Why communities help you build better products

Why communities help you build better products

Today we’re launching a new community called Product Makers — a space to connect the best and brightest in product management. It’s a big change for us, and I want to explain why we think community matters and what’s ahead.

The value of being community-led

I’m a big fan of community building and what it can do for your product. And I think every product should have a community. They are a fantastic extension of your team and a critical part of interacting with the people that use — or want to use — your product.

Think about it. When you first create a product, you spend a lot of time talking with customers and prospects. Often, these discussions happen one-to-one vs. collectively. Communities can be a great way to listen, react, and actively seek out continuous feedback as part of your discovery and quest for product-market fit. Often, as companies begin to scale or if the company is already large, we forget to listen. Or there simply aren’t enough folks close to the product that can give their time to do so. That’s why you need community.

Communities can be a great way to listen, react, and actively seek out continuous feedback as part of your discovery and quest for product-market fit.

As Reddit’s Peter Yang said in a recent post on his creatoreconomy.so Substack there are lots of excuses for why people stop talking to customers, but in the end it’s that “back-and-forth dialogue that helps product teams ship better products and build empathy”.

From the beginning, we’ve believed that the traditional feature-driven approach to product management is broken. Instead, building great products begins with customer-centricity and a shared understanding of what users really need (plus prioritizing around objectives that are aligned to your product strategy and rallying everyone around an inspiring roadmap so they know where your product is headed and why). This approach, called Product Excellence, is the foundation of how we think about great products and why we think that every product organization needs a product management system. It’s also why you need a community.

It’s this “shared understanding” part that I want to focus on, as it’s been a critical part of how we approach our product here at Productboard and what allows us to build a base of engaged customers, former customers, and friends. 

Back in April 2017, we officially launched a customer-only community on Slack (thanks Geda, Ashley, and Winston — our resident 🧠s for starting this). It gave folks a place to exchange thoughts, ask questions, and help us learn about what they needed from our product and where they were challenged in their roles as Product Makers. We’ve gotten to know each other, see our faces in 16×16 pixel icons, and engaged in a back-and-forth that’s helped us build empathy and a tight feedback loop around our product. 

We held our first AMA with Hubert and wrote up a blog post about what we learned (lots of folks were especially interested in how we did product management at Productboard). And over time we learned a lot about our product, our customers, and their needs. In fact, some of the early integrations we created (like our Slack integration) were because of the feedback we got and the pain we experienced in running a community on Slack.

With our integrations — Slack, email, and others — we’ve been able to quickly push feedback to our product team so they are in the loop on community discussions and feedback. And we’ve provided a place for our product team to engage in follow-ups, beta new features, and drive both education and adoption of new features. And we’re been able to support our customers and help them find success with Productboard. 

Over time, we’ve slowly grown from that first 100-ish folks to a community of thousands of passionate people building products that matter. And while this community has grown, we’ve seen interesting conversations emerge not only around Productboard but also the craft and care that goes into building products — from the “how do I” or “how have you” types of discussions to some honest and open sharing around the challenges of creating products, working with colleagues, and shipping.

We’ve seen others join as well, including peers in our customer’s companies working in Success, Sales, Support, Design, Engineering, Product Marketing, and Product Operations. And we’ve also seen leaders emerge and share their knowledge and experience with others. And this has been exciting.

Why a new community, why now?

We’ve had a good run and have benefited greatly from our own Slack community, but we’ve simply outgrown it. Slack is great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not a purpose-built community platform and there were things we wanted to solve for:

  • We wanted our community to be discoverable, open, and easily found on search engines.
  • Prior knowledge shared and a lot of wisdom was simply lost or buried in new noise. Having access to a searchable and referenceable repository of knowledge and answers along with our Help Center are key to people being able to find their own answers.
  • Slack wasn’t an option for many of our customers, so many folks weren’t able to access the benefits of our community 
  • As the community grew, some challenges of running a large community emerged that Slack was never designed to handle, including comprehensive data and analytics as well as integration with some of the tools and technologies we use in our business.
  • As we expand our reach and customer base, we want to continue to provide a space where we can continue to build upon that shared understanding.

Starting a new community

So we’re starting a new community. And moving our old one to a new place. And this one is not just for customers, but anyone who makes products that matter. A community for product makers like you. And it’s called Product Makers.

Our mission is to bring together product makers so they can learn, grow, shape, and advocate for Product Excellence. We want to be the destination for product makers to grow their product knowledge and practices and to learn how Productboard can help them on their journey. You can:

  • Connect with other Product Makers and grow your network
  • Ask and answer questions, help and get help, and grow your knowledge
  • Share your product ideas and feedback
  • Learn and share best practices, tips, and tricks
  • Join groups (by location, role, or topic)
  • Find out about the latest product releases
  • Share and find product jobs
  • Participate in betas
  • Access exclusive community-only events and content

We have lots of plans for the future and growth of this community. We’re just getting started. 

Join our community of Product Makers, dreamers, and visionaries.

So if you’re creating products that matter, or just starting that journey, come join us at http://productmakers.com — we’d love to have you.

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