous org also, I guess that was required of me joining them, was like I really wanted to run both. And I've been running both of them together for a long time. So I really won't join an org that I can't operate that way because to me, it removes all the friction out of the process. And I think it creates for a much better go to market, and you have much more successful products that way.
Grant Duncan 3:27
That's fascinating. That's a great take. Can you go into a little more detail, how many people are on your team and how do you have it structured?
Darren Guarnaccia 3:35
I'll sort of break down the various teams. So the product management function, we have about 45, 50 people in the org, it's broken down by portfolio, and portfolios at which we are really value streams, you know, use case value streams. And, so we have it broken down that way around sort of the big, major use cases we serve. And then there's a platform team also that sits, kind of underpins all of that. In the product marketing function, it really mirrors that. And it also overlays more of a solution centric view. So there's sort of the functional view and then the overarching solution view to kind of overcome that it's not just a bunch of piece parts, but there's an overriding kind of solution use case needs. So we kind of operate it at dual level. And then the ecosystem team is really organized around you know, integration teams and for product management teams that kind of focus on the markets they serve and the use cases they want to support via integration.
Grant Duncan 4:34
Got it. Very cool. So we had a listener ask a question, knowing you were coming on. “Curious how you are measuring your initiatives at Hootsuite”, this is from Nicholas.
Darren Guarnaccia 4:49
Awesome. I think there's, well, I'll take this in two directions. I think direction number one is, you know, product has to be commercially responsible. Product managers can't just build stuff. We need to grow markets, we need to win, right, our products need to win. So I think part of this is being commercially minded and product managers need to sort of own their markets. And we've all read the blog articles about like, you know, becoming the general manager of your business and the CEO of your product. So I think there's a commercial side of this, which is important and your growth of it. So ultimately, that's the metric of success. But sort of clicking into that a little more, what else makes a successful product? And it's really, I think it aligns to outcomes, like what are the outcomes people want? You know, if you think about the job to be done in that sense, what is it that you're really trying to drive from an outcome standpoint, and Hootsuite, an example is, people just don't want to publish on social. They want to actually be successful in growing their audiences, they want to drive engagement, they want to grow a loyal following. So those kinds of outcomes, we try and measure those, and we measure them at a bunch of levels, right? From the activation phase of getting people on boarded and active and establishing that aha and habit moment to really engaging in deepening in their product usage, and achieving those outcomes and creating metrics that actually measure the outcomes of like, for every post, how many of those posts got more than 10 likes, or you know, the kinds of things we want, or grew your audience by 5%. So we measure the outcome centric stuff, too. So it's really about measuring both the financial success, and then the outcome success.
Grant Duncan 6:31
Yeah, that's a nice framework that I think a lot of people will be able to pick up right there. So how do you think about build versus buy decisions?
Darren Guarnaccia 6:41
Yes, that's a partner. Because no one thinks enough about partner. And we think about it all the time. And I own ecosystem, so I totally think about that. So we've actually recently run like four different bill by partner evaluations, and in each case, they came up a little different. So I think it has a lot to do with, A, is this in your core wheelhouse? Is this like core IP that you gotta own? Right? If it's not, and it's not very core to your business, then you should certainly be thinking about partner. If it is core to your business, then you have to think about well, how quickly do I need it, and then how tightly integrated does it need to be. And so thinking about it that way, if it's sort of core to the business, and this thing needs to be woven into the fabric of everything, you should probably build it. If it's important, you need it fast, and you can't wait a year to build it, and, and it can live outside for a while, and then you can slowly incorporate it, then a buy makes a ton of sense. And so I think we think about all of those things in our analyses and really how you know, and then of course, whatever it is you're thinking of building or buying, if you can find something that's really well built, so that it can be easily integrated, that's a bonus. But I think that's kind of the general framework I think about.
Grant Duncan 7:57
Yeah, that's a great framework. Who is typically involved in that decision making process, like when you did those four evaluations recently?
Darren Guarnaccia 8:07
Certainly, we have our corp dev folks always involved, of course. We bring in people from marketing, we bring in people from sales, we bring in people from product and engineering. You know, we even bring in operations folks to really think about like, how is this thing going to fit? You know, it's really like, it's not just the technology, right? It's the technology, but it's also the people. And it's also the IP. Like, how good is this IP? How durable is it? You know, is it gonna give us a sustainable moat? Things like that, those are the kinds of things we think through. And can we integrate this thing, both technically, commercially, and people wise?
Grant Duncan 8:45
Great, thanks. And, you know, Hootsuite really spans different segments as well. You know, there's the product led growth with individuals or small companies up to the enterprise. How do you think about building for different audiences?
Darren Guarnaccia 9:03
That's probably the biggest, toughest nut to crack, to be honest, is allocating the right resources in the right places, and really figuring out how to balance those things. I think it requires focus, I think you can't be all things to all people. I think we've chosen to focus in key areas and we spent a lot of time focusing in on core market segments, and then we serve other adjacent market segments, like, say, enterprise, you know, because we can't build everything for everybody, you either really focus on what you want to be great at. And so that means focusing on market segments, maybe verticals, and really getting tight about who you want to be great for. And I think the mistake that people make all the time is they want to be all things to all people. And you're nothing to anyone when you're that, so I think that for us, you know, we have to be very judicious on where we focus our energy and time.
Grant Duncan 9:56
What would you say is one of the hardest product decisions you've had to make?
Darren Guarnaccia 10:02
What not to build. Michael Porter said, strategy is what you don't do. You know, because we as product people, we love building stuff, we want to build everything right? And sometimes you got to not build something, sometimes you got to say no to things. In fact, you should say a lot of no's. And I think this is something that's really tough, which is you're starting from product, you just want to do all the things, it's so exciting. And you want to solve all the problems because you can. So not doing things, not entering the market as lucrative as it looks, staying true to being focused, you know, and again, strategy is, what you don't do, being really focused, that's the hardest thing to do.
Grant Duncan 10:40
Yeah, focus is definitely tough. And I think that's something that everyone deals with to some degree, but especially PM's. How do you present to the Board of Directors? Do you have kind of a typical framework you use?
Darren Guarnaccia 10:57
You know, the board really wants to understand a couple of simple things. And so we really keep it down to, here's how we're thinking about our investments. Here's the rationale, the business rationale, and what we expect, so the forecast that we expect to get back from these investments. I think the biggest thing that goes wrong with boards is they just think you're running, you're chasing the shiny object. And so it's really important that you show them discipline, that you show them that you've got a disciplined approach to how you're making investments, and that you're doing what you say you're doing, so that you show them what you said you were gonna do, you show them what you actually did, that you're predictable. And, then eventually, that it's paying off, here's what our forecast was, and here's actually what we did. I think you can build a lot of trust with your board, if you start to present in that way. And don't go into the weeds on features or things like that. They don't care. Unless it's like the founder, CEO, ex-CEO that's on your board, then he may care. But for the most part, most boards, they want to understand the rationale, the logic, and they want to know that you can deliver what you say you're going to deliver, because you got to build trust.
Grant Duncan 12:07
Yeah. And does your set of slides stay pretty consistent quarter over quarter? Or is that changing?
Darren Guarnaccia 12:14
It does vary seasonally. You know, the beginning of the year, it is more heavily weighted towards our year long view and our retro, we always do a retro back. And then, you know, towards the midpoint, we start to shift towards, how are we doing? How are we tracking? And then at the end, it becomes more retrospective. And then again, setting up for the next year. So it does, it does adjust over the year.
Grant Duncan 12:41
Yeah, that makes sense. You were kind of hinting at it there with the beginning of the year looking different and doing the retro. How do you think about annual planning and, for you as well, a retro for that?
Darren Guarnaccia 12:57
We're in the middle of it now. It's that time of year. I think there's a couple ways, sometimes you are in a mode where you're doing the big plan, because every once in a while you should stop and you should look at like, three, four years out, right? Do the future storming. And so sometimes you're doing that. And then your next year plan. And then other times, you're just planning that next year, right you're in process. So I think it depends on where you are in that cycle. If you're in the just this year plan, then I think that it's calling your shots, like where are you going to get your growth for next year? And I think this is where PMs can really build some great muscle. And I've got some great PMs who just think that way organically, and they’re like, I need to grow this thing by you know, 30%, I believe I'm gonna get my growth from this, this, this and this, therefore, I need to go achieve these things in the product, I need to invest in these areas. And that's going to get me this growth. The ones that think that way, are a dream. Because it's so grounded in reality. And you can say, all right. And then they may be wrong. Oftentimes you are, because a lot of this is test and iterate, but you make your bets, you have to call your shots. And so calling those shots early with a rationale, and whether it's entering a new market or expanding into a new segment, adding some new features to improve competitiveness. Whatever it is you're going to do, thinking that way first, and then going into, Okay, now how are we going to achieve that growth? That is, I think, the key to good annual planning. And that actually makes investment requests much easier. Because now I can go to that board, I can go to that executive team, and I can say, I want to triple down on this group, this area of the business, and if you give me this much, I'm going to give you 10x that, and here's why. Like that becomes a much easier conversation to have.
Grant Duncan 14:54
Yeah, yeah, totally. And how do you help people decide on those big bets, whether it's helping them do the analysis, or it's helping them build those skills and muscles, so that they understand how to do it?
Darren Guarnaccia 15:13
So we practice, we practice in QBR's. So every quarter, we do a QBR. And in every quarter, we do a mini version of this. And so that's one thing. Of course, user research is key, having a tight partnership with user research. In our case, it lives inside of product marketing. So part of the product marketing function is constantly analyzing the market, and the customers, and really understanding what customers want, what non customers want, what the market’s doing. So we have that body of work. We have our design team, and what they're learning and their processes. And so we have all this body of work to help us understand what's going on. And then on top of that, we have our product analytics, we understand where things are working, what kind of product adoption are we getting, feature adoption, retention, so we're looking at all those things as well. And then every quarter, we're practicing a little bit and doing QBR. So QBR's are kind of the setup for the big show, and what's really interesting, I've been at Hootsuite for almost a year and a half now, we're really starting to see that muscle form, we're really starting to see PMs really step up and bring those business cases in and say, Look, we think there's a huge opportunity here. If we make these kinds of investments, we're going to get this kind of payback model. And so we're starting to build that muscle. So, it's, again, it's just practice, and getting people used to thinking this way first. And then, of course, you know, delivering it, presenting it and living it.
Grant Duncan 16:34
Yeah, that's great. And so for you, when they're bringing that business case, or those big bets, how are you prioritizing short term versus long term?
Darren Guarnaccia 16:45
That always the question, isn't it? I think part of it depends on where you are in your business, and in your growth cycle, right? Are you a startup? And you're just trying to keep the lights on? Are you a well funded and flush scale up? And you can make some of those bets? Even in those cases, you should balance them. You know, the answer in the startup world, it's 80-20, right? Short term to long. And reverse that and scale up, right? But you do need to have a balance of those things. And there's always, also in the bigger larger companies, how much do you do to pay off tech debt? How much do you, what's that balance look like too? So I think it's about finding the right mix for the business, depending on where you are in your life cycle. But never let one go to zero. That's the mistake that I see often, right? That you're just like, it's like not investing in your 401k. You just gotta, you always have to keep it off.
Grant Duncan 17:42
Yeah, great analogy there. And how do you work effectively with engineering teams?
Darren Guarnaccia 17:48
I think you got to be really clear about who does what. I think the thing that people get in trouble with with engineering, it's a temptation that every PM likes to fall into, is we have such great ideas, and we have all these ideas on how to do things, but that's not our job. Our job is what and why. In the product management world, we got to stay away from how. That's the domain of engineering and design, like I would put design in that same bucket. You can have good ideas come from anywhere, but it's not our decision. And it shouldn't be our decision, we stay out of that. And I think a good partnership, and my partner in crime on the engineering front, you know, he and I really agree, Look, this is where… Now, engineers can have great ideas too. Like that's the other piece of this, all too often PM's don't tap engineering teams well enough, with great ideas on just how to solve problems and ideas of what could even be done. So I think ideas can come from both directions, but accountability, the what and the why has to be accountable to the PM team, because they're on the hook for commercial success. But the engineering org and the design org get to decide how, at the end of the day, it's their call. So I think that's the balance and when you can have those clear delineations and the respect for each other to hear each other's ideas, then I think that's what creates a great relationship.
Grant Duncan 19:10
Yeah. Can you share about a time you had a difficulty with let's say, engineering or design and how you worked through that?
Darren Guarnaccia 19:19
You know, I really have had very good experiences with my engineering counterpart. I think, though, maybe the one example would be, where I was losing faith in my engineering org, because they just weren't very predictable, they'd promise and not deliver. And it took... And I don't think engineering understood it was a culture of, it will be done when it's done. And so it was really difficult to go to market with things, it was really difficult to have credibility with sales. And they didn't really understand why. And I think the way we ultimately resolved it was really building some empathy with the downstream of that. I think maybe another good example, more recent example: typical SaaS company, we would release stuff all day every day. Just an endless stream of releases, and we found that our field was just having a hard time keeping up. Even our customer success people were having… Features were just kind of rolling out every day, and that's fine if it's a consumer product like Facebook, harder if you're selling to enterprise companies who don't like when things just randomly show up. So we had to find a balance and it took some effort, we eventually got there, to convince them, let's slow down our release cadence. The engineering org was of course worried that I was going to slow them down and mess with their continuous CICD process and they were totally freaked out about that, and I said look, you keep working how you work, we'll use dark launch to hide this stuff. And we'll just batch it and release it on mass, but you won't have to slow down. And it took a lot of back and forth negotiation and a little hearing their concerns and understanding what they were worried about. And making sure that we weren't messing with their processes and really letting them still have that same velocity, because they're very high velocity, but it really was trying to really understand their concerns and we got there, we eventually got there, we do that now. And right now we're on a monthly release cadence and actually I think our customers like it a little better too, because it's just a little bit more well presented. You know, we have a little bit more time to ready everything. Our product marketing peeps can build more materials and have more polish. And so it feels a little better even though it's not the the willy nilly cranking stuff out every day, you know, five times a day. I think it feels better for us.
Grant Duncan 21:45
Yeah, I can see how that would be a big help. How did you choose monthly as the cadence?
Darren Guarnaccia 21:52
You know, we looked at do we do two, four or six week intervals. Six felt too long, two weeks, as we looked at all the the effort, like the batching effort and all the things that wrapped around, it felt like a lot of work constantly. And just for staffing level, we didn't think we could pull two off. We wanted to do two but it would be too painful. So we said let's start with four. And once we get this operationalized and really smooth, we can think about what would it take to pull it down to three or two. And we're still thinking about it, at what point and can we automate some of this stuff to make it easier to get out the door. So I think with automation, maybe we pull it in more but even Salesforce, interestingly, the darling of SaaS, they're quarterly now. You look at Salesforce, they're releasing stuff on seasons. So I think there's a fine line. And again, it depends on your audience, if all you have is mom and pop SaaS shops and they don't care, you can go do every day. But if you're serving a mid market and enterprise base, then you probably have to think about alternatives.
Grant Duncan 23:00
Yeah, totally, especially as those customers of yours have to think about how did they release it to their internal users as well. There's some change management on their end as well, so makes sense. How do you recommend PM's deal with failure?
Darren Guarnaccia 23:20
Embrace it. Failure is awesome. Like you're gonna have 10 failures to your one win. Embrace it, learn from it. Every failure is a gift. And I tell my team that all the time, I have my PLG team and my growth org. They have failures all the time. They have hypotheses that just don't pan out. Fine. You know, embrace it, learn from it. Everything's a teacher and if you think about it as a teaching opportunity.... The interesting thing is that the human brain… One of the psychology books I've read, when you're in failure state, the human brain ramps up to about 400x sensitivity and it's because that's how the human brain learns, right? You threw a spear, you missed the animal, and in that moment, your brain collected a ton of data, because it needed to figure out how to get better, and we're the same way. So I always think that failure state's a wonderful moment to just get better and learn. And honestly, if you're not failing, you're not trying hard enough, you're not taking enough risk. You're not moving fast enough. All of those things are true. So I think as a leader, I am constantly evangelizing, if you're not failing, you're not pushing hard enough, fail more please, push harder. And I'm constantly cheerleading when people fail. It's the movie Meet the Robinsons when he was having an experiment and it totally failed catastrophically, and they all celebrated, they all had a celebration around it. That's how we all ought to think about it. I should be cheering the failure, because in failure is opportunity.
Grant Duncan 24:56
Yeah, I think that's probably very encouraging to people hearing this, and I would imagine that that probably is important to build that kind of culture, you're talking about cheering for them when this happens. How do you think leaders should create that kind of culture? Is it really celebrating the failure and encouraging them to take risks? Are there any other components you would add?
Darren Guarnaccia 25:21
I think it's psychological safety. Simon Sinek talks about this a lot in his book "Leaders Eat Last". It's about creating psychological safety to take risks. Failure is just a risk. And so if you build psychological safety, and I actually even ask my PMs, challenge me, if you think we're going down the wrong way, you have complete authority to punch me in the nose and say no, you know, figuratively, right? But I want them to have the psychological safety to say, No, you're wrong. You're wrong and that's where that is not right. We should not do that, and back it up, back it up with data, back it up with facts, but let's have that conversation all day long. They need to have that psychological safety. Failure is just another part of that. But all my teams have always been totally open and happy to challenge me, argue with me, I just have an opinion, I'm just another person with an opinion, right? At the end of the day, you don't want to be the hippo, right? You don't want to be that person that's rolling over everybody else. Yes, yeah, the hippo in the room, you don't wanna be that guy, you don't wanna be that gal. You want to be the person that creates the space, the psychological safety for people to bring the next idea or challenge, beat it up, make it better. One of the folks I worked with, he says, like, if that idea was a 10, how do we make it an 11? Right? So even good ideas can be beat up to be made better. And so you want to create that space where everyone can bring the idea.
Grant Duncan 26:56
Yeah, great advice. So you have a background that's not only in product management, how do you feel that your past experiences help you in your work today?
Darren Guarnaccia 27:09
You know, we all are a sum total of our experience and knowledge, right? I think I've walked a mile in an IT person shoes, I spent years in consulting, which is like dog years, the learning is fast, that was very helpful. And it also helped me understand the mind of the integrator and how stuff gets deployed into customers on premise. And then I spent a bunch of years, in the software world, selling and marketing stuff. And I think that gave me a nice rounded experience which led me into really product marketing and product management. And I think that it nicely gave me this kind of routed experience, I really could see a lot of sides of the process and really empathize with all that. Because at the end of the day, the more empathy we can have with our customers, plus, the other stakeholders in our business, I think it just makes you better. And I think it's really helped me to really, because I've carried a bag, you know, I've been a marketer, you know, I've done strategy, I've been a customer, I bought this stuff, right? I've bought software at a large level, too. So it's nice to be able to go back and say, Well, what was I thinking back then? And how did I feel when this person did this? So at the end of day, it's all about empathy. And I think it gives me more empathy for the various folks I work with.
Grant Duncan 28:27
Yeah, yeah, I totally agree there. I think that's great to be able to draw on those personal experiences as well. So you mentioned earlier that you have a PLG team. I think, you know, PLG is becoming a popular term these days, although the concept of it has been around for a long time. How do you think about PLG?
Darren Guarnaccia 28:49
I think it's simply a product that is so good that it upsells your customers, or sells your customers, right. I think in simplest terms, it's that and it doesn't necessarily have to be a self serve product, right? It can be something that a salesperson sells, but then customers get pulled into, drawn further in, and want more, use more, buy more. It really is that simple. A lot of the concepts though, and what I really appreciate about the whole PLG movement is that it starts to get you to think about outcomes. Things like habit moment and aha moment and eventually engagement levels. And it really gets you to think beyond just feature level. And how do people have success with your product? I think that's what I really love and that their success means they buy more, they have more, right. And you're using all the tools at your disposal, in product messaging and nudging, it's about education, it's even thinking beyond your product. Sometimes, and I say this to my team all the time, product is slow, content is fast. Sometimes you can solve problems without product at all. You can go create new documentation to build a template for something, give somebody a starter kit, build some really interesting, video content, so there's a lot of times when we can solve problems and we don't have to write a line of code. And we don't often think that way or that's somebody else's job. But in a product led world, that is everybody's job. And that's the team's job, they think very broadly, and they tend to be very cross functional to. And so you can often have somebody in sales, in marketing in as well, collaborating and thinking about how people are consuming this thing, how are they achieving their outcomes. And it becomes this very beautiful iterative thing. But I tend to find that PLG teams are much broader thinking and how they attack problems.
Grant Duncan 30:44
Hmm, yeah, and that probably helps that you have product marketing in your team to be able to make those content changes or suggestions or additions, probably more easily than if it was a separate team where you have to, you know, collaborate with another leader to get this on their priorities list.
Darren Guarnaccia 31:02
Right, yeah, that does make it a little easier for sure.
Grant Duncan 31:04
Yeah, very cool. Are there any sources or communities that you use to continue learning?
Darren Guarnaccia 31:11
I am an avid book reader. So I devour lots and lots of books. Of course, the staples, right, Melissa Perry's "Escaping the Bill Trap" and Marty Kagan's "Empowered" are great reads. I really like Todd Olsen's book, "Building a Product Led Org", he's the founder of Pendo. Great book, just thinking about how to operationalize some of this stuff too. And then you know, there's lots of product led podcasts that I'll sometimes listen to, as well as I'm mowing the lawn. And so I'm just constantly trying to feed my head with, especially examples like one of the product led growth books was chock full of great examples, which is also great. Like, I learn a lot through just reading other people's examples and sparks ideas in me. So yeah, a good product, you know, product growth podcasts are also really great. Just again, for the examples.
Grant Duncan 32:04
Yeah, yeah, totally. Good idea. So how does someone at your level, find a new job. I'm not saying you're looking, but I think for listeners who are maybe at a similar level, or coming up to where you are soon, I think it's helpful for them to hear others.
Darren Guarnaccia 32:24
You know, I don't do anything, they usually find me. But I would say that there's things you can do to improve your odds. Like, a lot of people don't put enough content, don't express their expertise in a meaningful way. And so certainly things like this help. But not just things like this. Also just writing on LinkedIn, or Medium. There are some amazing articles I've read over the years about, thoughts around, strategies and product topics, on Medium and LinkedIn. And that's just you demonstrating your expertise, you can say you're an expert all day long. But demonstrating your expertise goes a long way. One of my executive coaches once told me that, like stop saying you're an expert, show it. So what could you do every day to show you're an expert? And how can you express that in a way people could see it? Because that goes a lot further. So I think those are the kinds of things that I have done in my career naturally. And because of that, I tend to get sought out. And I think that's how a lot of people find you.
Grant Duncan 33:27
Yeah. And you can use a tool like Hootsuite to do that.
Darren Guarnaccia 33:31
And I do every day, every day I publish.
Grant Duncan 33:35
Yeah, that's a great habit. So if you had a magic wand, and you could fix any one product management problem, what would you choose?
Darren Guarnaccia 33:46
You know, the biggest problem that every product manager has is not enough resources to do what they want to do. Right? So like, if I had the magic wand of infinite resources, then it would totally do that, right? It probably creates its own problems, but I think that's the thing that hurts, like I have product managers who are so passionate about their business, and if they could do this stuff and do it faster, or go more parallel. Like they're so passionate, it pains me to watch the frustration in them. And so selfishly, if I could alleviate that frustration, and I could give them infinite resources, I would totally do it.
Grant Duncan 34:25
Yeah, that makes sense. How do you think about building-in great customer experience and customer engagement within your products?
Darren Guarnaccia 34:34
You know, I think that goes back to outcomes, like really being grounded in what people wanted in the first place. Because oftentimes, you know, it's the old analogy of, no one wanted a drill. They needed a hole in the wall and they really didn't even want a hole in the wall. What they really wanted was to hang a picture and, yeah, they actually wanted to hang a picture, but they really just want a beautiful house. So getting to how do you help someone have a beautiful house of which a drill could be a part of that solution, but only one solution. And I think, polling ourselves, doing a five why's exercise on things and saying, Why do people want this? And what are they trying to achieve? And going up and up and up, and being grounded, because if you can help people be successful, and achieve the outcome that they were coming to in the first place, then I think that is great customer experience, because you're now grounded in that. And then, of course, there's other things in customer experience, like it's got to feel, it's got to be a continuous experience. It can't be sort of this jagged, you know, lumpy thing that's uneven. So there's a continuity and consistency element to it, of course. But I think if it's grounded in the customer outcome, and what they're trying to achieve, that I think is super important... I'll give you an example. You know, people on social media are, especially if they're new to social media, are a little nervous, they're a little uncomfortable, they're not really sure what to do. So we've been experimenting a ton. And recently, we published, or we released a new feature called “Best Time to Publish”. And the idea is very simple. We took all the data, we crunched all the numbers and said, Hey, for the things you're trying to do, you're trying to either grow your audience or engagement, these times got the best hit rate for your audiences. So you should do more at those times. Again, it creates a little bit more confidence, it helps them understand, okay, this is the right thing, I'm doing it right. Builds a little bit more momentum, and they feel like they're more accomplished. And they have more confidence… That would be an emotional job to be done. Again, in the Christiansen kind of analogy. So really thinking about that outcome, really thinking about what they want, and then starting to iterate. And of course, don't be afraid to test and learn. Try stuff. If you get one good thing out of 10 ideas, that's great. That's a great hit rate.
Grant Duncan 36:49
Yeah and it could produce amazing results as well.
Darren Guarnaccia 36:51
We've had a couple that are going to generate four plus million. Now those are big winners.
Grant Duncan 36:57
Wow. Yeah, that's huge. Any parting advice you would leave for other PM leaders?
Darren Guarnaccia 37:04
You know, the thing that you read, but I'll just reinforce because it's something I tell myself every day. Fall in love with the problem. Not the tool, not the tech, fall in love with the problem. Really obsess about it, fall in love with it, get grounded in it, and the outcomes it drives. I think if we all keep doing that, we will make great products.
Grant Duncan 37:24
Yeah, that's a great final point. Last thing, anyone else you think we should have on this podcast?
Darren Guarnaccia 37:33
Well, you know, I'm a huge fan of Melissa Perry. If she hasn't been on already. I love everything she does, and total fanboy. Todd Olsen's great, too. His book really helped me think about PLG in a new way. I think either of those would be amazing.
Grant Duncan 37:51
Yeah. Great suggestions, we'll try to get them on. Well, thanks so much for coming on Darren. Appreciate your insights. Have a good one.
Darren Guarnaccia 37:58
Absolutely. You too.
Grant Duncan 38:03
Thanks for listening to today's podcast, and thanks to our sponsor, Voximplant as well. If you're looking into how to improve your communication and customer engagement, check them out. Lastly, if you enjoyed this episode, please leave us a review and tell your friends, so that others can find it more easily. Have a great day. And feel free to reach out to me, Grant Duncan, if you have any questions you want asked in our next episode.