Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.
Team Rapid Moon got the brilliant chance to interview Natasha Postolovski, brand owner at envato. Natasha is changing the world with creativity, design and code. We are inspired after what we heard from Natasha. The next 5 minutes of your time are worthy of this post.
The amazing Natasha Postolovski
RM: From a Bachelor of Arts (Media & Comm) to a Sr. Product Manager and now Owning the entire brand at envato, your experience is incredible. How should product startups look at the brand from a holistic perspective? (There is already enough pressure in building the right product)
NP: A strong brand gives a boost to every area of your business: hiring, sales, marketing, public relations, getting press, customer loyalty, conversions… and more. And, in the digital world, customers rarely have a tangible product they can touch, a store they can enter, packaging they can unwrap. The nature of branding becomes much more complex and ephemeral in the world of online products.
When resources are tight, a digital product company looking to build the strongest possible brand should focus on three things: great design, the right tone, and excellent content. Customers use design as a way to make inferences about all aspects of the product.
This makes sense: how else can customers interact with a digital product, other than through its designed UI?
The right tone used in the product copy, social media, and in internal and external communications can be used to build the kind of brand you want. Are you quirky and fun, like Snapchat? Smart and funny, likeMailChimp? Or are you clear and impactful, like Square?
And lastly, creating great content, whether it’s written blog posts, freebies, tools or videos, tells the world what your company cares about. If your content is high-quality, people will assume the same of your products.
RM: You have seen products evolve. Pivots at many stages. How should
businesses communicate about the upcoming major-overhauls to the product, to existing users?
NP: Early, often, and honestly. With any pivot there will be some predictable concerns from existing customers. What happened to my favorite feature? Will I still be able to use your product for X use case?
You will often see companies publish hype-filled comms about a pivot that glaze over obvious customer concerns. This really serves to infuriate existing customers. It’s always best to openly and honestly address these concerns in your comms.
The truth is, sometimes pivots do disadvantage groups of existing customers.
They lose a feature they loved, or the product no longer suits their needs as well as it once did. Acknowledging this in your comms, even if there’s no fix, can make a huge difference. It shows empathy for your existing customers.
The awesome envato office
RM: When you oversee products, do you advocate rapid prototyping with a responsive design and collecting user feedback OR do you suggest a product should be taken to users only when it has multiple features built in?
NP: This has changed throughout my career. In my early days as a Product Manager, before Lean thinking had spread to all corners of the tech industry, part of my job was often developing long spec documents. The success of the project was judged by how many of those features we could fit into the initial launch version. How times have changed!
In my most recent project, working with the team to build Envato Studio
, we launched an MVP called ‘Graphiclancer’. The concept for Envato Studio was a marketplace for freelance services. Graphiclancer was designed to test whether people would buy freelance services in this way.
We had two designers on our team and we posted their services on a simple WordPress website and promoted it a little bit. We used ZenDesk to manage the jobs and PayPal for payments. The whole thing was really duct-taped together. And when people purchased services our own designers would fulfill them, posing as freelancers.
We learned a huge amount from this prototype, which took 2 weeks to build. We learned what kinds of features we’d need in order to facilitate jobs, what kind of limits we had to put on what customers could ask for, how to market these services, and what kinds of issues we might run into. Most importantly, we learned that there was a demand for this kind of product.
At this stage in my career, I don’t think I’d want to develop a new product without building and testing a prototype first. It’s one of the highest ROI activities any product team can work on together.
The envato studio
RM: You work with a lot of creative people at envato. Especially
designers. Are you seeing more designers follow the Lean Design
methodology? Do you think its worthwhile for designers to leverage
technology (Rapid Moon and similar tools) and add more value to their
NP: I think Lean methodologies are becoming very widely adopted among designers and developers. The days when a design team would create a UI for an entire product, then hand it down to developers to build out without having any say, are coming to an end.
In my experience, designers and developers love the Lean workflow of developing products together, with design and development happening concurrently in response to user feedback. Better yet, everyone on the team feels like they’ve been able to influence how the product evolves (and the product is usually better for it). Tools that make this way of working easier, like rapid prototyping apps, are steadily growing in popularity.
RM: What goes on in your mind when you brainstorm with your team to
develop the future at envato? Is there an innovation methodology that you
follow? How often are your customers part of the brainstorming sessions?
NP: One of the most impactful changes at Envato has been thinking of the company as a product, and applying Product Management methodologies to the company as a whole.
In my new role as Brand Manager, I’d like to bring this same approach to the Envato brand: brand as product.
This doesn’t mean that the brand becomes something you sell, but rather, that you approach brand development as you would product development.
One recent example is an idea we had of featuring some of the products we use in video case studies. We’re lucky enough to have a very talented videographer at Envato, and video is incredible for brand building because it’s the next best thing to actually being in the office, speaking to someone at the company.
We thought that if we could make beautiful videos showing how we use certain products at Envato, that the owners of those products would be delighted to share the video with their audience, which would in turn give us further reach.
In the past we might have immediately organized to make 10 of these videos, but Lean is so ingrained in us that we immediately think: how can we test this idea? Let’s start with one video, measure the response, and if it’s successful, let’s make another one and measure the response, and so on. Customer response is what drives investment in brand building. We’re always listening to customers, whether it’s through @ replies on social, blog comments, support tickets, industry publications, or meeting them in person.
RM: Working with one of Australia’s most successful startups, in the midst of so much action, what passions do you enjoy that help you take a break, close your eyes and fly? (music, arts, travel)
NP: I’m really enjoying programming at the moment. I’ve worked with Rails developers for most of my career and always thought: I want to be able to do that! I moved to Chicago for 3 months in the beginning of 2013 to study Web Development at The Starter League
. It was an amazing experience and the puzzle pieces finally fit together: I could build an app. It took a while, but I’ve finally started writing automated tests for my code, and in some cases writing tests first. It’s given me a new level of confidence that has made programming much more productive and enjoyable.
Outside of all the geeky stuff, I really love reading, movies, great TV shows (True Detective is a recent favorite), and getting outdoors when I can.
When the Rapid Moon team read this post, everyone cheered, almost as if this was about them. We relate to almost everything that Natasha has said, being a startup ourselves, with a mission to make the world a better place by enabling designers and agencies with amazing technology!
Featured image credit: https://fbcdn-sphotos-a-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-xfp1/t1.0-9/1506054_10152317693556209_1784621559_n.jpg