#149 - Research Tactics for Designers & PMs with Tyler Wanlass of CommandBar

#149 - Research Tactics for Designers & PMs with Tyler Wanlass of CommandBar

Tyler Wanlass [00:00:00]:
There's definitely moments where I will go above and beyond, sort of the passive automation. And like I mentioned, I'm on LinkedIn, or I'm going and recruiting folks, or I'm doing expert calls, or I'm using a fantastic service to help me recruit people. And those are like, I am building this new thing. I need as much insight as possible. The goal with all of this, though, it's like this continuous customer discovery stuff, is I want to build my intuition. I want to know that when I am hopping into a new contacts, new domain, new problem space, that I know enough about the customer and what they're trying to do that I can make some really well informed decisions. This goes back to like, how much research do you need? If you've built intuition and you know who your customers are and how they use products they're trying to get done, you can move pretty quickly. You can at least get to like a 75 or 80% version of something that might solve a problem.

Tyler Wanlass [00:00:41]:
So the intuition piece is really big.

Erin May [00:00:45]:
Hey, this is Erin may and this is Carol Guest. And this is awkward silences. Awkward Silences is brought to you by user interviews, the fastest way to recruit targeted, high quality participants for any kind of research. Awesome to have Tyler on talking about a practical approach to getting research done. When you are a designer, a product manager, research is not your full time job, but you need some insights, lots.

Carol Guest [00:01:17]:
Of great tips in there and tools to use as well to just make research happen in your organization. Good session, for sure.

Erin May [00:01:22]:
Check it out. Hello, everybody, and welcome back to awkward silences. Today we're here with Tyra Oneless. He's the lead product designer at command bar growing team and but still agile and figuring things out and making it work, which is what we're going to talk about today. We're going to talk about practical tactics for designers and PM's and folks who do research but aren't necessarily researchers to get it done, to get those insights that you need one way or another. So, Tyler, thanks for being here.

Tyler Wanlass [00:01:56]:
Thank you for having me. I love that. Describe people that do design. You don't know you're doing design and research, but you're doing research. You're doing it every day, all day. So excited to chat about some of that stuff.

Erin May [00:02:05]:
Yeah, we all are.

Tyler Wanlass [00:02:05]:
We all are, right?

Erin May [00:02:06]:
And there's the balance of knowing just enough, but you got to know something. And measuring twice and cutting once. And so that's what we're going to get into. We got Carol here, too.

Carol Guest [00:02:14]:
Hey, so happy to be here. And excited to dig into some practical tips.

Erin May [00:02:18]:
Fantastic. So let's get started. So before we jump into kind of the meat of the conversation, Tyler, maybe just a quick kind of background on why you're so excited to talk about this topic, how you've learned from real life, how to get research done in some of these roles.

Tyler Wanlass [00:02:33]:
All right, TldR story arc for me is started out as more of a founder building stuff, trying to figure out how to figure out what to build, who would buy that sort of thing. So doing research without knowing I was doing research, then moved into design, moved into engineering for a while, kind of a dark side, and then moved into product somewhere in between and, uh, some leadership stuff. And now, as you mentioned, just really focused on product design in the current role at a tiny startup and doing sort of all the things there. So, and I think most of my perspective on this is largely comes from my time as a founder. You've no resources, you usually have no customers, you have no data. And so you're trying to figure it out. Like, you really are, like, grasping it straws. Who wants this thing? Who's going to buy this thing? Who should I be building it for? All that sort of stuff.

Tyler Wanlass [00:03:16]:
Really scrappy stuff. So a lot of times they're too thinking about, like, if you don't have a product, you don't have customers, you're finding proxies, like, what are people doing today? How are they building things, using things, what are they paying for that sort of stuff? Um, yeah, I later I had an opportunity, of course, to work in, like, bigger organizations and realized, wow, there's an entire team of really smart humans that will do research with me. This is incredible. Data science teams, that sort of stuff. But I still sort of found myself still going back to some of those early tactics and whatnot. And, yeah, I think one of my very first roles out of college worked at a big game company. And we did some of those, like, classic, uh, research studies where we bring real humans into a building. We would put them in a room, we'd have them play the game we were working on.

Tyler Wanlass [00:03:55]:
We'd stand behind one of those creepy two way mirrors as if they were being interrogated. We would watch them play the game. We would see how frustrated we they were, and then we would go and sit with them and ask them questions, and they would just lie to us. They're like, I love it. It's amazing. It was so fantastic. I remember thinking that, I was like, wait a minute, something is wrong. What people are actually physically showing us versus what they're telling us are like two very different things.

Tyler Wanlass [00:04:15]:
So as I was thinking about this topic today, I was like, okay, wow, this is like a long journey all the way to, like, user psychology, to hacks all sorts of stuff. So there's lots of finishing stuff dive into there. But, yeah, fantastic.

Carol Guest [00:04:27]:
I hope we get into some tips on how to tell when people are truly interested in your product versus not so much any quick things that come to mind.

Tyler Wanlass [00:04:33]:
I think the big stuff is like, pay way more attention what people actually do versus what they say. And I think that's given we know that and there's some great questions we can ask and there's some. Some great situation we put people in to sort of see that. But, you know, today we'll talk about some ethnography, aka fancy word for people watching. We'll talk about ways, like, see what people are actually doing, and then there's tons of great resources we can share about, too, about, you know, books, topic content. Is that sort of thing to, like, dive into that particular subject. Though I won't give you any interrogation techniques. I'm not good at that.

Tyler Wanlass [00:05:00]:
My own children lie to me all the time, and I'm like, I don't know, what is it?

Erin May [00:05:05]:
It's like looking up to the left or the right. One of them's lying. One of them's thinking, yeah, we can google that afterwards for folks for drafting.

Tyler Wanlass [00:05:11]:
A very elaborate story, right? Looking up to the right and crafting a narrative. You're like, this is way too long and detailed.

Erin May [00:05:17]:
Yeah. With the two way mirror, did they know you were watching and then they still were lying to you?

Tyler Wanlass [00:05:24]:
I think there was this, like, you have the classic person with a clipboard who walk into the room. You're like, hey, thank you for coming today. Today we're gonna have you do x, Y and Z. All of us are standing behind the mirror, and we're watching all the interactions. We'd watch them, and then we would all show up in the room afterwards and we would ask them questions. And so some obvious stuff, right? Like, people's pure social pressure. Everybody wants to look good. And if somebody says, I really like this thing, ten of the people like, oh, me too.

Tyler Wanlass [00:05:45]:
I thought it was amazing. And if somebody was like, that was awful, all of a sudden, four of the people like, yeah, I agree. That was really bad. I didn't like it. You learn really quickly, like, doesn't really make any sense. So people are aware, but even when you're aware, like, we know to you, right? Even when you're aware that you're being observed, people still might act different ways. And if you're unaware you're being observed, you know, maybe some of the more truth stuff comes out, but, you know, it's still tough. Yeah, yeah.

Erin May [00:06:06]:
Very interesting. Very interesting. I don't know if we've done an episode on focus groups, all the pros and cons. So food for thought for the future. But let's jump into some methods, because I know, you know, when people think about research, maybe this is one of the first things that they think about, which is just like, what am I going to do? How am I going to collect this data? So let's get into maybe some methods that are particularly conducive to a practical approach or how to make, make any method a little more practical and just get it done. So where should we start?

Tyler Wanlass [00:06:32]:
Yeah, well, let's jump into, like, the lowest hanging fruit stuff, which I kind of classify as, like, guerrilla research, which is, like, unorthodox. You're not going to write a plan for this. You shouldn't go to approved by somebody, all those things. It's not going to stand up in the court of law, that sort of thing. It's like, how do we actually like, okay, this thing has slid across my desk. I got to, like, start working on something. How do I figure out if this is like, the right direction, that sort of thing? So I classify this like guerrilla research and break this down in a couple of buckets, but a really simple one. Now, I'm coming from the software world, and a lot of times we're building stuff that is like, not net new novel.

Tyler Wanlass [00:07:03]:
Some form of this exists. It could be a competitive product. It could be like an adjacent or an analog. I think about analogs a lot, which is like, how do people do this thing in everyday life that's not in our product? And so I kind of just go through this quick list, which, like, first one is most products, I can go look at competitive spaces and I can read the help docs. Nobody likes to read. Nobody likes to look the documentation. But five minutes, you can really quickly orient yourself. Like, how is somebody else solving this? What does this problem look like? How do they talk about it? What kind of language is in there? Or even really, like, simple signals.

Tyler Wanlass [00:07:34]:
There are ten pages of documentation on this thing or ten connected docs on this thing. Maybe it's a complicated feature. Maybe it's hard to communicate. Maybe it's hard to market. Maybe it's hard to position. So there's some like, really, really basic stuff there. The other one that I love, too. This is like kind of the sneaky side of things.

Tyler Wanlass [00:07:49]:
I always find myself building products in competitive spaces where there is a stodgy incumbent, like, horrible product, nobody likes it. There's this enormous crusty sales cycle, all that sort of stuff. And so one thing I love is just going and looking at community forums or some social listening stuff. So really simple example, the past was building a product against a large competitor that had a massive community forum. I'm just going and reading, what are people saying about the product, the company, the feature, that sort of thing. And again, it's like 1015 minutes of searching and I get a lot of insights about how people think about it, who's actually commenting on it, who in the company, what role is actually using this thing. And so, like, really quickly, I'm orienting myself, like, who am I designing this thing for? What do they think about it? How do they feel about it? That's really a simple one. And then, of course, the obvious stuff, which is just like, let's just say it, like, go use these other products.

Tyler Wanlass [00:08:34]:
Go sign up for them. My one password is littered with test accounts. Just littered. Absolutely ridiculous. And if you don't like the classic one here too, is like Gmail, little plus operator. Take your, your gapps domain, put a plus after your name, and then you can create whatever email address you want. It's a really quick way to create quick throwaway email addresses. Go sign up for some products if they're free.

Tyler Wanlass [00:08:54]:
Great trials, do it. If they're adreaded, sales only. Sure. Hop on YouTube, go see if you can find some videos, stuff like that. So there's no excuse not to do this in like, ten, I don't know, 1015 minutes and have a really good, like, understanding. Or you think, like, can you grok the thing you're trying to work on? What does the space and surface look like? So, yeah, I always ask this question, too. I'm like, did you sign up and go use this other product?

Erin May [00:09:15]:

Tyler Wanlass [00:09:16]:
And, like, it doesn't have to be in a competitor product, but, like, in an adjacent space. And I get that, like, well, no, I'm like, well, what's stopping you? Like, go do that right now. Go try it. Go use it. Go poke around. Aside from just being curious about what's going on out in the space around you, like, that's a really fast way to, like, orient yourself, get sort of bearing.

Erin May [00:09:30]:
So, yeah, yeah, Tyler, I'm making an assumption that you're doing this kind of analogous space using these products, that you're in the solution mode. So we. We know what the problem is we're trying to solve at this stage. This is. Right? Is this where we are in our product development cycle, or can this work?

Tyler Wanlass [00:09:47]:
Yeah, it's a great question. Like, yes, sometimes we're like, okay, I know that we need to build a competitive feature, and that's really simple. I can go look and see, see what exists in the space, that sort of thing. Sometimes you're actually. You're validating opportunity costs or even, like, value, pure value. Like, wait a minute. Is anybody else charging for this? Are customers actually paying for this? Or my favorite is, like, you go and look at, like, a product and look at somebody's public roadmap, and you're like, wait, is this even on the roadmap? Is anybody even talking about this? So, like, you might even just do, like, pure value upfront before you get to, like, feasibility. Before you get to, like, could we build this thing? You might be kind of wondering, like, is this an expectation in the market? And that might be an interesting thing there, too.

Tyler Wanlass [00:10:21]:
So you mentioned too, like, we're talking about trying to think about before getting the solution space, the problem space. This is when I think about analogs a lot, which is like, how is this problem solved with other products in other industries? This is where you sort of have to kind of get out of your space. You need to read wider. You need to be listening to podcasts in different circles. You need to be doing all sorts of things to understand, like, is there another space that solves this problem? Really? Like, someone else? The other day, I was chatting with someone who is a lawyer, and they were telling about a law clinic, and I was like, I'm not a lawyer. What the heck's a law clinic? And they're like, well, law school teaches you laws, but a clinic actually shows you how to be a lawyer. And I thought, oh, this is fascinating. So how does this translate to, like, other spaces and industries? I'm like, well, if you're a chef, you might do a stage.

Tyler Wanlass [00:10:58]:
I go to cooking school. I learned techniques, but I would do a stage, that sort of thing. So this is sort of like, find these analogs in totally different spaces, totally different, you know, things. And usually what it comes down to, right, is like, we're solving the same human problems just into, like, different manifestations. So even if we don't know what the problem might be, the core problem ultimately is a human problem. So we can kind of root there and start there and branch out. Yeah.

Erin May [00:11:20]:
Fantastic. I'm hoping we can just start talking about the bear now and go in that direction. Now that you've introduced logic. Amazing. Yeah. The law clinic. No, that's interesting. You said law clinic.

Erin May [00:11:31]:
I figured it was like a healthcare clinic. It's like accessible lawyering, but it's not that. So I just learned something.

Tyler Wanlass [00:11:36]:
Well, there's some of that. Right? So it's like lawyers that are doing pro bono work, which is fantastic. But new grads, actually, I don't know what you call them. What do you call a brand new lawyer? I'm not really sure. Someone who just passed the bar is like, I don't even know how to engage with a client. And I was like, oh, yeah, that makes sense. It's like hiring a new designer on your team or a new product. Person on your team are like, I don't even know how to product or how to actually design.

Tyler Wanlass [00:11:53]:
I can move pixels around or write a PRD, but I actually don't know how do I engage with stakeholders? I don't know how to do the role, so to speak. So, yeah, it was really interesting. Bear, also, really stressful show.

Carol Guest [00:12:02]:
Yeah, I think that was my last reference to staging as well. So, going back to Erin's question about when, what might be a sort of, like, trigger that you should be doing any of this type of research. So I think we talked about. I think you said two things. One is like, maybe you're just trying to understand the value, or if there is a problem to solve here, and by seeing if other people are solving it, that gives you an indication. And then another piece is when you're actually thinking about solutions. Is that right? Or anything else come to mind on what might trigger this type of, like, competitive look?

Tyler Wanlass [00:12:32]:
Yeah, I think so. Definitely the value one. Just like, I want to validate really quickly or invalidate really quickly. Should we be spending time on this? Should we do this thing? Which I think is if you're early stage, and again, you've no customers, no data you really like, maybe you're in a competitive space. I hope you're in a competitive space, because building a new category is really challenging. Building a new product for people who don't know they need the thing. Really challenging. Educating people on something they don't know that they need.

Tyler Wanlass [00:12:53]:
That's a big one. Value assessment. Like, would this be valuable in the space? Are people doing this that would help you give confidence? Or. A lot of times we just think about, like, what's the orthogonal approach? And this is happening a lot right now with AI, which is like if you just took out a blank sheet of paper and thought about, here's the core problem being solved. But how would I do this today if I was starting from scratch? That might be a really interesting way to approach that or lens to use that, but definitely solutioning already mentioned that other stuff here. We'll probably get into some of the analog stuff. I'll share an interesting story about something we're building right now. And like some of the interesting products that you would not have thought of that we explored to try to figure out how to attack a particular problem.

Tyler Wanlass [00:13:28]:
But yeah, those are two things that come top of mind for me.

Erin May [00:13:30]:
Awesome. And then I think we were talking about guerrilla research. You know, we think about recruiting a lot here. So what are some scrappy ways to go about finding folks to talk to?

Tyler Wanlass [00:13:40]:
I love it. Okay, let's do two. So it can be a really tactical one if you've got some customers. And I use this today at command bar all the time. So really, really simple loop here is in product messaging that is very sort of like relaxed. It's not aggressive. I don't want to hop on a call. That sort of thing.

Tyler Wanlass [00:13:54]:
It's like quite literally, the prompt is, how can we make this twice as good for you? Really simple in app messaging. And that links to a Google calendar, which people are just scheduling and grabbing time. I have 15 minutes blocks on my calendar, and what this looks like really is, it's on autopilot. I'm not actively doing it, but every week, Monday, hop onto my calendar and I've got customers that just book time on my calendar. So I'm just chatting with people. Very generative, very open ended. But they're in the product, they're using it. They saw this prompt and they've decided to grab some time.

Tyler Wanlass [00:14:23]:
And these are some of the most fruitful conversations in terms of figuring out headspace of customers, what they're seeing in the product, and some generative stuff there. So really low effort. Way to recruit. You have customers already. You have people poking around. I happen to be right now in a b two B enterprise space. But even then with a handful of customers, lots of customers, you have lots of end users. That works really well there.

Tyler Wanlass [00:14:43]:
That one is like, I love that because it's autopilot. It literally is just running in the background. I set it up once and it continually is just delivering people that are hopping in and spending time with me, which is fantastic. You can get a little more precise with that as well, of course. So this could be something that's just general in your product. Another one that, like, if you narrow that down a little bit, you might go to the feature level. Someone has just used a part of your product, a particular feature, and a little bit of in app messaging at the time when it makes the most sense, when it's most, like, top of mind to grab them and see if they want to book some time. Yeah, that one's like a really simple recruiting people.

Tyler Wanlass [00:15:14]:
No additional thought other than maybe like ten minutes of setup with free tools. Like, that's a really simple way to get going and start grabbing some folks there. Yeah, yeah. You're as, like, recruiting other folks, like, if you want to go a little bit. So one that's just like, maybe stupid simple as well, which is just like, tapping your network. And that's really fancy way of saying, like, hop on LinkedIn. Look at all the people that you've worked with. Look for some, like, similar roles or adjacent roles.

Tyler Wanlass [00:15:37]:
And I don't even ask people if, like, hey, can I pick your brand? No, I don't want that message either. I reach out, I'm like, hey, I'm working on this new thing. What do you think? And maybe a 1015 minutes call there, same calendar link. Send that out there, too. It's like reoccurring calendar link for customer chat, customer discovery stuff. So those are like two of the ones that I just use, not ad nauseum. So even the LinkedIn one I've got, I literally have a calendar reminder that every month it's like, have you booked any LinkedIn chats? Really simple. And just kind of keep that one rolling as well for some continuous stuff.

Erin May [00:16:04]:
Yeah, yeah.

Carol Guest [00:16:05]:
And so here with the LinkedIn, you're looking for someone who maybe is the Persona. Like, has the role of the problem that your product solves is what you're saying?

Tyler Wanlass [00:16:12]:
Yeah. Like, I was thinking about a few weeks back, was working on some analytics features, and I was like, okay, who's looking at, like, bi dashboards and stuff all day long? Like, who is this person that actually uses these tools? And then who is actually maybe even in a space that's maybe similar or adjacent? And, yeah, quick search there. I actually do quite a bit of, like, third connection as well, which, like, hey, I know you know this person at this space. Would you mind just connecting us real quick? I'm like, okay, obvious caveats here, right? Be a nice person on the Internet. Build real relationships. The older you get, the more network you're going to get this will be easier, that sort of thing. But the other ways you could do this too, of course, is like, you might find other social networks at a great place to find people of similar interests and that sort of thing to do that. But, yeah, really simple one there.

Erin May [00:16:51]:
Nice, nice. Yeah. A couple good practical tips there. One, get it on the calendar. I love this tip for anything productivity. You could delete the calendar event, but it's there, and then you've got to take action. So get it on the calendar. And as you're saying, you know, when you talked about guerrilla research in the beginning, there's an approach that's sort of reactive.

Erin May [00:17:08]:
There's also an approach that's proactive that can save you a lot of time of just getting a half hour on the calendar every week or whatever it might be. And then you can source people a few different ways. Right. You talked about using LinkedIn. You could also have an intercept or something on your website, have an email going out. There's lots of different ways you could kind of automate getting people into that calendar. But get it on the calendar. That's a great one.

Erin May [00:17:29]:
I'm curious, when you reach out to people on LinkedIn, do you kind of say, not a sales pitch or. I know you mentioned you kept it kind of vague and not scary, but what works for you and getting people to say yes?

Tyler Wanlass [00:17:38]:
Yeah, I really try to lower the bar there. So, like, if it's somebody in my network, much easier. If it's like a second or third connection. I just feign I'm an absolute idiot. Like, hey, I'm sorry, I know nothing about this space. I know this is really annoying. Can you help me with this thing? Or can I just show you this thing? I won't do, like the one, two. Like, can I send you something? Does that sound good? And then wait for someone to say yes.

Tyler Wanlass [00:17:57]:
Like, here's a link, here's the thing, no pressure. Grab some time. Anytime you pick a talent recipe, that sort of thing. So try to really lower the barrier there for the in app stuff. Like right now, I have a really simple little nudge that pops up in the bottom right hand corner. It is timed and targeted when you're not in a very important workflow. And it is so disarming. It is the most ridiculous gif.

Tyler Wanlass [00:18:18]:
I feel embarrassed to have that in our product, but it is exactly that. It's really disarming and it's kind of like low effort, low friction, that sort of thing. So just really kind of being just human that's it, right? Just be very human and let people have a nice opt out as well. There's no pressure there.

Erin May [00:18:33]:
Fantastic. Maybe we could talk about a couple of things you do in those conversations. What are you trying to get out of them in a few minutes time?

Tyler Wanlass [00:18:40]:
I love it. Okay, so if someone has been kind enough to grab some time with you, there's like a couple quick tactical things. I always start the conversation, build some connection. Kindly ask if I can record so that they don't have to listen to me clack on my keyboard against being human, like, super distracting. And we'll talk about, like, what you can do with the recordings, that sort of stuff. There's a couple of things I'm looking for, really. If someone has grabbed time with me and they just want to chat about the product of the experience they're having, I just let them talk. Like, you should be saying almost nothing really, in most of those calls.

Tyler Wanlass [00:19:08]:
And so some of the things that I am aiming for, I always ask if they'll screen share, like, show me the thing that you're talking about. And that's always a goldmine. There's always just a ton of, like, extra signal stuff that you see there. You're like, wow, this person doesn't use keyboard shortcuts. This person has an insanely messy desktop. That's interesting. This person does XYZ. There's lots of really good stuff there.

Tyler Wanlass [00:19:28]:
And so I think that's like just an obvious one to ask for there. The other one too, though, like, some customers are not comfortable screen sharing, and so sometimes I'll ask them to send proverbial spreadsheet after the call. So, like two quick story examples. So one, building a customer service product, customer screen sharing with me, and I'm watching them like, tab switch and copy stuff out of a spreadsheet into our product. And as a product person, like, my hair's on fire. I'm like, oh, my gosh, why is there a spreadsheet involved? There's hot tip. There's always a spreadsheet. You are always competing against a spreadsheet.

Tyler Wanlass [00:19:55]:
It doesn't matter. There's always one somewhere. This is one of those things where I'm watching them copy canned responses to messages from a spreadsheet, pasting them into our product. Now we're going to build an auto reply can reply feature. But seeing this actually helps me evaluate opportunity, cost, and pain. I'm like, oh, I have some empathy now. I'm seeing this. That screen share really highlights something.

Tyler Wanlass [00:20:15]:
Lets me see something lets me understand how it's being done today with no translation. They're not telling me about it or how it happens. I'm actually seeing it. So that's really, really, really fantastic. But the follow up stuff I mentioned, work on analytics product. I'm asking questions about this. They're not comfortable screen sharing because they don't want to show their data. Fair, understandable.

Tyler Wanlass [00:20:33]:
Can you send me a redacted spreadsheet after the fact? Yeah, sure. Okay. What do you get out of that? I'm looking at the spreadsheet. I'm like, wow, okay, interesting. I'm seeing there's multiple sheets, I'm seeing what the columns are named, I'm seeing some formulas. I'm getting lots of insight about how the thing is actually done. The classic customers are really good about what their problem is. They don't know what the solution is, but this is their v zero.

Tyler Wanlass [00:20:53]:
This is how they've hacked this together to make this thing work. Whether it's the spreadsheet or it's the design file or whatever the artifact might be, the template, that sort of thing. Ask for those things. If you can't get the screen share, ask for those things and dissect those for some signal as well. That's super informative. I love both those things. I'm always asking for those things. I'll mention on the screen recording stuff.

Tyler Wanlass [00:21:13]:
I think there's, if you ask people to record the call people at 50 50, some people don't care because everything else is recorded anyway. Sure, why not? The last ten Zoom calls I had this week were all recorded, and some folks won't. But for the folks that do let you record it, simple things too. Google Meet's free. You can record for free. You can take that transcript and you can paste that transcript into your AI choice tool of choice. That might be chapter d or clod. Big fan of paste it in.

Tyler Wanlass [00:21:37]:
Get some insights from that, or at least summarize the content that way. And then the obvious stuff too, is you now have great artifacts for your team. I love snipping a little clip and sharing with the team, like in the customer's voice. We know this like, builds tons of empathy, gets people really excited to hear what the customer is saying. So some like, just quick things you can do there for sure. Yeah.

Carol Guest [00:21:53]:
Think about that topic of sharing out. When you're doing these customer calls regularly, do you do a quick shout after every call? Are you waiting for a few of them to come in? How do you think about like, synthesis.

Tyler Wanlass [00:22:02]:
And sharing loaded question. I'm going to give you the v zero of this, which is like the simplest thing possible. I have a notion page that is shared with the entire company. Simple table lists who I'm talking to, what the topic was about and the recorded call. We use gong for our sales team. So most of the calls are there but this could be a meet link, whatever that might be. So folks can actually go and see that. For the designers on my team, other people care about product.

Tyler Wanlass [00:22:25]:
I will do a quick recap in our slack channel. We have a customer channel. We also have channels for each customer. And I'll do a quick recap like here's what I learned. Here's like the really unique things, interesting things that I don't think we're talking about, not top of mind. Also do some value call outs, which is I mentioned watching somebody do something on a spreadsheet. Im like were going to build that maybe next quarter, but now that ive just seen this, actually I think we could build this in a really quick way and it seems high pain and its something we can market for a cleared position and communicate what it does. So ill share those kind of tidbits from my perspective.

Tyler Wanlass [00:22:53]:
But really just if you have the recording link to it and reference it regularly with the team, it sort of becomes just like an evergreen repository if you're coming and grabbing it. Nothing smart is being done with that stuff. No one is looking at the transcripts and pulling out, you know, insights from last year. Not at this stage. That absolutely will happen at a bigger stage with a higher volume of calls or a dedicated team. But when it's just you, there's nothing extra really. I got the insights, I shared the key pieces and I left maybe some time stamps to some video links for folks. They want to follow up on stuff and just kind of leave it there.

Tyler Wanlass [00:23:23]:
Like move on to the next thing.

Carol Guest [00:23:25]:
Any tips on keeping it brief? I imagine, you know, if you're doing a 15 minutes call, you could do 15 minutes or more of synthesis, right? Like how do you think about just how to keep it snap?

Tyler Wanlass [00:23:33]:
I think that's true. So, you know, I mentioned when I'm telling somebody, can I record this call? Because I don't want you to hear me clacking around the keyboard. Total lie. I'm muting my mic and I'm still taking notes, but the notes are like gibberish insight chunks. Right? Like oh, set x about x. Oh, I noticed they did. Why? And so that's like my shorthand. I will definitely use that.

Tyler Wanlass [00:23:52]:
But I also find, like, if you spend, even with this 15 minutes, I think it's valuable. If you spend a few minutes, like right after the call, it's fresh in your mind. It's pretty easy, actually, to get sort of the highlights, the key points there's. And then every once in a while, too, I know someone else on the team is thinking about this particular problem space. I don't have the contacts or have the time. I will just send a timestamp. Hey, I know you're working on this new feature, this new area of the product. They mentioned this here, and you could see some, like, visible emotion, and they seem, like, really interested about it.

Tyler Wanlass [00:24:17]:
Maybe you can decipher what some of this stuff means, or maybe this will give you some context and sort of, you know, share out the work that way and have other people kind of help you with that. But keep it light, keep it lean. I think as much as you don't want to take those notes by hand, people don't want to read them either. So if you can summarize those and give them the TLDR, and if this is sort of just like someone says, hey, I love this book, I think you should read it. I hate that. I love that you're thinking of me. But is there maybe like a few chapters you just put a sticky note on for me? Like, what can you do to sort of like, index and help me get to the thing that's relevant? So the same thing applies here.

Erin May [00:24:47]:
Awkward interruption. This episode of awkward silences, like every episode of Awkward Silences, is brought to you by user interface.

Carol Guest [00:24:55]:
We know that finding participants for research is hard. User interviews is the fastest way to recruit targeted, high quality participants for any kind of research. We're not a testing platform. Instead, we're fully focused on making sure you can get just in time insights for your product development, business strategy, marketing, and more.

Erin May [00:25:12]:
Go to userinterviews.com awkward to get your first three participants free. Yeah. Amazing, right? Because this is practical research, after all. You're not trying to, you know, lead a dozen person research team and then do a big, long project and then atomize all your insights. And you're just trying to get something from the time you spent talking to the customer. And I imagine, Tyler, after a while, it starts to stack, right? You've now had many of these ten minute conversations, and it's sort of like in your brain and in these bullet points that you've shared throughout the organization. Is that part of what you're doing here with the continuous discovery just trying to get smarter and smarter about your customers all the time, or are you more often trying to answer, like, a specific question?

Tyler Wanlass [00:25:56]:
It's a bit of both. Right. So if someone has grabbed some time with me and they just want to chat about the experience they've had, I will absolutely let them talk. I want to hear everything unprompted. I want to get there. I will always come to those conversations, though, of course, as a human with what's top of mind recency bias. I'm working on this thing. I'm thinking about this thing.

Tyler Wanlass [00:26:12]:
So we'll ask those questions. I also think too, like, I'm always as, like a founder at heart, I'm always just thinking of, like, what the next tiny incremental scale piece is. So for these, yes, I do write down the questions beforehand. I won't just freewheel it, and I will share that with somebody else so that they can also hop on a call, ask questions. The calendar is public, so anybody on the team can join those calls and join me. Maybe they want to chat with this customer, this space, whatever, and they have some questions to ask. Try to make that easy for people to opt into it as well. The one thing I am usually looking, this is like a mix of generative versus trying to figure out the thing that I'm working on.

Tyler Wanlass [00:26:46]:
Get some stuff there. One thing I think about to scale this up, a really simple technique I've used over and over and over again. You talk to ten customers, you start to hear some of the same things, or you find there's these two questions that really resonate. People just spill. You ask them this question and they're just on and on. Take those questions. I put those into a simple survey. I then run that survey, and now all of a sudden you're generating data and insights from that.

Tyler Wanlass [00:27:10]:
So it could be an in app survey, send it via email, whatever your tool of choice might be. But start with those quick customer calls. Get the questions, take the questions, put those into a script, run that into a survey, and all of a sudden now you've got some data from that at scale. And that will happen as your user base and stuff grows. But it's a really simple way to sort of like ratchet that up as well.

Erin May [00:27:26]:
Yeah. Look at you with your mixed methods. See this real research, it's just practical and you're iterating as you go, right, and get signal and building out from there. So love that. Anything else on the ethnography front of the kind of people watching want to talk about or should we jump into some other methods here?

Tyler Wanlass [00:27:41]:
I'll do two things that aren't live because I think these are really valuable. So I think every product I've ever worked on I have either built or asked somebody on the team to build an impersonation feature. Now, caveat here. If you're working in like a really sensitive space, maybe isn't kosher, but outside of that, being able to log in as your customer and see how they're using your product is huge. When you, the first time you jump into your product that you've, you've designed, built and you see how somebody's actually using it and you're kind of appalled, you're like, whoa, wait a minute, not using this feature. And they've really used this feature in a strange way. That's magic. They know when you're on a call that they're being observed when they're using the product.

Tyler Wanlass [00:28:13]:
That's not top of mind for most people and so you get some real insight from that. So definitely if you have the ability to sort of impersonate accounts and sort of see what they're actually using the product for, that sort of thing. My several funny stories here, one that came top of mind. As we're thinking about this conversation, I remember hopping into a customer's product and I'm looking at our sidebar and we just released this new views feature. Take a bunch of conversations, apply some filters to them, a date range, tags, and save that as a view. So I can come in every Monday and I can look at these conversations. Mark with X and I'm looking at the sidebar and the sidebar. The views are all named really weird stuff.

Tyler Wanlass [00:28:44]:
Underscore something, something aa, aaa, bbb. And I'm like, oh, they're trying to do some simple sorting. And then I'm like, wait a minute, why do they have ten views? We thought they would have one or two views. Like, whoa, hang on, that's a classic. Like people using your product in unattended ways is just a fantastic insight. You're not going to get talking to them, you're not going to get any other way other than either old days standing over somebody's shoulder and watching them use the product or impersonating their account and seeing how they're doing that now. Then at scale, plenty of session recording tools. Some of the ones out there, newer ones like highlight, full story, post hog, these are the ones that you can actually then go and replay that sort of thing.

Tyler Wanlass [00:29:22]:
I'll give you three tips for those though, because when you get to scale and you have 100,000 sessions or a million sessions, how do you find any signal from that noise? There's three filters I will set up in most of these tools. I think about these as steps. Breadth and monetization depth is, I want to create a filter where somebody is using a particular feature a lot like they are an MVP spokesperson of this feature. I want to understand, like, what the heck's going on? Why do they love this thing so much? And there's always, always some good gold there. The breadth one is another one that I look at, which is like, show me the person that has a really long session. But they're all over the place. They went to integrations. They set up some integrations.

Tyler Wanlass [00:29:56]:
They invited the team member, they went and analyzed a report, and then they downloaded something, and they. I'm like, who is this person? Like, are they a one woman show at this small company? And they do everything. Is this their first time? And they're kicking the tires like, it's really interesting one. And then I think this is obvious one with the monetization piece, which is like, have a sense of how people are moving through your funnel, whatever it is, whether it's self serve. Talk to sales. Take a look at those touch points where people are hitting some sort of friction and are they hitting a paywall and bouncing? Are they looking at a, like, my favorite, or somebody's looking at a pricing page and they're like, selecting text. You're like, what's happening there? Maybe they're looking for a definition. Maybe they're actually just using a divisual cursor, which is like, oh, I only get four seats on this plan now.

Tyler Wanlass [00:30:37]:
You can't infer a ton from that, other than people are actually inspecting your pricing page, your details, your ups, all that sort of thing. But those are really simple tips. If you go from impersonating, which is super manual, I'll look at 1015 accounts a day, though. I'll hop in, just look. Look for signal, look for usage. I have other product analytics tools to look at as well. But then sessions are sort of how to do that at scale and find some juicy signal and all that noise.

Carol Guest [00:30:58]:
So, yeah, here's some great tips.

Tyler Wanlass [00:31:00]:
I think.

Carol Guest [00:31:00]:
I love full story, but the number of full stories I've seen that someone like landing on a dashboard and leaving right. Ends up being not that interesting after a while. But this is a good point when you think about depth. I assume that most of these tools have some ability to see number of.

Tyler Wanlass [00:31:12]:
Times using a feature.

Carol Guest [00:31:13]:
I'm trying to think about how you actually implement that.

Tyler Wanlass [00:31:16]:
Yeah, I really get it. So really simple things, really. You can look at counts of these things, the number of sessions that included a particular page path. Somebody keeps coming back to the same part of the product over and over again. That's your classic. Like they're power user, they're coming in and using this feature over and over again. Or if you think about most features, they're sort of like funnels, which is there's an entry point into this feature and there's substeps in it. There might be a workflow and there's eventually an outcome.

Tyler Wanlass [00:31:38]:
Like I did the. Hopefully there's an outcome. I did the thing, I got the report, I got the whatever. And so you can also orchestrate that in most of these tools as well, which is like, landed on this page, then did this action, then got all the way to where they actually downloaded an amazing PDF. And I'll look at that and I'll just look at a bunch of people that are really using that feature. And the way you might think about that in terms of depth is like most people know you're looking at a product. These features are really complicated and there's a power law. Like, a lot of people use them a lot.

Tyler Wanlass [00:32:03]:
A ton of people never even see or use them. And so that's what I'm looking for. I'm segmenting the power law. I want to see people that are using it a lot. Are they getting value out of it? Can I get other people to use those? Because there's probably a high correlation to retention, all that sort of stuff. But yeah, that's sort of one. Just like nerdy way to deep dive and see how people are really using that feature.

Carol Guest [00:32:18]:
When you're watching these session recordings, is there anything that you do? Sometimes I think you can make a guess about what they're trying to do or who the user is.

Tyler Wanlass [00:32:25]:

Carol Guest [00:32:25]:
But I don't know if you recommend following up with some users that are particularly interesting or anything else you do there to really understand what's happening.

Tyler Wanlass [00:32:31]:
Oh, my gosh. Okay. I think the reason that most people don't want to talk to customers, and they will, I'll just, I'll watch ten more sessions or I'll just go look at the data. Like, I think we're all awkward. People don't like talking to people. No one wants to email or message a stranger. But in that case, in that exact case, if I see that a couple of times, absolutely, I'm emailing those people. I'm reaching out.

Tyler Wanlass [00:32:50]:
And you got to find way to this tactfully, you know, like, hey, I was creepily watching your last session. I noticed probably not the approach I would take, but you get the idea. So I'm watching these sessions. This happens a lot. Now think of like one hack that we use. I think everybody should be doing this. This more commonplace, which is like, get your customers in slack with you as like, channel guests. And this is like, everyone's already in slack anyway.

Tyler Wanlass [00:33:10]:
I know you're sitting at your desk also, I know your boss is asking for a million things, but I'm going to slide into your slack as well and be like, hey, how's it going today? And ask some questions about those things. So just go talk to people. This is probably the biggest one, especially as you get to, like, you get to a bigger scale with data. It's really easy to hide behind data, but that's only a tiny piece of the puzzle. And data being a screen recording, it's a tiny piece of the puzzle. Actually talking to the human, they'll be like, what were you trying to achieve? What were you trying to accomplish? Or in that case, I might just ask, how is this new feature going for you? Or have you used our new reporting feature yet? How's that going? Just very broad. And then go from there. I was trying to use it, but you probably noticed from my rage clicking.

Tyler Wanlass [00:33:44]:
Yeah, all that sort of stuff.

Carol Guest [00:33:46]:
Speaking of getting to scale, this is a little bit of a different topic, but you mentioned previously that when you're working at bigger companies, you might have a design team, you might have a data team, but you're still pulling on some of those founder methods. Yeah, I think there might be a, there is a pressure when you're at, you know, working with a more established team to let some of these more guerrilla techniques go in favor of, you know, more structured, thoughtful research. How do you think about justifying it internally and making the case for it? Do you ever hear objections against it? That type of thing?

Tyler Wanlass [00:34:13]:
Oh, my gosh. Well, the whole other podcast episode, right? Talking about data, statistical significance. Put that on my tombstone. So much stuff that is there, so obvious frames, reference, right? Is like. Like, is this a type one or type two decision? Can we test this really quickly with customers and roll it back? Do we need to do a research study? Like, most times the answer is no, if you have the infrastructure to do that sort of stuff. The other one I love to ask, too, is like, is this actually worth invalidating? This comes up a lot actually. It's like a false premise which is do we think customers would like this feature if it was free? I think they would like free stuff. Like here's a vending machine that prints money.

Tyler Wanlass [00:34:46]:
Yeah I think they would like that. That's not the question we're actually asking. We're asking can we deliver this in a way and will they pay for it at a certain price point that we can actually run a business? There's some nuance and stuff there. So im thinking back to a product I built that was a portfolio builder and we had a really novel interface where you would come in and you would just live edit the canvas. This was like ages ago, im very old, lots of gray hair. Since you would come in there was no way to do anything. You directly edit the canvas and were like ah, people dont know how to use this novel interface. Maybe we should chat with customers, maybe we should run some in product onboarding.

Tyler Wanlass [00:35:16]:
We should do all these things. The simplest hack that came out of a 1015 minutes discussion, take the persons first name, transpose the first two letters. Sarah becomes Sarah. And thats what their portfolio name says. The very first thing they did when they popped in, they clicked on it because their name was misspelled and they edited it. Amazing. I mean that couldve been easily, could have been, I dont know, hour, 2 hours, 3 hours, 5 hours, messaging customers, asking them, running split testing interface, that sort of stuff. But theres a social element, theres a psychology element to that which is like, like people's names is pretty important.

Tyler Wanlass [00:35:48]:
Okay, let's play on that for a quick second. Let's see if we misspell somebody's name. If they want to click on the thing to edit, it turns out they did.

Erin May [00:35:54]:
That's clever.

Tyler Wanlass [00:35:54]:
If you're really getting scrappy, there's lots of ways to test something. Everybody's probably familiar with. The five whys I think about it too is like what's the faster version? What's the faster version? What? And keep asking that until you literally get to a point of like, I don't think we can test this any faster and I don't think we could get signal from that. And you'll usually find, you know, a way or a form of a way to do it. You're never going to be at like 100% statistical significance and you don't want to be. That means you're moving too slow. You've already missed the opportunity there. Lot of stuff there.

Erin May [00:36:19]:

Tyler Wanlass [00:36:20]:
Super scrappy.

Erin May [00:36:20]:
I thought you were going to say, who needs five wise? Let's just do three even faster. You're going a different direction. But do you have a hard time, though, being able to do your own research with other folks around, insights, professionals or you kind of able to get it in and get things done?

Tyler Wanlass [00:36:34]:
I think there's a spectrum there. In the past, I worked at a company called Buffer Massive, like freemium type products where you've just got 100,000 trials every single month. People are signing up lots of stuff like that. And when you're making changes like pricing and packaging and that sort of stuff. Absolutely. We should do some thoughtful tests. Absolutely. We need to do some modeling.

Tyler Wanlass [00:36:51]:
We need to look at what the impact is going to be on ARR, all this stuff. And I think that's okay. But there's a whole other category of things, like, we could ship this and we could try this with subset of customers, and if it doesn't work, we can revert it, we can take it away, we can undo it. I think there's a healthy balance there. The way I do approach this, though, when I'm working with really talented, smart data scientists, researchers, that sort of stuff, I want them to know I appreciate their craft, but I'm also really directed about how I think we can work best together. And I think a lot of times the things that are not super helpful when we're talking about those producty type things, it's not the big debrief. It's not the big go off and do a two week, three week, month long research. It's like, let's continuously be dripping insights and talking to customers.

Tyler Wanlass [00:37:32]:
Let's continuously be talking about this stuff. And here's the things that are really top of mind for me right now and that I really, really care about. And this is how we can interface on those sort of things. So I don't think it has to be a blocker at all. I think that's actually like, there's a fantastic relationship there, especially when you think about, okay, this thing is really big and impactful for the business. I want some more scrutiny on this. I want a little more help on this. I need professionals help.

Tyler Wanlass [00:37:51]:
Yeah, yeah.

Erin May [00:37:52]:
Love it. Love it. I know you have lots of ideas and workflows you've built. We've talked about some of them already, but, you know, tools to use, automations to put in place, some of your tips there.

Tyler Wanlass [00:38:03]:
Yes. Okay. We talked about the in app stuff, which I think is huge. Like, you should just do that today, this afternoon, right now. Spend 30 minutes, go put some in app messaging that lets people literally just opens up a calendar or Google scheduling link, your tool of choice, put 15 minutes on your calendar, block that out and let people just book time with you. If you are already using a tool, like I use command bar for this, obviously, because I can put an in app nudge and I can target that. But if you're not, if you're a founder and you're getting started today and you have some usage in your product, an HTML link in there, that's like feedback, that opens up a calendar, that's totally fine, that works, that's great. It's a really simple one to do some continuous stuff there.

Tyler Wanlass [00:38:38]:
And on the tool front right, there's, I don't know, there's so many free options. So forms, any sort of form tool to collect some of this feedback and that sort of stuff. There's lots of tools let you run simple surveys. I think those are really kind of great and that whatnot. Other stuff too. I often try to think about all of the customer touch points and all the loops that are happening. There's all these places where we're communicating and chatting with customers. So while we're all sending emails to customers, there absolutely should be something in there where customers can quickly grab time or send a response, that sort of thing.

Tyler Wanlass [00:39:05]:
It could be like a welcome email, that could be an email about a new feature release launch, that sort of thing. The in app stuff I think is super powerful just because it's contextual. Some of the things I think that you take advantage of are sort of like, I think about the micro feature surveys. It's like I just did this thing and immediately after doing that thing there's a subtle non intrusive prompt to rate and give feedback and lots of survey tools let you do branching surveys. So if somebody absolutely hated that experience, you should be asking them at least one more question about like please tell us why that was so awful. Like get a little bit of insight. There's, there dont be afraid to reach out and ask questions after the fact. If somebody loved it, I dont know, Im lying.

Tyler Wanlass [00:39:39]:
Even if somebody loved it, you should still ask them questions like why did you love it? Well, it was fantastic about that. What was your expectation? That sort of thing. So Im really biased on those. I think theres lots of other things at a different scale, but those are probably the really simplest things that you could do today. Put those in product or reach out to folks that way.

Erin May [00:39:54]:
You mentioned a few free and low cost tools. You mentioned calendly sprig command bar. Is there any other favorites in your stack? Get on folks radar.

Tyler Wanlass [00:40:04]:
I think the number of people that don't realize that your Gmail account lets you have scheduling links for free out of the box is mind blowing to me. Cali has a free plan too. That's a great one to start there. Google forms of course, big fan of tally bootstrap form builder. Really nice products, unlimited forms. Great way to capture some data and stuff there. Let's see, you mentioned some of the in app stuff, the session recording. Almost all of those tools have some sort of free tier too if you want to do some basic basic session recording and get started with that.

Tyler Wanlass [00:40:30]:
Theres in a past life mentioning buffer working in a social space. Theres this concept of social listening, which is really big. And the idea here is really people are having conversations in lots of different social places about products, needs, problems, that sort of thing. But filtering that is sort of a mess. So quick hack, you could go to Twitter, nay X and use their advanced search and you can find some fantastic stuff that just kind of seeing people talking about topics, intersection, spaces in life, like ethnography, people watching, what are they talking about? One that I love is a product called Gummy Search, which pretty much just slurps up Reddit. And Reddit is a fantastic place of people are unfiltered in lots of ways. There's fantastic moderation in most subreddits, so there's good discussion happening there. That's a great tool for you to actually build an audience, do some audience research.

Tyler Wanlass [00:41:13]:
Also really passive, set up an audience and it's just going to start feeding you insights about the topic or thing that you're looking at. I'll call it the really obvious stuff too. Google trends, we didn't chat about that, but like Google, you should at least 30 seconds hop on Google trends. Is anybody talking about this? Is this a thing that might help you with SEO, it might help you with a bunch of other things, but might just give you context of like if there's a wave sort of coming, people are talking about this thing.

Erin May [00:41:36]:
So yeah, I'm thinking about all these things. You've got the passive research, the active, all these automations. We've got a half an hour on our calendar. How much time are you spending in a day, in a week? Like absorbing information and learning about customers? Does it vary a lot depending on what's going on or.

Tyler Wanlass [00:41:51]:
There's definitely moments where I will go above and beyond sort of the passive automation. And like I mentioned, I'm on LinkedIn, or I'm going and recruiting folks, or I'm doing expert calls, or I'm using a fantastic service to help me recruit people. And those are like, I am building this new thing. I need as much insight as possible. The goal with all of this, though, it's like this continuous customer discovery stuff, is I want to build my intuition. I want to know that when I am hopping into a new context, new domain, new problem space, that I know enough about the customer and what they're trying to do that I can make some really well informed decisions. This goes back to like, how much research do you need? If you've built intuition and you know who your customers are and how they use products they're trying to get done, you can move pretty quickly. You can at least get to like a 75 or 80% version of something that might solve a problem.

Tyler Wanlass [00:42:33]:
So the intuition piece is really big time wise, though, I actually have the opposite thing, which is like, if I don't have a customer call on my calendar, if I'm not talking to customers or humans are using the product in a given week, I feel bad. I just feel bad. It's not. Not a good place to be now. It's okay. But I'm going to make sure that I've got some on the calendar for the next week. The next week. So.

Tyler Wanlass [00:42:51]:
Yeah, yeah. I think we've all, like, everybody has worked in a organization that builds software products, and there are a lot of people just don't talk to customers like cardinal sin number one. That's just a really bad place to be. You need to fix that ASAP.

Erin May [00:43:01]:
So it's clear to you that it's time well spent and it needs to be part of your sort of like work hour diet.

Tyler Wanlass [00:43:06]:
I think the same is true, is like, if you expect to build something and you expect customers to accept it the first time, they love it, it solved the problem. 100% of the time, you're delusional. It's like contact with customers. It always explodes on contact. Doesn't work the way you'd expect. So what comes from that? Well, one, get at the customers faster, learn with customers faster. But even before that, if you need to de risk it because it takes time to build stuff, then you should. Talking to customers.

Tyler Wanlass [00:43:29]:
So definitely time well spent. This is a classic, like, opportunity cost problem, though. It's hard for our brains to quantify. I spent 30 minutes chatting with a customer, but that probably saved maybe 1015 hours of design, 15 hours of, of 20, 30 hours of engineering, you can extrapolate that pretty quickly. So thats a no brainer, especially if its a mission critical thing for your product or its core to what your product does, I think thats a no brainer.

Erin May [00:43:52]:
We talked a bit about sort of practical research in the sense of how one way doors, two way doors, how strong does your conviction need to be? But just any parting thoughts on this general idea of when is it too scrappy, when is it just scrappy enough and kind of finding where you want to be on that pendulum?

Tyler Wanlass [00:44:09]:
Yeah, I think it's usually a question of leverage in my mind. So I mentioned pricing. Pricing is always top of mind for me, pricing and packaging. If you're working on a business in which every business at that is critical, but if you're thinking about something like we're going to change this thing, that materially will impact how customers pay us or how customers will think about paying us, that sort of thing, I'm always just a little more cautious there than I am with say a brand new feature that doesn't exist, that customers haven't had before. I'm going to move much faster on that and I'm going to do so in a way that sort of descopes that like small software is really important. So I'm going to find that thing, break it down into its smallest valuable piece and get that to customers. So two very different spectrums on the pricing, packaging stuff. I've absolutely been in a situation where you've rolled out some new price in your packaging and we've just seen numbers plummet and like, that's not a good place to be.

Tyler Wanlass [00:44:54]:
It's not an offensive place, it's a defensive place that you're playing from. So I think that's it really. The type one, type two stuff is like, everybody knows this. Like, in fact it's software. Almost everything is reversible. There's very few things. There's like brand risk, a little bit of financial risk, and then there's of course like privacy data type stuff. And so there's the classic stuff, like there's the don't mess it up and those are some of those things, like just don't mess those things up.

Tyler Wanlass [00:45:14]:
Everything else I think you can move pretty quickly on. And then how scrappy, I think, depends on your organization, your culture, that sort of thing.

Carol Guest [00:45:21]:
So any sort of final words on practical research tactics before we get into our rapid fire section?

Tyler Wanlass [00:45:28]:
I think most of this stuff is. Most of the stuff I learned, I learned before I knew better. So I have that advantage. If you've read more than one book on this subject, you've probably read too much. Like, one book's great that orients you, lets you know sort of the frame spectrum of things. Like if you're going to go scrappy now, this is going to be your career, your profession. Like, totally different discussion. But if you're going to go scrappy, really just think about can I spend time with customers and can I get some like real signal? The most dangerous place to.

Tyler Wanlass [00:45:53]:
If you're like brand new and starting out, maybe we linked this resource. If you're just starting out though, you're going talking to a customer and you're hoping that everything comes out of their mouth is truth, that's a really dangerous place to be. That's like you're in over your head. But otherwise, I think those are, yeah, sort of a good place to start. Like, how can I get in front of customers? How can I do this sooner rather than later? So I think if you're like sitting down, you're like, ah, I got to write out my plan. I got to think about how orchestrate this. How will I analyze if you're asking any of those late stage questions, you're not scrappy enough. Like, you can move much faster.

Tyler Wanlass [00:46:17]:
There's almost always something that you can do today. And so the trick is to like ask the not five whys but like the how do I do this now? Now is something that you can do today. Yeah.

Erin May [00:46:26]:
Love it. Well, that's a good segue into one of our rapid fire questions, which is, you know, what should those books be? Pick one. You know, I think you have a couple of recommendations, but what if you're going to read a book or two? What should they be?

Tyler Wanlass [00:46:37]:
I think if you are a founder product person, designer, like research adjacent, you don't have a research team, that sort of thing, then the mom test is probably the one. I would say. It's a tiny read and it just gets to the heart of what I was saying earlier, which is like, you would watch people use the product, use the experience and have a horrible time, and they would turn to you and say, I loved it. And this book will help you overcome that. And probably like, the TLDR from the book really is if you anchor everything to like, tell me about the specific place point in time that you tried to solve that thing. That will get you really, really far. Somebody says, oh, I really love this idea. This sounds fantastic.

Tyler Wanlass [00:47:11]:
And you're like, great. Tell me about the last time you did that thing. Or paid for that thing. And really quickly someone will say, oh, you know, actually, on second thought, I don't think I've actually ever paid for that. Or I think I've actually done that thing, like, red flag. Or they will say, last Wednesday. And you're like, oh, fantastic. Where were you last Wednesday? What time was this? Who were you with? What was happening? And you really get to root in those specific details.

Tyler Wanlass [00:47:31]:
So mom test is like, you should read that in like an hour, hour and a half maybe. If you're a slow reader and you're off the races, like, you've got, you're equipped with enough to have real conversations with people and find some good signal. Great.

Carol Guest [00:47:44]:
What about a favorite interview question or research method?

Tyler Wanlass [00:47:47]:
Yeah, well, I just alluded to this, like, favorite, like, research question. Really something like, when did you last do x? And it's usually a follow up question when somebody says, I'm asking about, like, tell me about the analytics tools that you use. And someone says, oh, yeah, I use them all the time. Like, great. What was the last one that you used? And like, oh, this one. Like, when did you use it? And then that really anchors it into a time place thing, et cetera. And you get some really good details and stuff from there. That's probably, like, the top one.

Tyler Wanlass [00:48:08]:
If you don't ask anything else. If you look at, like, the when question, that's fantastic. And the when is really illuminating, too, because you get things like, I was in an Uber on the way to x while I was doing this thing. You're like, oh, no, this. Maybe this needs to be a mobile app. I was even thinking about that. This isn't happening at the desk. This is happening in between activities or something.

Tyler Wanlass [00:48:24]:
So that's a really great foundational question. Yeah.

Erin May [00:48:29]:
Awesome. And into that point, people will extrapolate beyond what you ask, so you don't have to say when, where, and with whom were you? You just keep it simple.

Tyler Wanlass [00:48:36]:
They're pretty good.

Erin May [00:48:36]:
Yeah, yeah.

Tyler Wanlass [00:48:37]:
They're pretty good at telling you more details there.

Erin May [00:48:40]:
Awesome. Life motto. This is a new one. Thanks, Carol, for our life motto question.

Tyler Wanlass [00:48:45]:
I have this poster. It says, do great work, don't be a jerk work, which is just like, a very simple motto. It's just like, focus on the craft, focus on the work. Be nice to people. Put out way more value than you take in. And I think things will sort of work themselves out. And then as I was seeing, let's see, we have a family motto, which is like, make it happen. And that's the PG version of that.

Tyler Wanlass [00:49:05]:
But that's like telling our kids and our family, which is like, there's always a path. You might have to reframe what the outcome looks like. There's always a path. There's always a way to get there. And we just talked about this today, really, which was like, like, how do I do research? I don't have any customers. I don't know anybody. And I'm like, well, first go look at your competitor's website, try their product, read their support forum, and read about all the things that their customers hate about that product. Okay, there's ten minutes.

Tyler Wanlass [00:49:29]:
You now have a fantastic place to start. So there's always a way.

Erin May [00:49:32]:
Yeah, make it work.

Carol Guest [00:49:34]:
Yeah, it's episode title right there. Make it happen with Tyler.

Tyler Wanlass [00:49:37]:
Yeah, make it happen.

Carol Guest [00:49:39]:
Last question. Where can folks follow you? Find you online?

Tyler Wanlass [00:49:42]:
Yeah, I'm notoriously bad on social. You find me on LinkedIn, you will find me there. You will not find me on LinkedIn. You will find me there. My website twice. I do lots of stuff. I am really big into home renovations. I wrote a book about this total diy weirdo.

Tyler Wanlass [00:49:56]:
Also really into like traveling, hiking, outdoor nature stuff. But I also typically write about tech and design stuff there, too. So catch me there. Say hello.

Erin May [00:50:03]:
Awesome. Well, we'll include all that in the show notes for anyone who didn't catch it auditorially. And thank you so much, Tyler, for being here. This was a lot of fun. I think a lot of people will learn a lot of things.

Tyler Wanlass [00:50:14]:
Awesome. Thank you for having me.

Erin May [00:50:22]:
Thanks for listening to awkward silences brought to you by user interviews theme music by fragile gang hi there, awkward silences listener. Thanks for listening. If you like what you heard, we always appreciate a rating or review on your podcast app of choice.

Carol Guest [00:50:47]:
We'd also love to hear from you with feedback, guest topics or ideas so that we can improve your podcast listening experience. We're running a quick survey so you can share your thoughts on what you like about the show, which episodes you like best, which subjects you'd like to hear more about, which stuff you're sick of, and more just about you.

Erin May [00:51:03]:
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Episode Video

Creators and Guests

Carol Guest
Carol Guest
Senior Director of Product at User Interviews
Erin May
Erin May
Senior VP of Marketing & Growth at User Interviews
Tyler Wanlass
Tyler Wanlass
Lead Product Designer at CommandBar