Five Product Lessons from Intercom

A couple of weeks ago I attended the European finale of Inside Intercom - the excellent product event that will visit 12 cities around the globe. As its name suggests, the event is organised by Intercom, a rapidly growing US customer communication platform with deep Irish roots.

Intercom is an interesting company that has rightly developed a reputation for having some of the smartest people in the business. And with its four founders all sharing a product background, it’s no surprise they have built a fantastic platform which is now used by over 10,000 companies. I expect we’ll be hearing more about Intercom in the years to come as more organisations seek to better communicate with their customers.

Over the course of the evening I saw nine quickfire talks that were packed full of interesting ideas from a range of teams which impact product, such as engineering, research, design and content. It was an evening well spent at Dublin’s Olympia that has given me much to consider.

Here are five product lessons that stood out:

1. Get comfortable with the fact your product is obsolete
Many of the talks emphasised the importance of thinking about tomorrow and how as soon as you ship code or launch a product, it is on the path to becoming obsolete. Products and companies all follow the same trajectory - they grow, then at some point plateau and eventually die. To keep products and companies growing (and alive) we must maintain a healthy dose of paranoia to stave off complacency.

2. Certainty is a sign of immaturity
While it’s important to be able to look at information and make a decision, it’s essential to recognise that rarely do we have all the information available. Having complete certainty in a decision shows immaturity, rather than strength. As new information or data becomes available we should not be afraid to change direction. Strong opinions, weakly held is the best way to consider this approach.

3. Speed is a competitive advantage
As every company becomes a software company, organisations can stay ahead of the competition by building speed into every aspect of the business. By moving more quickly than the industry or competitors, organisations can accelerate the pace of innovation and stay relevant to clients. There’s a very real cost associated with being slow - and a great deal to gain from being first.

4. Focus on jobs to be done, not just problems
When developing new products and features, always ask “why?” Organisations should seek to uncover the jobs clients are using its products for, not just the problem they are trying to solve. By diving deeper they can unearth customer motivations, understand why they need something and better address those needs.

5. We’re far from the limits of what’s possible
Technology is changing and improving the world, but it’s important to realise that we’re still far from the limits of what’s possible. We’ve made huge progress on what is possible today, but the best is yet to come and we can still dream much bigger. By aiming for 10X improvement, instead of 10% we can redefine the problems and challenges facing businesses today.

I’m pleased that I attended Inside Intercom. The evening offered a fascinating glimpse into a company that I’ve long admired. Although, the event was product focussed, many of the lessons are applicable to the world of inbound marketing and beyond. I look forward to applying what I’ve learnt in my role at HubSpot.