Josh Pitzalis

Work Journal

Page 3


What if there are no patterns

I was talking to a friend about doing customer interviews the other day and he had a great question.

“What if we do all the interviews and we don’t find any patterns?”

I thought this was such a great question because it perfectly highlights a common misconception around the purpose of research.

The misconception is that doing customer research will point you in the right direction and tell you what you need to do.

This is similar to a common misconception around science as a whole. People think you can prove stuff with science. Every time someone says ‘scientifically proven’ they’re just demonstrating a fundamental misunderstanding of how the scientific method works. The whole point of science is to disprove stuff. You can’t prove anything, failing to disprove something is the best you can hope for.

Coming back to customer research, interviewing people will never show you what needs...

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Minimum Viable Personality.

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In 2011 a Giant Robot Dinosaur named Fake Grimlock wrote a guest post on how personality is critical to building a successful software product.

The dinosaur’s take was that building a product’s personality is that you just need to be able to answer 3 questions:

  1. How do you change people’s lives?
  2. What do you stand for?
  3. Who or what do you hate?

Now you have a mission, some values, and an enemy.

That’s your minimum viable personality.

The idea is to keep this in mind when you write, talk, blog or tweet. Build on what resonates, get rid of what doesn’t and your product’s personality will grow.

When people decide to use a product they look at two things, does it work, and is it interesting? The world is already full of things that work. Personality is what makes things interesting.

The bigger goal here is to switch out of selling stuff to strangers and think of it as making and...

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Product Messaging.

Let’s start with our landing page. Instead of judging a page on opinion and preference let’s based the teardown on proven persuasion principles. I’m going to use these principles like a gap analysis tool. These are critical components to building a persuasive argument. All I have to do is go over the copy and ask whether or not I’m including those elements on not.

A Teardown In 20 Questions

What does the product do?

  • Could a child understand what your product does, based on the headline?
  • Does the byline explain how your product does what it claims to do in ten words or less?
  • Does the landing page contain a screenshot, demo or sample of what’s being offered?
  • Does the header copy match the pre-click ad or SERP copy?

Why should I care?

  • Is the focus on acquiring a desired outcome or eliminating a core pain?
  • Are these desires/pains described in specific, vivid detail?
  • Do the words...

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Fix the kitchen

I have a house in the mountains we don’t use much. We’re considering putting it on Airbnb. My best friend manages a bunch of Airbnb’s and helped me put a solid listing together.

When we got to the photos bit I expected his advice to be about getting the lighting right, picking the right time of day, what angles to take the pictures from, those sort of stuff. The conversation was actually about improving the thing we were taking a photo of.

So if we were planning a photo of the kitchen, the idea was to buy some new cutlery, get some pretty tea towels, repaint the cooker, maybe get a new coat of polish on the woodwork. Depending on how much we wanted to spend we even talked about installing a whole new sink.

We weren’t talking about how to take great photos, we were talking about making the house better. Lighting and composition are important and all but that’s wasn’t going to make...

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Tripled our weekly active users

Logged in for an update on our analytics last week and this happened:

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We tripled our weekly active user count.

We went from ~200 to 600 weekly actives.

Fantastic 🚀

Also terrifying because with all the analytics we have set up I have no obvious explanation for why this happened.

The first thing I looked at was our ads spend.

We get about 200 new users a week from ads. This does not explain the jump because we spent the same on ad the week before.

Our search engine ranking position jumped from 14th position to 12th over the course of the month, but this cannot explain such a sudden jump in one week.

About 400 people hit our website every day. It was slightly better than the week before, but not 3 times better. It’s not like we got mentioned in the press. Google Analytics didn’t register any new sources of referral traffic.

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Overall there were no major differences at the top...

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Twitter Game 💩

I got told my tweets are pretty shit yesterday.

Less volume, more story. That was the message.

It came at the right time too, I have not been feeling my Twitter game for a while now. I’ve just had a bunch of evergreen tweets on rotation and I’ve kind of disconnected from the whole affair.

So what do you write about? What is Twitter game?

I suppose the way I think about Twitter is like the cuttings on the floor. If your work is a studio creation then Twitter lets people know how it all came together. A front-row seat to the sausage being made.

The worst part about this whole story is that before I got told how shit my Tweets are, I was asked how Chirr App is going.

Message heard.

Loud and clear 🙏

I have turned all my evergreen tweets off and will start putting some more energy into letting you know what I am actually doing.

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Which way is up?

Messaging is a really foundational part of growth work. We haven’t found our groove with this at Chirr App yet.

There are so many parts to this puzzle, I’m struggling to fit them all together.

At the top of the list, you have why people use our product. Their motivations for using Twitter at all. We can pin this down to ‘making a Twitter thread’ but that can’t be the right level of abstraction. I mean, why do people write Twitter threads? Ask ‘why’ too many times you just end up at spiritual happiness and world peace. Finding the right level of abstraction is key here, I’m listening for the thing that actually resonates with people.

Then there’s our value proposition. Motivation and value propositions are deeply linked, but they’re not the same thing. We need to give people a reason to buy from us. To make this a little more complicated, our core value proposition is free, so what are...

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A list of your own problems

How do you optimize an optimization effort?

You have 12 months to get a 20% increase in your conversion-to-paid numbers. How do you do it?

First stop, Google. You search for conversion optimization tactics, a list of the latest hacks, and you end up with a bunch of articles. Let’s say you manage to compile a list of 100 techniques to improve your conversion rate.

Okay, great.

Which one do you implement first?

You could try and implement them all at the same time but then everything would cancel each other out and you’d have no understanding of what worked and what didn’t.

The alternative is to test each technique in sequence. Let’s say you have enough traffic that you only have to run each test for a month. It will take you 8 years to work through all the tests.

The problem with growth hack listicles and articles about product development is that there’s no way to prioritize what...

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The Myth of Marketing Channels

Everyone talks about testing out all your marketing channels to see what works before investing heavily in one or two of them. I think this is complete bullshit, at least for small businesses, there are so few ways to grow that you have to do all of them.

Sure, if you’re a B2B operation that only sells 5-year contracts to Farmers then blindly investing in Instagram ads probably doesn’t make sense. But that hardly warrants saying.

For most businesses, you only have 5 major ways to grow your business:

  1. Paid search
  2. Search engine optimization
  3. Social ads
  4. Email marketing
  5. Content marketing

The idea here is that you can pick one or two, test them out, see what works, try a few others, and then double down on the ones that work for you.

This is just blatantly wrong because you have to do all 5. It all starts with some form of content marketing, whether your product is the content or you’re...

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How to run a good survey and get valuable insights about how people use your product

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Surveys are a powerful tool for building up a clear picture of your audience but they are often used in the wrong way. I want to show you how to avoid the common mistakes of running an in-product survey.

Have a clear idea of what you want to know going in

I often come across people that run surveys because they want to “know more about their users”. They just ask a bunch of different questions. Before you know it, you end up with a big, bloated survey. This is terrible because nobody is going to complete a survey that long, and if they do, you just end up with a lot of data that you don’t know what to do with.

If you have a clear idea of what you want to know then you should probably just be asking one question. Answering that question should allow you to do something specific. Don’t just have a question that you want to answer out of curiosity, ask a question that lets you achieve...

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