Excellence in Action

Multi-Product, Multiple Choices: How to Determine Product Priorities

We recently hosted our second VSaaS Collective session of 2024, led by Ershad Jamil, Former Chief Growth Officer at ServiceTitan, and Harpreet Ahluwalia, Chief Product Officer at Altruist.

At Tidemark, we think vertical SaaS companies make such wonderful businesses because they are inherently multi-product. However, it is incredibly challenging to know which products to build, how to structure the product and GTM teams to support this growth, and what capital allocation strategy is correct. We facilitated a conversation between ~25 senior vertical SaaS operators and Ershad Jamil and Harpreet Ahluwalia, two incredible operators who were critical in creating the multi-product strategy for vertical SaaS giant ServiceTitan. 

Their conversation was a part of our VSaaS Collective. These are bi-monthly deep-dive sessions for a select cohort of CEOs and functional execs, aiming to highlight industry best practices and build a trusted community among non-competitive peer operators.

Here are some key takeaways from this VSaaS Collective session on multi-product with Ershad and Harpreet:

Start with personas, end with products.

If you are going multi-product, it is probably better to structure your internal team around different user personas (and how to solve their problems) than to think in terms of starting new “product lines.” As the multi-product effort matures, it becomes more helpful to structure product teams around “core” vs. “growth” products.

“Initially, we started with the product org being organized around user personas… In a typical business, you've got multiple, very specific job functions. You’ve got the call center agents, you have the technicians in the field, you've got the back office accounting people, the inventory management people, maybe someone doing marketing – often, the same person might be doing multiple roles in a small company. But there are very distinct roles. And so we were originally organized around those user personas, so a PM or a team of PMs, thinking about, for example, the call center agent. What are the metrics that they care about? What does the competitive landscape look like in that very specific module? But as we grew and we started adding more of these product lines… we did start to split the product organization into core product versus… growth products. Because at some point, the product role became much more about partnering with sales and go to market."

Have an end-to-end GM for any multi-product launch effort.

Coordination costs kill speed (and speed is one of the best ways a startup can win). While a slowdown is inevitable when you go multi-product, one way to eliminate some of those costs is to have a central GM responsible for all aspects of new products. 

“If you're going to launch Multi-Product, having someone that GMs it end to end helps other teams out. A central source of truth for all of it versus different teams doing different things for all these add ons… is really the ideal… that GM could be your product leader, it could be sales, it could be a separate person. But it's really important that you have one person leading the way.”

Pricing and product testing go hand in hand.

One especially painful error is building a great, feature-rich product only to discover that your customers think it is too cheap or expensive. To get around that, ServiceTitan did product and pricing surveys simultaneously as they built alpha and beta products. 

“We're super diligent about alpha and beta testing… we had surveys with customer interviews, wireframes. And we talk about pricing even before building the product. Obviously, you don't get all the signals then. But we had a pretty good idea in that business case of, ‘Hey, this is how we could price it. Here's our range.’ And then we had really long alpha and beta timeframes, call it six months for some products, that we could have launched in two months. But we extended to six months, because we really wanted to hone in on the sales messaging, the content and the ROI calculators, different pricing, and marketing automation. We assumed it would be $500 a month when the product was in alpha and beta, and we're slowly testing, [and realizing] maybe it could be $600, maybe even $700, going on $1,500 a month, which is pretty wild... And so, you know, and then when we GA'ed that thing, there were no questions about the pricing or the go to market. We did go no go, which actually a lot of companies don't do, across different groups of the company, and the executives all had to sign off... And so it was very structured in a way where we actually never overpriced something just because we knew it before GA"

Scrap it together before fully building it to test the market.

If you’re building a marketing product, a great way to understand your merchants' problems is to do the job for them in a scrappy way. This will build customer trust and help you understand their problems. 

“For marketing, before we actually had a product, we took a handful of customers and said, ‘we can just do marketing for you.’ Internally we used our collection of tools from MailChimp where we basically took on that responsibility… manually, and saw that we could produce enough value and if customers were willing to pay for it. You can, with being scrappy, and without actually building it out, test if there's a market for it.”

Being scrappy doesn’t mean you don’t have a process.

Startups too often base their product roadmaps on vibes. Great companies can adjust quickly but still think long-term. A process helps them have that structured thinking.

“Every six months, we'll do planning, and then we revisit it at the midpoint. We start with the top objectives at the company level... We have a rolling NPS from existing customers, there are a lot of great comments in there. We have a quarterly product survey that goes out to all our customers, and it's pretty detailed by Product Module; you get a lot of feedback there. And then we have this sort of ideas Forum. Our customers are super engaged, maybe we've got about probably 3000 submissions of ideas that our existing customers want us to pursue. And so I think, as we look at driving more expansion from existing customers, these are the three signals that we use to prioritize.”

Sales as a signal.

When sales teams prospect new merchants, they can also use that time to prospect new product categories to expand. By asking your SDRs for common pain points and recording that data in the CRM, you get a strong signal of what to build next. 

“When we're thinking about how to get to new customers we're primarily relying on Salesforce or CRM data. So we have our sales team as they're talking to prospects they're logging a lot of data around what their needs are. What were the closed loss reasons? And so we basically have sources of input on expansion and new customer acquisition, very qualitative. And then our product team analyzes all of that data every six months and comes up with the top few things that we could focus on to both drive expansion from existing customers and new customer acquisition. We layer those product roadmap items against those objectives.”

Conclusion

We hope you enjoyed this brief recap of Ershad Jamil and Harpreet Ahluwalia's VSaaS Collective session on multi-product. If you would like to be considered for participation in a future live session, please email us at knowledge@tidemarkcap.com.

Tidemark

June 2024

The information presented in this post is for illustrative purposes only and is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by Tidemark or any of the securities of any company discussed. Tidemark portfolio companies identified above are not necessarily representative of all Tidemark investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For additional important disclaimers regarding this post, please see “ Purpose of the Site; Not Investment Advice; No Recommendations” and “Regulatory Disclosures” in the Terms of Use for Tidemark’s website, available at Terms of Use (tidemarkcap.com).

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