Plato Elevate Winter Summit has been announced (Dec 7th-8th)

🔥

Back to resources

How to Deliver Value in the Three-Sided Marketplace

Managing Expectations
Product
Stakeholders

28 May, 2021

John McMahon
John McMahon

Senior Director of Product at Giving Assistant

John McMahon, a former Senior Director of Product at Giving Assistant, speaks of his efforts to deliver value in the three-sided marketplace by developing a profound understanding of shoppers, brands, and nonprofits and their unique mindset, motivation, and pain points.

Problem

I joined my previous company as a senior product manager but was soon promoted -- after one of the co-founders left -- to the Director of Product. The company was a three-sided marketplace that allowed online shoppers to save at their favorite brands and donate some, or all, of those savings to nonprofits of their choice.

When I joined the company, I was entirely focused on one side of the business -- shoppers. As I transitioned to my new role, I realized that I didn’t know nearly enough about the needs of brands and nonprofits. However, in my role of a Director of Product, I had to work with all three stakeholders, stakeholders whose motivation and concerns I was unfamiliar with.

Actions taken

I started to develop relationships with people on my team and started to collect bits and pieces on the needs of brands and nonprofits. I also spoke directly with brands and nonprofits and attended sales calls with both.

Sales calls were just a way for me to be an active participant. The VP of Business Development would lead those calls, and I would sit in to get a sense of what was valuable to brands and nonprofits. I would be able to ask them questions on their pain points and learn more about the expectations they had for our product. It wasn’t a deep dive because I didn’t want to divert the focus from closing a deal or upselling a current brand. But, it certainly was a way for me to get a bit closer to stakeholders I didn’t know much about.

I also coordinated interviews with brands and nonprofits to get a better sense of their mindset, motivation, and pain points. Unlike sales calls, interviews were far more structured and insightful. I was able to put together an interview script and ask specific questions. I would focus on a specific problem and would drill further until I would get a comprehensive understanding of the problem. If it would be helpful, I would also share during the interviews prototypes that were designed to solve the problem.

The next thing I did was to work with my direct reports to make sure that they were clear on the problems faced by brands and nonprofits. We would take that information to define our OKRs. When paired up with the company goals, this information was a baseline for a definition of OKRs. All my direct reports, whether product manager or senior product managers, would be involved in the process of defining OKRs. They would take that back to their team, which would then execute their assignments with full understanding.

We learned that brands cared most about acquiring new shoppers and getting more gross merchandise value. In the end, we were able to drive 30 percent more shoppers to brands and 40 percent more sales to brands. We were also able to drive more donation dollars to nonprofits by simplifying the process of getting shoppers to donate to them. We also saw an increase and repeat donation, which speaks to the retention of a specific cohort that we facilitated. Shoppers were excited about our product and the ability to do their regular shopping while also supporting nonprofits. In my second year in the role, we managed to increase the donation rate almost six times. Over the lifetime of the business, that allowed us to drive more than 5 million dollars of donations to nonprofits.

Lessons learned

  • When I came to the company, many processes were broken, and many things were more complicated than they needed to be. I initiated a user research program that allowed us to better understand brands and nonprofits, but I also helped introduce OKRs, cross-functional teams, etc. All of that contributed to the stellar outcome we achieved.
  • Whatever you are delivering to users, you need to learn about them well first and understand their mindset, motivation, and pain points. You can use product analytics to understand what they are doing, but that doesn’t explain the Why piece. This is where user research plays a part. Running interviews on a specific problem or conducting widely casted surveys helped significantly, and paired up with product analytics made the critical difference.
  • Talk to users at least on a weekly basis. Put in place user research, and if your resources are scarce, start small and seek to expand. You should know that nothing can replace firsthand feedback received from users.

Discover Plato

Scale your coaching effort for your engineering and product teams
Develop yourself to become a stronger engineering / product leader


Related stories

Why Overloading Product Teams Never Work

23 November

Adi Purwanto Sujarwadi, VP of Product at Evermos, shares how he identified the symptoms of his overworked product team and worked towards defining conflicting priorities.

Managing Expectations
Product Team
Deadlines
Stakeholders
Adi Purwanto Sujarwadi

Adi Purwanto Sujarwadi

VP of Product at Evermos

How to Pivot a Product Idea at the Right Time

23 November

Adi Purwanto Sujarwadi, VP of Product at Evermos, shares how he diligently managed a product in one of the biggest eCommerce companies by being an individual contributor.

Innovation / Experiment
Product Team
Product
Embracing Failures
Adi Purwanto Sujarwadi

Adi Purwanto Sujarwadi

VP of Product at Evermos

The art of managing up

19 November

James Engelbert, Head of Product at BT, shares how managing up is all about being an excellent manager to bring the best out of a team.

Mission / Vision / Charter
Managing Up
Internal Communication
Strategy
Stakeholders
Cross-Functional Collaboration
James Engelbert

James Engelbert

Head of Product at BT

Overcoming imposter syndrome through focusing on your strengths

19 November

James Engelbert, Head of Product at BT, recalls when he had to battle imposter syndrome when managing a new team.

Product Team
Product
Health / Stress / Burn-Out
James Engelbert

James Engelbert

Head of Product at BT

How to Build Rapport With an Introverted Manager

17 November

Piyush Dubey, Senior Software Engineer at Microsoft, shares his journey of climbing up the career ladder through awkward times dealing with an introverted manager.

Managing Expectations
Internal Communication
Collaboration
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Juniors
Piyush Dubey

Piyush Dubey

Senior Software Engineer at Microsoft

You're a great engineer.
Become a great engineering leader.

Plato (platohq.com) is the world's biggest mentorship platform for engineering managers & product managers. We've curated a community of mentors who are the tech industry's best engineering & product leaders from companies like Facebook, Lyft, Slack, Airbnb, Gusto, and more.