Customer Validation and Agile Product Management: How We Built Jumpshot Elite
Jumpshot is truly a global startup. Our 60 employees have many different backgrounds and nationalities. They’re also split between our San Francisco and Prague offices – some even divide their time between the two. Creating game-changing marketing analytics products with teams around the world is no easy feat, but our VP of Product Marcus Blatch takes a hands-on approach to ensuring smooth yet speedy product roll-outs. Read on to learn more about this San Francisco-based Australian, his thoughts on product strategy, agile product development, Search Marketing, and cross-continent collaboration.
What did you do before Jumpshot?
I’ve been leading product development for over 20 years, focusing on travel tech and e-commerce platforms. I joined Jumpshot in March of 2015, and before that I was the VP of Product at Switchfly and Director of Global Hotels at Travelocity. At Travelocity, my job was truly global. At that stage, Travelocity was expanding into Europe and Asia, and I led their global expansion from strategy, through productizing, localization and subsequent launch of the hotel e-commerce platform. I am very fortunate to have led teams all over the world, including India, Australia, the United Kingdom, Poland, Argentina and the US. What I enjoy most about collaborating with people from different cultures is the fresh perspective they each bring to the table. I believe that collaboration is very important when you’re part of an international company, especially a fast-moving startup.
What was the first thing you did at Jumpshot?
When I joined Jumpshot, it was apparent that we needed to invest more into building a product based on customer input. You need to be sure you’re solving a real problem for your customers, not just creating products and tools that you think may be interesting to them. And you need to do this fast. Iterate on customer feedback and keep moving forward.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you are the voice of the customer. You need to hear it from them. Get out from behind your desk, leave the conference room and whiteboard behind and get in front of your future customers. You will be surprised how willing people are to provide feedback on new products. I can’t express enough the importance of customer validation. Do it before you even write a single line of production code. Once you know your concept is sound, and people will use (and pay for) your product, you can start to build it.
How did the voice of the customer impact Jumpshot Elite?
We started to implement user validation processes in every step of the product roadmap, from product strategy down to individual feature development. We pitched the idea, created a prototype and collected feedback from a number of sources including our Innovation Advisory Board, which is composed of executives from a variety of e-commerce platforms and online industry leaders. We incorporated the feedback and quickly iterated. Quick iterations based on user feedback will allow you to bring the right product to market in a fraction of the time.
As we built Jumpshot Elite, every round of user validation brought forth new insights. We took a top-down product development approach, our initial focus being on overall product strategy. We asked our potential customers questions such as “What do you think about the not-provided keywords? Would you like to regain visibility of those keywords? What do you think about tying organic and paid keywords to conversions? How would Jumpshot’s Keywords Research tool improve how you work?”. Then, we shifted our focus to the user experience and the user interface as well as the development of advanced features such as first click, last click, and distributed conversion attribution models and multiple time-based attribution windows.
The more you ingrain user validation into product development, the more you are able to create a consumer-focused and user friendly product. It’s not just about crystallizing your consumers’ need when building your product, it’s also about creating an enjoyable, engaging product for them.
What did the Innovation Advisory Board think about the Keywords Research tool?
Most people were really excited about it, but some were not originally convinced, as they’ve discovered and become attached to various workarounds throughout the years. You will always get positive and negative reactions, and that feedback is extremely valuable to building the right product. There was a definitive emotional reaction to regaining keyword visibility. And once they understood that we tie keywords to conversions for any website, not just their own, and provide them with real consumer search phrases that drive traffic and sales, they were totally ecstatic.
Which Jumpshot Elite function was surprisingly challenging to develop?
A big challenge without a doubt was automating the discovery of conversion points in our Keywords Research Tool. In order to tie keywords to conversions, you first need to identify a conversion point. Conversion points vary from website to website, based on the type of website (content, e-commerce, reference, social, etc.) and internal goals. Conversion points can be thank you pages, order confirmation pages, login confirmation pages, form submission pages, and the list goes on. Add to that the fact that every website has its own structure and logic – which tend to change over time – and you will start to understand our challenge.
In order to keep up, we look at patterns in traffic that suggest a change in URL structure such as drastic declines or increases in visits and pageviews from one day to the next. Using machine learning technology to analyze big data and extract URL structures we are fully automating the process of identifying conversion points.
Bottom line: User validation and rapid iterations are essential for consumer-focused product development. It’s the only way you can really know you are creating a product that solves your target’s problems. It’s also a great way to collect new feature requests. Jumpshot Elite along with our Keywords Research tool were built this way. We know there is a need to provide the elusive not-provided keywords, we know that there is a need to tie keywords to conversions, and the rest we learned from our customers’ feedback.