Unpacking ProductLed's journey from 0 to community

In this episode of CommunityHub Spotlight, we speak to Ramli - MD at ProductLed, and also an author of a recent top-selling book - Product-Led Onboarding. Watch the video and get to know more about how it all started, what did it take to get the community off the ground and how important onboarding is from a community perspective.
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Pramod Rao
June 28, 2021

Pramod: Thanks Ramli for taking the time. And just to give you a context, CommunityHub by Threado is an initiative where we're putting together resources and the best practices followed by community builders from various walks of life. And interviewing folks like you, so that other community builders can take the best practices and apply it to their communities.  So I know ProductLed has a large number of things going and community is a part of it. So maybe taking a step back would be great to know about you and just ProductLed in general.

Ramli: Sure. My name is Rami John managing director at ProductLed. I run several things there including a training program, the community, the YouTube channel. Recently wrote a book that became bestseller on Amazon called Product-Led Onboarding. Wes is the founder of this ProductLed growth. And yeah, community is such a big part of us. That's we call it one of our core competitive advantage for the very reason, that it's a way to just get in and ProductLed growth is still new. Like it's been only around for a year or two. The concept of it, but the idea of it's been around for a while. We can talk a little bit about that.

We have the biggest community on product-led growth. It's where people can get answers. The introduction channel is very active for me. That's one measure of health of a community.  When people introduce themselves, they actually get replies and from what I can see our community is healthy, but there's definitely ways that we can talk a little bit more about improving it as well.

Pramod: Sure. And maybe walk through before day zero or the earliest days, like what led you to believe that this community needed to exist?  

Ramli: Yeah, for sure. The community itself is driven by one question. What is product-led growth? There's so many misconceptions around it.

And Wes was the one who started this community around that idea, around how do you implement product-led growth? Who is involved? What's the organizational design of a group called and that kind of that problem, or that question is what ties everybody together. Like it's not just a community for product people.

We see people from customer success, from marketing, from operations join because to implement product-led growth is not the role of product, the product team. It's actually the role of the whole organization. We always say this, that it takes a village to raise a product-led business and it really is true.

So that's where this community came from. Is this desire to really know more and understand and know the details and share tips, ask questions, and connect with people because leading product-led in an organization can be lonely. Like some people just want to connect. They just want to network in that loneliness. Not necessarily just that loneliness, but the desire to know is what drives people to, to be part of the community.  

Pramod: I'm part of the slack group, which is today at like 7,000 plus members. But when you started out, how did you go about gathering people together around this concept? Walk us through the earliest days.

Ramli: For the earliest days is when people ask questions on Twitter, on Instagram, not Instagram, LinkedIn email it's in the book, product led growth. Hey, if you have a question about product led growth Wes and I myself, we were active here very early on a lot of the responses.

We were super active there. Somebody introduced themselves, we say, hi back, Hey, how are you doing? What are you looking for? Let me connect you to the resource. If people ask questions, we don't want to leave that open for an hour. We want to respond to that within five minutes. It's really important for them to feel like they're getting value out of the community.

Especially with the first hundred people in that community. If they don't feel like they're welcome, if they don't feel like their question is being answered, if they don't feel like they're getting value from that community, they are not gonna stick around. And what happens when it gets to past that? They start seeing the culture. Like they start, like, when I say culture, they start responding to questions. It's not Wes and I responding anymore. It's not Wes and I saying hello anymore. It's the community itself.

I love this definition by David Spinks. He wrote the book on the business of community. He really says that community is about a shared empowered growth, like you're empowering each other. So like the best way I think about community is, if Wes and I disappeared, if Wes and I had not acted there for a week, will people still will be responding? And that's really, when we got going.

Going back to answer, what did we do from day zero? Drive people there. If they have questions, first of all, second, respond to people right away. Introduce when they introduce themselves.  Number three is get people to introduce themselves and create this welcoming space. So people are comfortable to welcome themselves as if coming into a party.

Imagine like it's like a party, right? Somebody walks into a party. You want people to be comfortable enough to introduce themselves. What happens when somebody introduce themselves? If they feel ignored, are they going to stick around? More likely not. They're going to leave that party. So the same way, get people to introduce themselves, welcome them right away. Connect them to value.

Pramod: I really like the party analogy and it's all about creating that welcoming experience. And I think the ethos that you just mentioned that you followed early on still stays today. So I can see on the announcements channel, how you take the effort to highlight the new people who joined and also talk about these are the top questions asked, and who responded, right? Who were participating in the community. So at scale that it is today you mentioned those three things were important, but what really gets the community growing?  What else, like brings the community together to add value to each other?

Ramli: Yeah. This is something that I've been thinking a lot about. Actually, we're looking to get somebody to do this full time. And it's around how do we identify community leaders inside a space? I see community as culture. And when I keep going back to culture, what is culture?

What startup culture is about beer and pong or other things like that. Culture really is about what do we celebrate? What happens in this space? What is good behavior? What is like celebrated behavior? What is a behavior that we don't encourage? And it's identifying those leaders who are contributing, who are responding. They're doing it out of their desire to help maybe to try to build a personal brand. Really at this scale now, is it's a question of like, how do we identify those leaders to help us out? Because there will, there's a few questions in the ask a question channel in ProductLed growth, where it isn't responded to. There are also few introductions where there isn't a timely response, just because of the limitation of our team. The question now is how do we get people to help people inside the community? How do we celebrate that? How do we reward that? What the community success leader is going to really take charge of is celebrating a success within the community. And when people see it celebrated, they're going to follow in that footsteps. They're going to follow the same thing as us. What they're seeing celebrated.

Pramod: Yeah. And I read this somewhere. I think it was Eric from OnDeck. He tweeted that, decentralizing control or like ownership is the best way to scale the community. So totally finding the champions from the company and giving them the responsibility to run the community is the best way to scale.

So  would be interested to know more about some of the rituals that the community follows, on a weekly basis or daily, or what really defines the community, how do they come together?

Ramli: Yeah. I can talk to you about a new community member flow.

Ideally the first step when somebody joins we want them we encourage them. And this is something that we've been thinking a lot with that role is how do you get more people to introduce themselves? Going back to the party analogy? For us, success would be somebody who comes into the party and introduce themselves.

Cause there will be lurkers. There will be people on the side and the reason why most people lurk. And this is maybe for me is I don't feel secure enough. I don't feel comfortable enough to introduce myself. How do you create that space? Where it's Hey, we are going to welcome you to it. That's the first mechanics.

The second mechanics is now plugging them into the different channels. Like why did you come here? Are you trying to learn more? There's #ask-a-question. There's some resources here. Are you trying to connect? Maybe there are some networking things here. Are you trying to maybe learn more? And here are some free courses that we have. It's really driving home the point, like on a weekly basis, like what you're talking about weekly mechanics, it starting off right from the beginning. What does success look like for you? Because when people join a community, it's many different types of reasons.

Some people want to learn. Some people want to ask, some people want to network. And trying to understand that and delivering a community experience tailored for your needs, particularly for the reason why you joined is really the key here. And on a weekly basis, now, ideally, we'd want to check: hey, did you find value this week? Did you ask a question? You got it answered or did you get a chance to connect with somebody who you might not have without this community? So really that's that would be something that I would want to see going forward on a weekly basis, for the members is to see them succeed, like really, to empower them and get them to achieve what they're specifically looking for.

Pramod: There's a slack group and then you hold events and there's the newsletter as well. Do the events happen on a regular basis?

Ramli: For sure. I see the events as a way to get gather the community in one space. With Slack, it's asynchronous. People can reply back anytime, they're all over the world. And I start seeing people the same folks show up on the live Q and A's where we host few experts. In terms of  consistency of events, that's something that we're also working on. Ideally, you'd want like a consistent event calendar. It could be a weekly biweekly so that people know what to expect. We tried out networking events, just once again, something that person we're looking to hire would help us with.

Bi-weekly monthly, whatever it is that getting people together to, just to just hang out online or at some point would be to do it in person. When all this stuff is done, I, it could be local chapters. In different places where the that's in London or Toronto or wherever it is, that's something that we're, once again, identifying those community leaders is going to be critical to help us host those in-person meetups.

Pramod: So what's your tech stack for this community? Like you have Slack, but what else goes behind tying all of this together. Maybe walk us through the tools that you use to get the community going.

Ramli: Yes. That's what we're a little skip on. I mean that, once again, I keep saying that we're looking to get on this person. We have Slack.  We've tried a few apps that would introduce people to others, but it didn't work out so well. In terms of the events we use Zoom and then Luma is our tech stack for creating landing pages and it creates it quickly without having to code anything and it's built specifically for events. It's very useful in getting feedback and stuff. Some of this stuff that we're looking at plugging in is something, and this is not my field anymore.  The person we're talking to is called Orbit Love. Like it's just a tool that allows you to see the metrics of the engagement and health of the community.  We are just plugging into slack and all the metrics we get is from the slack analytics , where they were showing the number of people who responded the number of people who post per week. They have an active user metric.  That's our tech stack, very simple and lean.

Pramod: Got it and would love to know some of the outcomes that the community has brought about, like any stories that come to mind on how community members have benefited or they were able to land a job or get better at that role.

Ramli: Yeah, for sure. I mean that you just said it, there was one person who just Slacked me. A few weeks ago it was like, Ramli, I just got a job and you wouldn't guess where. I got it from this community! Like I connected with them. They posted a job. We chatted on Slack, jumped on an interview, a week later I got the job. And it was for a Senior Product Role for this company. And I was like, wow! I took that screenshot, shared it to Wes, and the rest of the ProductLed team like this is cool. This is going back to the David Spinks definition of community, it's about shared communal empowerment of people. And it just happened for them. They get what's out. Like it wasn't us trying to be in the middle. It's now like people connecting with each other without us being there specifically. And that got us super, super excited. And now we're looking at wait, is there a way to, to really connect people better through this community here?

Pramod: Yeah. And it's always great to see such outcome happened on its own, as the community scales. I think that also gets more people coming to the community too. That is a bit more about what's next for ProductLed community for the coming year, what are some of the highlights?  

Ramli: Like I mentioned, keep going back to this role that we are hiring. The ProductLed community has grown organically, like without us, like being there. And, the next part, if I had to put it in one word would be intentionality. How can we be more intentional about connecting people? How could we be more intentional about onboarding new community members so that they know, where to find value and resources right away. How can we be more intentional about getting people to introduce themselves, to feel welcomed, to feel like they are supported and that they're not going to be made fun of when they introduce himself in that space, how can we be intentional about connecting at networking events and even that, like we have networks, we have community inside of community.

What most people see as our Slack community. We actually have other communities within that. We have a student community. Those are the ones that participate in our program. We have an alumni community. Those are the people who have passed our certification programs. We're thinking about a leader community. Those are for people who are most active within. How do we reward those? So those are some things.

Community is one of our core competitive advantages. And it is what differentiates us from OpenView. From other Product-Led growth and training programs.  I can probably say that we have one of the biggest and thriving Product-Led growth communities and it just happened. It just happened actually, because of curiosity.

We are just at the brink of I feel like product led growth in itself as a topic is still in very early stages.  In a few years, it's going to be like everybody's product led consulting. And this space, at this time, we'd like to really establish ourselves as not just the largest, but the most valuable product led growth community in the world.

Pramod: Nice. I think, and the way you've grown organically, that's the best form of growth. Get to see that happen as well. For new community builders, or even if you had to go back in time and, speak to your younger self on what would be the advice that you would give for someone starting out, building a community? What should they really focus on?  

Ramli: Talk to your community members, please. It's still important, not just talk to them over the platform you have. Jump on a Zoom. Really they're very early stage. A community is a path to a solution for people. It's a path to, to a need, to a desire. And for us for people who are starting out, really understand what that problem is. Really understand what it is that they're really looking for, because now that you can start thinking about community events or resources or other things, even before you think about platform that's one thing that I see over and over again, usually when somebody asks me, Hey I want to build a community.

What platform should I use, Ramli? It's no, I've even here heard Christina from content UK who built the community. She did it in person first over in a bar. Like it really just get to know your people, quote unquote, your people, the people who you're going to serve. And naturally when they get value, they'll invite others.

And then when people ask you, Hey, do you know about X, Y, and Z? Yeah. I have a community for that. Here it is. That's just one advice I would say. It's really tough for me because I'm an, I'm naturally an introvert. So I don't usually like I don't I usually don't like talking. I usually don't like talking to strangers.

You're not a stranger now. That's why I'm quite talkative. But yes, like that's fight that tendency to shut down and build this ProductLed. Like this, without talking to users really talk to them, understand their core problems and serve them would be the best way to build and scale a community.

Pramod: Awesome. Yeah. And, it's not so much about the platform, it's about going where the users are that really matters. And like you said, community can be formed even by just talking to few people and getting them together. Thanks for that. And yeah. So before jumping off, I know that you recently launched a book. So maybe talk about what the book is about and yeah, like over to you to just, give an overview of what's there in the book, by the way, I just bought that before the call. So looking forward to reading it.

Ramli: Thank you. I appreciate it. The book is all about how to help users become lifelong customers.

So the idea around onboarding is to help people see the value of your product. And not just see the value, but build habits with your product, and that's the path to retention and revenue and referral all the stuff that's bottom of the funnel for the pirate metric style, acquisition, activation revenue referral,  and retention of this framework.

Somebody asked me once, can you apply this to communities? I do. It can be applied. How do you build a great first experience for community members. Cause if you build that leads to retention. And if you have a paid community or paid products down the funnel it leads to revenue and of course, at least a referral.

So that first experience, the first impression is super critical. And that's where product led onboarding the book that I've written with Wes Bush it really nails like we, we have the six step process to guide people, to creating this amazing first experiences with new users so that they really do become lifelong customers.

You can, people can check it out on Amazon everywhere. You can obviously go to onboarding book.com that would direct them to the landing page, which will get them to the right links to get to the book.

Pramod: Great. And yeah, looking forward to reading it over the weekend. And thanks a lot Ramli. This is great getting to know about how ProductLed started out and how it's scaled and what really gets the community together.

Thanks again for taking the time. Really enjoyed the conversation and wishing you and ProductLed all the best for what's coming up.

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