June 5, 2022

Growth Product Management course takeaways

Olga Shavrina
In February-March 2022, I completed a 6-week Growth Product Management course at Epic Growth. I signed up because I wanted to systematize my knowledge, get a foundation for making product decisions, and learn how to create viral loops and generate better hypotheses. I can not say that all my expectations were exactly met, but I got what I did not expect to receive.

The purpose of this essay is to list the conclusions of the course so that I can remember them later and hopefully inspire product managers to take such courses.
What I've learned
NPS works
Done right, the Net Promoter Score survey can be a powerful tool for tracking customer satisfaction, predicting retention, gathering customer feedback, and providing product ideas.

The best way to get a decent amount of useful results is to ask users to fill out an NPS survey right in the app when the user is "hot" (have done something meaningful) and ask a few questions in addition to the assessment itself.

We have an NPS survey, but it doesn't provide much information. So I'm implementing an improved version right now and can't wait to see what happens.
Copy matters
The cheapest A/B test - just change the copy - can make a big difference. There are cases when the conversion grew up to 20% immediately after replacing the copy. We don't do that kind of testing much, but we have to.
There's always a way to improve the paywall
We actually do test paywalls a lot but we could test them even more. I gathered lots of ideas on what to test on the paywall: reviews, big countdown, more plans, different title, etc.
Make a special time for reading
I've always had the problem of not being able to find time to read the blogs and newsletters I subscribe to like Lenny, Brandon Chu, Marty Cagan etc. It was funny because I somehow managed to find time for books (I read them before bed and on weekends) but constantly reading new blog posts was completely impossible and I felt guilty.

So I borrowed the idea from the course - read one post a day in the morning before work. It takes about 15-20 minutes and makes your day really productive. You feel good and discover useful ideas.
Core and Growth initiatives should be treated differently
Many of the students in our group were product managers in companies that didn't have a dedicated growth team and struggled to launch both growth and core initiatives at the same time. The problem is that Growth tasks require quick tests, hacks, testing a large number of hypotheses, building things "from shit and sticks", and so on, while Core product tasks require high-quality planning, testing and proper implementation.

Several students and the lecturer himself told us that they have a dedicated growth team that allows them to fully focus on growth initiatives without taking the time to do things right, and a separate core team can focus on their roadmap without being rushed.

Team separation sounds like an obvious solution, but it's not the only correct one though.

It's important to understand which project should be done quick and dirty because it's a test and we don't know if we're going to stick with it yet; and which project should be implemented correctly, because we are sure we are solving the right problem and the solution is the right one, so the feature is likely to be built for a long time. If the team understands this clearly, it can work as one team, just treat growth and core projects differently.
You'll often see companies split teams into those that "experiment" and those that do "core" work. In my opinion, organizational structures like this reflect the inability for most teams to understand the product assumption spectrum, and be able to switch gears towards speed or quality.

- Brandon Chu, Ruthless prioritization
Networking is cool
Thanks, Cap! :)

Talking to people (especially PMs) from other companies is very helpful for four reasons:

1. They may have the answers to your questions because they have already been where you are now, they have solved the problems you have and made the mistakes you are about to make.

2. They may have the same problems as you, so you can discuss them and at least not feel like a lonely fool, but at best work together to find a solution.

3. You can have the answers to their questions and share them, which will give you the pleasant feeling that you have helped someone in need, increase your professional reputation and allow you to systematize your knowledge.

4. It can help you move up the career ladder.
Mentors and coaches are useful
Many successful product managers I have spoken to have said they had (and still have) mentors and coaches. They help you voice your career expectations, identify your blind spots, help you understand what skills you need to develop, and support you along the way.

A mentor (let alone a coach) doesn't have to be your manager, and you can have more than one mentor. Some of them may not even be aware that they are mentoring or coaching you (or you may not be aware of it).

The point is, your growth is in your hands, and if you feel like you're not getting enough support and guidance, it might be a good idea to seek help proactively.

BTW, Sheryl Sandberg in her book "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead" claims that going to a person and asking them to be your mentor is a bad idea. It confuses people and just doesn't work. What works is showing the person that you are worthy of investing their time, asking for specific advice, and building a relationship around it. Or find a mentor through specialized communities or programs where they already confirm their desire to participate.
Train your product sense
One way to develop product sense is to analyze different products and try to understand how they communicate and deliver value, are they easy to use, how do you feel when using them, what are the moments of frustration, do you have a desire to open the app again and why and so on.

It is also very useful to analyze the marketing creatives of these products and compare different products with each other. This way you can guess their product strategy and learn how to link strategy and design options. The more you do this, the more you train the product sense.

BTW, Lenny Rachitsky has a fantastic essay on how to develop product sense.
Commit and follow the plan
On the first day of the course, we had a mastermind led by a professional coach, where we set personal goals, voiced what we expected from the course, talked about what we would like to improve in our behavior, and committed to doing a few things that we want to do things differently to get the most out of the next six weeks.

The funny thing is, it worked!

I always have issues with not being confident enough and not taking the lead and not speaking up, especially in large groups of people, and feel shy to ask stupid questions. But one of the things I committed to was taking the lead during the course, and surprisingly, I ended up being the one to ask questions and offer ideas.

And it was quite simple - just decide how to behave, and then follow the plan. This is one of my biggest takeaways from the course.
I hope these takeaways have been helpful.

And if you're hesitating whether to take any product (or non-product) course, I encourage you to say yes. You will learn a lot of unexpected things, enrich your instrumental arsenal, discover aspects of your work that you have not thought about before, meet new wonderful people and increase your career.

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Olga Shavrina
Product manager. Human being