I have something important to tell you about being a Head of Growth

Part essay, part faux inspirational Medium post and part celebration of my first work anniversary at ProdPad

This weekend was Mind The Product in London, which is basically like Christmas morning for product managers.

Team ProdPad was ready. We brought our iconic handy guides. We wore t-shirts that gave us away as Beatles fans. We made “survival packs” stuffed with post-its and sharpies for product managers. We brought homemade cookies that look like the “idea dots” on our priority chart tool.

To say that we got totally into it, would be the understatement of the year.

This weekend also marks my 1-year anniversary with ProdPad, which makes this a very good time for me to reflect on how I feel about being part of a company that would actually sit around baking and icing 300 sugar cookies from scratch ahead of a major conference.

Verdict: Very proud, would join again.

I joined ProdPad last year as Head of Growth with sort of an open (and obvious) mandate from our CEO Janna Bastow to help ProdPad grow.

There isn’t exactly an instruction manual for growth, but I can tell you with 100% certainty where our growth trajectory took off: when we made a conscious decision to turn off the marketing voice and start acting like ourselves.

You see, one of the first things I did when I joined ProdPad was turn on our marketing voice, with lines like these all over our onboarding emails: “Ready to become a roadmapping pro?” Learn how easy it is to build an awesome roadmap!

Admittedly, this was vacuous bullshit, and our potential customers (discerning product managers) refused to engage with it. The week that I went live with those emails were our lowest engagement levels ever. Rightfully so. 😏

Fortunately, I had another source of inspiration.

I was traveling with my team to product management conferences and events in San Francisco, Dublin and London. At these conferences, I noticed how my team interacted with the people they met.

I saw Janna and our other co-founder Simon Cast, listen a lot more than they talked. When they did talk about ProdPad, there was no souped up pitch, no aggressive sales stuff.

More often than not, it was just them calmly helping a product manager solve a problem they were having at work. Often, ProdPad did legitimately help solve the problem. And often, the people they spoke to did end up becoming ProdPad customers.

One day, I said to them,”You don’t even sell ProdPad. You literally just explain what ProdPad does and that makes people want to try it.”

This was a lightbulb moment 💡:

If this is what we are in real life — helpful, genuine, highly opinionated and sometimes irreverent — why bother making us sound any different?

Let’s just talk to customers online the way we would talk to them in real life. Let’sdisagree if we don’t agree with something and offer up something better. Let’s brag a little when we’re proud of ourselves. Let’s amplify what makes us unique, what our customers like about us, and build a reputation for those very things.

Let’s not take ourselves too seriously. Let’s have fun.

ProdPad co-founders at Web Summit a few years ago on Halloween

It’s a rare opportunity to build a brand that so closely reflects the personality, values and character of the people behind the product.

Usually, you make this shit up! I’m a copywriter (“content marketer”) — which for me has always meant being tasked with inventing things to make a company sound like they have something interesting to say.

That is not the case here.

Authenticity isn’t a buzzword at ProdPad. It’s not something we have to work at. We don’t “strive for authenticity,” which has always sounded like a perfectly horrible thing to me.

It’s there in everything we do, period.

You see it in our product: Our “trial as long as you want” policy came out of the fact that we don’t like the idea of cutting customers off while they’re still weighing their options.

You see it in our work ethic: Our 100% customer satisfaction rating comes from our Head of Customer Success, Andrea Saez who starts picking up tickets at 7am, and our dev team who puts in weekends when our customers need them.

You see it in the interviews we do, the guides we write, and if we seem excited about something, it’s because we really are.

Janna is known to leave essay-length responses to comments on our blog. (Our CEO cannot and will not leave a product management question unanswered.)

These days, it is NOT easy to differentiate yourself as a product company. There are more out there than there need to be. Most say they want to rock the boat, but when they finally have your attention, they have nothing to say. Many put on their marketing voice to distract you from that fact. Others are just criminal hipsters.

And here I am with the ultimate competitive advantage: the smartest product managers who will tell you how they really feel (and can back it up like champs), equal parts humble and badass, who bring a lot of heart into what they do, and who genuinely love seeing customers blossom into confident product managers themselves.

I have a very exciting and rewarding challenge ahead of me: to amplify what makes us unique and to continue building our brand as an extension of who we are.

These people are just making it too easy for me.

Love y’all! ❤️

For everyone else: Try ProdPad free today.

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