This blog is a continuation of my three part blog series on my 90 day HubSpot journey as the new GM & VP, Service Hub.
It was my second week at HubSpot, and I was prepping to shadow a partner meeting. I got a ping from Lou Orfanos, who is an amazing product leader and an incredible GTM strategist (one of the best I’ve come across so far in my career), that instead of the partner meeting, I should consider attending ‘Science Fair.’ Now, with all due credit to my technical abilities and my love for earnest engineering (which is how I started my career), I was not sure if learning about tech hacks would be the best utilization of my onboarding time. Little did I know what Science Fair stood for and boy was I wrong!
But wait, before we delve too deep into tech talks and science fairs, let’s take a step back and define what product-centricity and product-led culture means in Enterprise SaaS technology.
For me, being 'product-centric' means that the vision, development, and success of business primarily comes from the ‘goodness’ of the products — i.e. a product is easy to use, solves a problem that the customer is aware of (or maybe unaware of), and provides value equivalent to or greater than its pricing. When customers use and fall in love with these products, they become your champions, thereby fostering a genuine community.
In my 60 days of listening, learning, and imbibing some of our greatest product behaviors, three major areas stood out to me where we’ve intentionally invested and continue to evolve as one of the best product-led organizations in the industry. And yes, Science Fair is part of that.
1. Product Triad Model
A triad at every level of organization consists of engineering, user experience, and product management stakeholders. A decentralized and autonomous decision-making model that fuels innovation and speed to delivery. Now, building and scaling this kind of model takes incredible focus and commitment from top leadership. At HubSpot, I saw this innate commitment displayed in most forms ranging from highly strategic to deeply tactical.
But even if you put the right processes in place, you’d need the right people in the right spots to achieve outcomes at scale. And the most important ingredients for a triad to work well together are trust and collaboration. Most triads that I shadowed (yes, isn’t it amazing that you can shadow individual teams to learn about their operating models as an executive — more on the embed program in my last blogpost of this series) had the balance of vision and practicality. And if a triad isn’t able to function well, HubSpot offers amazing opportunities for internal mobility to support both individuals and the teams.
At the end of the day, a good product is helmed by smart people who are curious and driven and solve big challenges together, thereby benefiting the company, the team, and themselves. And these people define HubSpot as a company.
2. Product Showcase
“What you see, is what you demo, is what you sell” — a rare saying at any major enterprise SaaS company. Well, not HubSpot. And that is what Science Fair is all about. Each month a product group showcases their latest product deliverables, along with early customer feedback and the progress on their north star metrics. The first Science Fair I attended, I had to ping the team to ask if these features were usable or exploratory, but soon enough I realized that what we build, is what we market, is what we sell.
[An excerpt from my journal entry from our last Science Fair, pardon the illegible handwriting but you will get my point]
Along with Science Fair, every new product feature or update goes through a rigorous internal feedback loop to ensure highest quality and utility for our broader customer base. My favorite part is the internal product emails stating why we are launching this feature, what its top objective is, and how I can try it right then and there.
It definitely does not get more real than this (at least for me).
3. Product Customer Feedback
We are a customer-first company. Period. But what does that mean again?
It means we are hungry to solve CRM problems when they are apparent and sometimes not that apparent. It also means that at each step of that problem-solving process, we are not complacent with the minimal viable solution. Instead, we build the minimal lovable solution with the help of a trusted customer feedback loop.
And this paradigm for listening, learning, and evolving based on customer feedback goes all the way up to the CEO and down to every decision-maker in the company. Sitting in my first customer staff meeting, I realized the reason why we are growing our products and scaling our culture so effectively. It is because we not only listen to this feedback, we come back and analyze both the data and the sentiment of our customers and effectively prioritize where we invest organically now vs making this a future priority. Then we complete the feedback loop with our customers; thereby maintaining and strengthening the bond of trust and transparency.
Enterprise SaaS technology is a complex game of solving customer problems at scale by bundling the necessary alongside the innovative, and keeping it easy for the user to say yes while you’re at it. In my two months at HubSpot, I’ve realized that we work hard to fulfill that goal by making our products easy to build, use, and love. And this is what I mean by product-led culture and growth.
More product and leadership nuggets to come in my next blog...
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