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The Swimming Pool Question, Mapping your Way to B2B Success and Considering Desirability vs Defensibility

One Knight in Product newsletter
One Knight in Product newsletter
Hopefully this issue will make SPLASH. Am I right? Am I right??
Hopefully this issue will make SPLASH. Am I right? Am I right??
The Swimming Pool Question
Imagine the scene. You’re on a work retreat and you’ve been working hard. You’re taking a well-earned break at the on-site pool, but you bring your laptop in case you need it. You’re also a reasonably successful recreational TikTok user. You record a short video talking about product management with your colleague and upload it to TikTok. Oh, and you’re both young women in tech so you can guess what happens next.
I interviewed Darby Maloney about this very scenario after “The Swimming Pool PM” went viral. We talked about the video in question, the abuse she got, and what it says about attitudes to women in tech. Check out the episode here!
Mapping your Way to B2B Product Success
B2B product management doesn’t always get much love, with so much of the content out there being relentlessly focused on high growth B2C. I was delighted to have a chance to speak to IoT & Climate Tech pioneer Daniel Elizalde about his new book The B2B Innovator’s Map. We talked about the book, and his framework to get you from idea to your first ten customers. Check out the episode here.
Wartime, Peacetime and "Default Alive" companies
It’s fair to say that it’s rough out there for a lot of companies right now, with VC funding contracting and a lot of companies laying people off. This made me think about a couple of older articles which I think are super relevant.
Default Alive or Default Dead by Paul Graham. Too many companies realise too late that they’re not sustainable, and they need to think harder (and act sooner).
Peacetime PM vs Wartime PM by Noah Weiss. It’s very easy for product managers to fall in love with the process but, when the chips are down, you might need to hold your nose and do what you need to do to survive (and subsequently win). This article obviously draws a lot of inspiration from the original Peacetime CEO vs Wartime CEO by Ben Horowitz.
Going Downmarket in B2B SaaS
I was curious about the well-worn wisdom that going “downmarket” (from serving big customers to small / medium customers) is hard or impossible.
Jason Knight
It's traditionally seen as tricky to start upmarket (Enterprise SaaS) & go downmarket (SME / SMB). I have my own ideas as to why this might be so (sunk cost / wrong instincts / inflexibility / lack of imagination) but does anyone have any experience of trying? How did it go?
There were some interesting stories, although the base size is small. My gut feeling is that it’s hard to do because your company has been set up with a particular GTM model, a product that doesn’t have any concept of tiering in it, and many of the people you hired may not have any experience of the markets you’re trying to serve.
This means that delivering value at a lower price becomes trickier, but I like to think it’s not impossible! Here’s an interesting article about a time that it worked.
Considering Desirability vs Defensibility
I have been thinking a bit about different ways to decide where to put your bets as a product team, and as a company. If we assume there are always too many things to do, we need a way to make sure we’re doing the most important stuff! As per my good friend Saeed Khan, we should avoid prioritisation frameworks because they give fake quantitative credibility to an inherently qualitative decision-making process. I started thinking about this through the lens of defensibility (the core IP that you can build vs commodities that anyone can build) and desirability (how likely people are to want to do it the way you want them to do it).
This isn’t a prioritisation framework, more a mental model. You still need to do the work!
I Tweeted about this, but I also wrote up a better formatted article: Desirability vs Defensibility.
Jason Knight
Have been ruminating about product strategy. When deciding when to bet big, build/buy etc it's important to make good decisions. If something is defensible it means you have IP, you have a moat, maybe even a patent. If something is desirable, your target market wants it 🧵
Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow
Thanks for reading! Hopefully, it has been interesting & relevant, but I’d love to get your feedback. I’d also love it if you shared this with your product-curious friends & frenemies so they can sign up too.
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