Why do developers and product managers skimp on profile management?

Now that OtherInBox is pissing off its users for the second time in three years, I’m going through the less-than-fun exercise of switching a couple hundred logins and subscriptions to new email addresses.

This has not been fun, not least because of the rote and manual nature of the updates. But it’s been made considerably worse by the half-assed approach many of these sites and subscription management platforms take to the basic task of updating user/profile/account data.

Here are a couple examples; neither site has a front-end interface to update the email address on file for either login purposes or notifications:

Site one

I’ve looked all over the site and left two chat thing on the Olark widget but no one’s responded to my question: how do I change the email address on file/login from [email] to [new email]?

we have to change it from our end is because if you’re currently logged into the site, then it causes a system crash if you change your login while you’re logged in!

Site two

Thanks for your email.

If you would like to change your email address you need to do the following:
1. Open a new account with the email address you want to use
2. Send us an email with both email addresses stating clearly which one you want to keep

Once we have the information, we will merge your accounts so that all the information is saved and the email address is changed.

Then there are the sites – more than two dozen, at last count – that decouple their obligatory marketing lists from their platforms. Meaning that an update or unsubscribe action entered on your profile isn’t synced with their email marketing platform of choice.

A word to all of you using “SafeUnsubscribe” from Constant Contact – stop. This is weaksauce:

Screenshot 2014-07-06 18.37.13

And Mailchimp folks, you might want to hide those segments/groups you’re using:

Screenshot 2014-07-06 18.44.46


The specialest of shouts to the many, many sites and lists that have neither a user-accessible way to either unsubscribe or update profile emails or any way of getting in touch with a human. That’s a “report for spam”, with extreme prejudice, for you.


[I’m Reading] The Community Manager’s Checklist for a Smooth Product Launch

This list of community manager responsibilities for a product launch overlaps considerably with what a strong product marketing manager would do in tandem with support from comms, customer relations, and analytics – which reflects that it was written by someone working at a startup in a resource-constrained environment.

None of which detracts from the utility of the list itself, summarized below:

  • Update your art and messaging on all social media platforms
  • Publish a comprehensive blog post with all the information that your users, journalists and
  • other interested parties need
  • Respond to any and all Tweets, comments or emails in *real time*
  • Embed yourself in all areas of your company so you are functionally able to answer any and all questions
    Report back to your team

‘Every little bit of friction is another subscriber lost’

One of the newish marketing buzzwords is “social proof”, which describes the phenomenon – amplified by social media channels – of your customers and audience acting as your evangelists (or naysayers) and thereby affecting the purchasing decisions of their circles of influence.

My twin focus on “reducing friction” and “creating delight” reflects in part the reality that communities are about how people feel – and the truth is that people are much more likely to tell everyone about negative or frustrating experiences than they are likely to share merely good ones. So to really get people talking about you, you have to deliver consistently awesome experiences.

Because when you don’t, people will complain. And rightly.

And once you absorb the criticism and overlook the WWIC-refrain of “how hard can it be?!” (standard operating procedure), you are struck by the obviousness of these suggestions. You may know that these are on our roadmap, on the backlog, being discussed (and that despite the obviousness, they’re actually non-trivial to do well). But if you do know that it’s likely because you’ve been in these discussions, or are one of the product managers working on these types of projects. Our external audiences, our communities, our potential evangelists and frequent critics – they have no idea. Either of the fact that we’re working on these things, or that they’re not easy to do.

It might seem unfair, this criticism – and we are fortunate that this particular disgruntled customer went for the rant-via-direct-email than full-on-Twitter-takedown. But what’s telling is that he took the time to write this email, to make those suggestions. You complain when you are disappointed, when you expected better, when you feel that the other party should have done better. But you only take the time to make suggestions, to give feedback, when you actually care.

We don’t know how many people we’ve lost through friction like this, because few are them are motivated enough to be explicit about their reasons.

But the ones who care enough to tell us – we can win them back. The next level us is to deserve them.

The Product is the Byproduct

There’s a blog post in my brain about the difference between your company and your product, and this tremendous deck by Zach Holman articulates a lot of what I’ve been thinking:

“A great product [is] the byproduct of the environment you build at your company. This environment may actually be harder to build than the product itself, but you’ll be left with a better everything by the end of it.”

Extra nerd points for the production footnote, Zach.