A Product Manager’s Love Note — It Changed Everything
March 21, 2017

A Product Manager’s Love Note — It Changed Everything

by Brian de Haaff

It is not every day that you receive a love note. A person has to think you are pretty special to write a heartfelt message of appreciation and devotion. Who takes the time to do that these days? It is especially rare for people to profess their love for a software company.

However, it is my belief that every company should aim for customer and employee love. I believe in this so strongly that I wrote a bold new book about the concept called Lovability. I wanted to share the positive effects of focusing on love as a product and company builder. I thought it could help others succeed as well.

When a customer sends you a heartfelt note, you might feel humbled, excited, even surprised. That is exactly how we felt at Aha! when we received the following email:

“I have inherited a product of roughly the same size and complexity of Aha! that was planned using a Ouija board, a small flock of chickens wandering around and selecting agile user stories by defecating upon Post-It notes, and random hacking efforts. The documentation is stored in several hundred Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, Excel documents, and OneNote pages, none of which can be located except by the person who prepared them for one meeting or another. There is also documentation, an anti-trail of emails, instant messages, hallway conversations, and whiteboard exercises. I have a paper in peer review at this moment demonstrating that much of the dark matter in the universe is actually formed by this invisible requirement repository.”

That particular note always makes me smile. Not just because it is funny, but because he went on later in the email to explain how Aha! helped eliminate his pain and frustration. (No more wandering chickens.) We gave him something that he sorely needed — a solution to his problems and a way to make his life easier. It was flattering that he actually took the time to share his gratitude.

At the time we thought this note was a pleasant anomaly but certainly not the norm. How often do customers send notes like this? After all, most people do not have an emotional connection with their software providers. Software tends to run in the background of life. It is not something anyone pays attention to unless something goes wrong.

And yet that one heartfelt note turned into a constant stream of customer gratitude and affection over the last few years. Here are a few more favorites:

“So I finally sat down and tried out Aha! … DUDE. Where have you been all of my life?”

“Nerding out over Aha.io. I’m slowly wearing my boss down into buying this thing. And then I’ll take over the world!”

“Absolutely love your application and my team is new to Aha! You have such a lovable product, it really sets the benchmark high.”

“Hi, I’m in love with your product.”

After seeing the word “love” come up again and again, we knew that we were on to something. These notes helped confirm that we were building a product and company that our customers truly adored. But we wondered — could we measure that love?

Although the idea of measuring love probably seems too simple, it works. We began tracking every love note that came in. (In my post yesterday, I explained how you can track your own love notes.) We noticed a trend — our year-over-year growth correlated to the number of love notes we received. Almost exactly.

We saw that love propelled us forward, and it became our measure of success. Lovability changed everything for us.

Now, we track and report our own lovability as a business metric. And sure, not everyone loves us all of the time. We are not always our best. And there are times when we make someone unhappy, but we do our best to get back on track quickly and with kindness.

Love notes show us that we are doing something right — that our hard work actually matters. They are a reliable sign that customers are developing a deep affection and loyalty for our product and company. I believe that this kind of love is the key to long-term success.

Do you think love and business mix?

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 roadmap software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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