Developing Products with Empathy

Our latest foray into developing products that people (hopefully) love. Gregoris explores the arduous process of leaning in with empathy when it comes to cultivating a meaningful relationship with early adopters.

Product development is a bitch. Anyone who tells you otherwise is straight up wrong. Since our inception, we’ve specialized in creating, building and selling B2B products, mainly via API. These API’s are mainly sold to large recruitment companies looking to up their game by adding ML/ AI prowess to their product. 

As with any B2B play, sales cycles are long and complex, and often leave out one important cohort: the end user.

The good old end user; often neglected but never forgotten; she votes with her dollar and her time. Her support is (obviously) crucial to the success of any enterprise (consumer-facing or otherwise). For as long as I could remember, the discipline of product management has focused on an external focus on the market and an internal focus on technology.

The old Steve Jobs mantra of “I know what the user wants even though she doesn’t” applies in rare, unique cases and is nearly impossible to use at scale. The startup game is lined with the corpses of companies that tried to build products in a vacuum, only too late to realize that their users didn’t like what they’ve built, and aren’t willing to pay for it.

In our latest foray into the world of consumer-facing products, we are doing things a bit differently. And for the sake of all things good, we are being transparent about the process, in hope to inspire a more empathy-centric approach to building things that people love (or in a more boring nomenclature: user-centric product development).

While it’s not too difficult to rally people around this general idea, it can be hard at first to understand how to translate it into tactics and principles. So in this article, I’ll walk through how we applied this approach to a particular product at Relink, and how that’s going so far.

"The old Steve Jobs mantra of “I know what the user wants even though she doesn’t” applies in rare, unique cases and is nearly impossible to use at scale."

Start with Lots of Ideas

In hearing feedback from selling Marlowe API, one of the biggest frustrations we heard from recruiters was that they couldn't get access directly and immediately.

(If you’re new here, hey! Marlowe analyzes and scores profiles for jobs you are sourcing/ hiring for in seconds)

For a recruiter to get access, their ATS had to become a partner of ours; a long and arduous process. So, as an experiment, we started brainstorming other ways we could get this API into the hands of recruiters around the world (boring nomenclature: new distribution channels).

Out of the tens of ideas we came up with, we narrowed it down to two. We knew we wanted to create a tool that helps recruiters become rockstars (more so than they already are) at sourcing and hiring. Out of the two ideas, we narrowed it down to creating a Chrome extension that basically pings Marlowe API and is able to score candidate profiles seamlessly without disrupting a recruiter's workflow.

Of course, this isn’t a completely novel idea (is any idea truly novel?)— hat tip to PeopleSearch and Hound created by the fine folks at Workable and Jobjet. PeopleSearch enables you to search for a name and gives social profiles / data. Hound has a similar usecase: helping recruiters discover email, phone numbers and social data of candidates they are sourcing.

Minimal Viable Product

With a solid and measurable goal in mind, we set off to create an MVP; hacking together an interface at first, then creating a simple backend process that efficiently and quickly pings our API and is able to score any profile against any job— an ambitious feat. 

Thankfully, our team is one of (humblebrag alert) rockstar developers and we created the MVP in no time. 

Did it work? Well, yeah. Sort of. As with any MVP, it took quite a few iterations to get it to work as intended. We spent hours trying to “break it” from a users’ perspective until we ran out of ideas and were ready to release it into the wild— a scary idea if there ever was one.

Alpha Testers

Thanks in part to our researcher colleague, we’ve developed quite a few relationships with recruiters in the HR Tech space and with a few messages, we got a handful (<100) of folks to be our alpha testers, and help develop our new product. We capped the group at 80 people to keep it small, intimate and meaningful (though if you want to test with us, feel free to sign up to the waitlist here).

We are now a few days in and the results are already interesting. Is the product perfect? Hardly. We are hearing feedback and iterating, then going back to the drawing board. 

"Did it work? Well, yeah. Sort of."

Bad Baseball metaphor

We’re in the first inning of a very long and exciting game. Thankful to the support so far from those that have signed up and excited to listen, listen and listen some more to what they have to say. Whatever happens next, you’ll be the first to know, via our blog, Twitter and Facebook.

Interested in a product briefing?

Get in touch and we will set up at customized introduction to our APIs and what you can do with them.

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