Product Q&A with Wyatt Jenkins
Wyatt Jenkins is a product and business leader with a passion for building products that customers love.
Before diving headfirst into the product world, Wyatt was a professional DJ and founding member of Beatport.com, a hub for electronic music for DJs, producers, and their fans.
After leaving Beatport, Wyatt went on to serve as the VP of Product at Shutterstock and led over 20+ cross-functional product teams throughout the company. At Shutterstock, Wyatt scaled the company from $60m in annual revenue to a 2012 IPO, recruited and led more than 25 cross-functional product teams, and led six P&L lines to fuel growth.
His next role was the VP of Product at Optimizely, where he led product, design, research, and helped launch a new solution to Optimizely personalization.
He also served as SVP of Product at Hired, where he designed and built a 3-year company strategy and organized product and engineering organization around this strategy.
Currently, Wyatt is the VP of Product at Patreon and manages the product, growth, design, research, and international divisions.
He has deep experience in marketplace products, SAAS, subscription, UX, internationalization, mobile, search, and recommendation. Some of Wyatt’s work has been featured in the Harvard Business Review and on Medium.
Wyatt has a Masters in English Literature from CU Boulder and a Masters in Information Technology from Colorado Technical University.
I watched your presentation at the Lean conference from a few years ago - and Shutterstock really doubled down on metrics. Are there any resources that you would recommend for ways to accelerate learning about metrics?
Setting appropriate outcomes is probably one of the hardest and interesting parts of the job of PM. If you set a concise goal, you will be successful. Right now at Patreon, we are using Amplitude, Looker, and Pendo to measure what we need.
How do you enable innovation at your current company? How do you recommend getting signals for teams that are more platform-based?
Empowered tripods who can solve a problem (PM, Design, Eng) anyway they want if it hits the outcome. Hackathons, places to play in the product that don't do harm, testing ideas, celebrating failure.
Love platform strategies in crowded spaces. I consider 3rd parties to be an extension of the product strategy. Good platforms usually have a decent enough breadth of use cases/apps, but also a few killer apps that lots of customers use. I wrote quite a bit about platform PMing here: https://medium.com/@wyattearp/making-the-shift-to-platform-product-management-15e1ee061b6a
Can you talk about changing consumer behavior with Patreon?
Consumers are changing in a few ways:
1) They are suspect of ad-driven models and asking themselves, "why is this product free?”
2) Consumers are excited to pay for quality content and will give it to a creator if they respect them
3) Consumers are overwhelmed with feeds of recommendations - looking for signal to noise ratio.
All three of these are driving Patreon's growth.
As an early-stage startup building a horizontal collaboration platform for multiple customer segments, how do you approach targeting early adopters given minimum resources in your team?
Interesting question! I'd like to write a 25-paragraph answer. Patreon serves ALL categories (Video, audio, illustration, music, etc.) by focusing on a few key use cases that span these customer segments.
When companies are really small, you have to literally focus on 1-3 primary use cases to make a horizontal play. Learn fast, because you have limited time!!!
What are some of the biggest hurdles that your team faces when trying to get creators to take action on your platform?
The internet has driven "creation" to zero value in the last 25 years. The greatest challenge we have is convincing creators that they are - in fact - valuable and that they should charge for that value.
Next in line, is the fact that creators are rarely good at business. I usually tell Jack our CEO, that we'll know that we've succeeded when a musician can articulate the LTV to CAC ratio of her membership on Patreon.
Outside of user interviews, what voice of the customer (VOC) inputs have you seen that have given you better insight into how your users use your various products that have yielded the best results (or the results that provided the greatest insights that weren't known prior)?
A/B tests always challenge our thinking. I'm wrong more than half the time.
Reference customers who will pay for the product, use the product, and publicly speak about the product are hard to get and incredible once you have them.
I like doing customer service for a day as well, that's always fun.
Hi, I work on SaaS B2B product, its CRM for brokerage. We are at the point of creating a new division - Professional Services because we have a lot of customizations for enterprise clients. Do you have any advice on the org structure for that division or some useful resources?
I haven't built Pro-serve! However, at Optimizely, we built a robust customer success team that was - at times - borderline pro-serve and that team acted as an extension of the product org.
Also, I'd always look for scalable options such as partner networks that you don't have to staff yourself.
How often have you had to work with outside resources (consultants, freelancers, etc) as you were helping scale those companies? What did the best consultants do to make your job easier?
I love pricing consultants, pricing is hard - I recommend Simon Kucher. We usually end up using a few design consultants for big projects when we need a brand refresh that stretches our thinking (SSTK 2012).
Most design work I like in-house, but sometimes a 3rd party can help. Get a firm externally to help you IPO, don't build all the compliance folks internally - too much overhead.
How do you measure user interaction with your platform? Are there any effective tools you can recommend?
I like Amplitude, Optimizely, Segment, Clicktale.
There’s no known fixed career path in product management but there are commonalities. What deliberate steps have you taken to accelerate your career, become an authority in the field of products and land a senior product role?
My career path had nothing to do with landing a product role - I've never been interested in that. PMs must be able to:
1) articulate the future in a compelling way
2) Show the grit and determination to push past the imminent roadblocks
3) inspire a team of engineers and designers to the best work of their lives.
I've seen good PMs be MBAs, Engineers, Literature majors, Designers, whatever.
How do we as PMs, create better hypotheses that lead to significant changes in key areas (e.g acquisition) of a business, if we've already exhausted normal funnel analyses and being highly inquisitive with our customers? (hat tip to the onboarding growth essay: https://brianbalfour.com/essays/patreon-onboarding-growth)
Good question! Sounds like you might have optimized yourself into a corner. There is sometimes a diminishing return for acquisition funnels.
At these times, focus on a different target customer or different price model - something that totally changes your frame of thinking - so that you and your team get a fresh perspective.
Look at your funnel through the lens of a completely different use case to stretch yourself. Try reinventing the funnel from scratch. Hope those help!!!
Thanks so much for your time. What skills/qualities make for a successful product manager based on your experiences? Are there certain traits/characteristics that stand out to you when building out a team?
There are so many types of Product managers and each one needs different skills. Here are a few types:
The white spacer - New business (AKA, the disruptor). Lots of ideas, antifragile, no rules. 0-1 thinking.
The optimizer - Product Optimization for mature products past the product-market fit stage.
The enterpriser - One product has a few large customers (maybe 100s). Understanding of sales and distribution channels. Different methods for user testing.
Infrastructurista - Internal customers, systems thinking, Simplicity,
Device builder - Consumer electronics, Process / Timelines
Growth hacker - Not necessarily the white space, the early grower.
UX’r - User Experience first, customer-centric, excels at building a narrative around customer journey.
GM - Business background, deep understanding of positioning, pricing and P&L. Usually owns a significant product surface area.
When I build teams, I try to find a balance of personalities and skills that can do that job and also some that are strong (where i'm weak), Could write a book on this:
Big fan of Beatport and your music endeavors. I wanted to hear your thoughts on the current music tech industry.
It seems like there are a lot of changes:
- the new Music Modernization act,
- Pandora acquisition by Sirius XM
- Spotify bypassing labels companies and allowing indie artists to upload their music
Do these recent changes affect Patreon? If so how?
Wow, lots to discuss here: Patreon is across media types so no single type will have a huge impact. Yet still, the industry is changing fast!
We see room for "membership" on all platforms - Spotify, Youtube, Vimeo, because Membership is designed for your top 1-3% of your fanbase.
For example, the NYtimes has a "subscription" of 40% of their readership, but they still want to work with Patreon for that top, really engaged 1-3% who want exclusive access.
I just started a new position at a startup in the publishing space. As a PM in a similar industry, how does your team go about collecting (accurate) conversion rates? And on average, what does Patreon see as the end-users move down the conversion funnel?
Gosh, I don't think I've had the issue of struggling with the accuracy of conversion rates. Occasionally in A/B tests, some events won't fire correctly and our data is screwed up, but it's pretty rare.
One thing I've done in the past to check our metrics is run A/A tests where we measure the funnel against itself with no changes.
Patrons signing up to a creator is a highly considered purchase, normally a patron doesn't just sign up to a creator they barely know, so our conversion funnel is very different (and converts really well).
One thing that is fun to learn about deeper in our funnel is pricing psychology - how much a person is willing to give and the use of altruistic concepts to increase monthly spend.
As a PM how agile should your road map be? How far out should you plan your road map and how much detail should you have at different stages i.e. at 3 months, 6 months, 3 years, etc.
I try to keep roadmaps very tight for a quarter (or two) and pretty loose any further out than that. I like strategy 3 years out and a 1-year operating plan.
3 months out, I want to see a detailed dependency map, 1 year out, a loosely defined set of prioritized outcomes.
What type of metrics do you find valuable in your current role and how does that compare to your previous roles?
At Patreon, I care deeply about Patron LTV (How long a patron stays with a creator), Creator MRR - the Monthly recurring revenue that goes to a creator, Creator acquisition & Patron pledge flow conversion.
Random question, what do you do to recharge?
Love this question. I'm a cyclist, I spend time with my 7-month-old daughter and wife, and I meditate a bunch. That is all I do outside of work.
What would you consider the most important thing for someone trying to move from a Senior position to Director or VP? It’s tough to move up and show you have what it takes when going to a new company.
Four categories (each with 20 sub-bullets)
1) Strategic Leadership & Decision making
2) Execution & Results
3) Communication & Influence
4) Crushes prior job
Here are the key responsibilities:
- Can oversee 10+ teams
- Builds out the organization structure to support business objectives
- Creates systems of accountability to deliver results.
- Crafts vision for product.
- Communicates vision to multiple constituencies internally/externally.
- Builds teams to support vision.
- Pursues and attracts talent to leadership positions.
- Pursues operating excellence on teams, proactively modifies teams to achieve high performance
- Oversees long term roadmap with a clear understanding of Build/buy scenarios
- Engaged in partnership opportunities to achieve vision.
- Drives/owns strategy to achieve product vision.
When is the right time to move to PM. I am 6+ years Software Engineer and not sure that I should move now or wait and gain more engineering experience.
There is no right time. PM's need cross-functional experience, so get started. If you are good at Engineering, try running a P&L, or marketing a product, or do some design. All those things will help you.
How much investment/focus should a PM make in managing people?
Management will definitely help you be a better PM. Management is the art of helping others succeed, mentoring, coaching - all valuable skills when PMing a team.
What metrics you consider important at Patreon, what additional metrics are you using to help coach your creators to engage their audience more/have them donate more - more often, higher amount, or recruiting more people? ... You alluded to "pricing psychology" above; how do you find and track that at scale?
Patreon is designed to help creators 1) Build a membership 2) Acquire patrons 3) Deliver unique value to patrons 4) Get paid and 5) Own / track your fans. https://blog.patreon.com/creator-launch-guide.
It's so personal, some creators are so stoked to have a $500/month membership and that's amazing and others make millions, we focus on the use cases and measure the tool adoption for those use cases.
What are the activities you do the most when creating a product vision and roadmap?
1 - Mission
2 - Target customer
3- Unique value created
4 - How to capture value
Marty Cagan has a nice post on this. https://svpg.com/vision-vs-strategy/
Could/should NPS be a key metric for b2b saas (targeting smb’s)?
I have tried to use NPS as an attributable metric for years with very little success. I'm not a fan.
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