The Patrick Campbell Hypothesis: Effective Data-Informed Decisions Focus on the Question

Patrick Campbell founded Price Intelligently, which evolved into ProfitWell, which uses data to help subscription companies make smart monetization and retention decisions. What started out as a software company lead to a broader business, but there were certainly some false starts along the way. This week on the Product Science Podcast, we talk to Patrick to learn about his path as a startup founder, how he keeps his organization focused on the big picture, and how he works with his product leader to make smart decisions.

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Questions We Explore in This Episode

The Patrick Campbell Hypothesis: Effective Data-Informed Decisions Focus on the Question

How did ProfitWell (originally Price Intelligently) get started? What problems did they run into as a pure software company, and how did they pivot to address them? How did learning how to say to no help them grow? What are the challenges of being a company that provides a service?

How do you know when it’s time to fire a customer? How do you identify when there’s something you’re not going to be able to change?

How can you as a startup founder keep your team focused on the big picture instead of falling into the routine of short-term movement? What are the problems of maintaining alignment in a multi-product company? How do you make smart hiring decisions as a bootstrapper when your startup is beginning to grow?

How does Patrick work with his product leader to make key business decisions? What do they do when they disagree (which is often)? How does that process incorporate design and UX? How does data drive product decisions at ProfitWell? How can that data help an organization move faster?

What misconceptions do organizations have about data? How do you design experiments to answer a new research question and effectively collect data for it? How do you know if you’re asking the right questions? How do you have the honest conversations you need to make decisions based on that data?

Quotes From the Episode

“You're in this weird loop where we're all moving because we're like, ‘Of course we need to move,’ and then we assume that everyone's moving in the same direction. In reality, everyone's moving everywhere.” - Patrick Campbell Click To Tweet “Data is very central to the gravity of the decision. I'm not going to collect a bunch of data to test ad copy, but if I'm making a $10 million product decision, but I'm probably going to collect a lot of data.” - Patrick Campbell Click To Tweet “There's not only the actual physical cost of whoever's doing the thing, but there's also the cost of all the other stuff that you could have built with that cash.” - Patrick Campbell Click To Tweet “The first thing is understanding what your research question is.” - Patrick Campbell Click To Tweet

Transcription

Holly: Hi and welcome to the Product Science podcast where we’re helping startup founders and products leaders build high growth products, teams and companies through real conversations with the people who have tried it and aren’t afraid to share lessons learned from their failures along the way. I’m your host, Holly Hester-Reilly, founder and CEO of H2R Product Science.

This week on the Product Science Podcast, I have a conversation with Patrick Campbell, founder of PriceIntelligently, the company that puts out ProfitWell. Listen on for our conversation about bootstrapping a startup, making hard decisions, and figuring out how much data you need to drive the good decisions.

Patrick, I’m super excited to have you on today. I’ve been following you. I think, I came across you maybe last year when I was listening to some podcasts from the Microcomp community, which I haven’t been a part of but I feel like a listener, an eavesdropper.
Patrick C.: It’s a great community. I recommend you going sometime. It’s one of those things where you’re just like, “Ah, I’m not really sure what I’m going to get into.” It’s just one of the most supportive communities I’ve ever been even tangentially a part of.
Holly: That’s fantastic to hear. Yeah. I came across you and I saw what you’re doing, and I said, “This is some really great stuff, and I wanted to hear more about it.” Maybe to begin, I’d love to hear a little bit about your origin story. What did you start off doing and how did you end up where you are today?
Patrick C.: My origin story, interesting. It’s not fancy, but I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin, one of those classic has more cows than people type towns. That was interesting. I come from pretty blue collar parents. My mom, she worked on an assembly line and then worked her way up to being an administrative assistant and then worked her way up to running a trade show marketing for a small electric motor company in Wisconsin. My dad was a sheet metal worker, built basically steel and tin roofs for skyscrapers and things like that in Milwaukee, and then went back to school and became an HVAC engineer, and so it’s, I would argue, a very industrious family, always gardening and weekends, we wouldn’t go on vacation.
I mean, we did go on vacation, but we would more often than not do work, do projects, “Hey, we want to build this, or hey, we want to convert the basement,” that kind of stuff. This is me rationalizing and projecting a bit, I think that’s where I picked up some of these traits. Then to fast forward a little bit, I wanted to be a doctor, which is the standard blue collar then become a professional the next generation and stuff like that. I ended up not really loving … It wasn’t blood. It was just the concept of being inside a human body was just a little intense for me.
Holly: I hear that.
Patrick C.: Then I thought I was going to save the world, and I was going to go to DC, and so when I got to college, I went to school in Illinois and studied econometrics and math and thought I was going to basically help change the government and got a little disenchanted by working in DC for a bit. Then did a bunch of internships in DC, ended up there working for the intelligence community a little bit and then ended up going to work at Google in Boston, and that’s what led me to Boston. I’ve been here about a decade. I was at Google just for about a year and a half and then jumped out and joined the startup community here and worked at Boston based Gemvara, which was a Blue Nile competitor.
It was customizable jewelry. That’s where I first started working on pricing, and that led to the gateway of starting price intelligently, which is now ProfitWell.
Holly: Oh, fantastic. I really like the story. There’s some things in there that actually hit home for me. I also, shortly out of school, worked for the government for a little while.
Patrick C.: Cool.
Holly: It was very disenchanted. I used to have this picture on my desk about the long game and just trying to remind myself how to be patient for the slow change, but ultimately, I spent a little bit of time doing that at the same time as going out in the evening to community events in the New York City Tech Scene, and I said, “Well, why wait for the long game?” I just jumped on the fast train.
Patrick C.: No, totally. Well, that was my thing. I was just so disenchanted with how slow things were. I don’t know. I think given some context now going back, I think I would be better to manage that, but when I was a punk, for a 20-year-old kid with his first job and trying to take over the world, it just wasn’t fast enough. That was a lot of young arrogance but …
Holly: I totally get that. For me, it was also what do I want my days to be like? Like, can I enjoy my life with this pace, because I need the challenge? I need the things that keep me entertained.
Patrick C.: That’s super tough too.
Holly: It is, so, so many props to everybody who actually fights that fight, because I’m so grateful that people are doing it. Tell me a little more about getting Price Intelligently started. I recall having come across … I think you started with some productized consulting. Tell me more about that and how that grew into ProfitWell.
Patrick C.: It’s kind of funny. We actually started off as a pure software company, and so for me, it was … This is a common theme. I was young gibberish. I was working at a company. I was disenchanted with the culture, learned a lot about what not to do. I think it was just I understand why the culture was that way. It wasn’t anything that was nefarious, but for me, it turned into, “Okay, if I’m going to take a chance, I might as well take a chance now because I can screw up a couple of times before it’s really bad for my life,” and so I jumped out and we started off. It was just me full time, and had a couple of part-time co-founders, which was not great.
It wasn’t their fault. It’s just it’s a really bad situation to be in, but we had a pure software product. This software product, it basically took in data and then spit out after going through some algorithms that we developed some price elasticity and some relative preference data and things like that. This was the base of understanding pricing, and so the problem is that there was a hard, hard, hard educational curve to someone understanding how to fix their pricing, because one, a lot of people think it’s like, “Oh, it’s just like a onetime thing and then you move on.”
In actuality, there’s a lot of monetization gold in those hills. A lot of people think, “Okay, I’m going to be able to understand this and I’m going to be confident,” and in actuality, they’re not really confident when they get the data to make decisions. We had a lot of these product problems with just a pure software product, and so what we did is we pivoted, and we started … I don’t know if it’s an actual pivot, but we moved a little bit. We bobbed and weaved however you want define it.
Added in a service element to it, where we said, “Okay, you can’t buy the software product anymore. The only thing you can do is you can buy us and you get the software. But you also can’t buy us without the software.” It wasn’t as if we would come in and just like, “Hey, like, you want X, Y, Z, and we’ll just randomly do XYZ for you.” Instead, it was like, “Hey, this is what we do. If you’re okay with what we do, then that’s awesome. If not, then we’re not like the best, you know, product or solution for you.” That worked out really, really well, and I think that there’s still a lot of bumps and bruises.
It’s not a home run yet. The problem with having something that has a service element to it is that we have some customers who are amazingly happy. They’re our biggest fans. They’re our biggest advocates. We have a lot of people who they’re advocates, and they’re great, but then we have some bugs, and we have some folks that probably weren’t really that great of a fit. We’ve learned to say no to those people very early on. Then we have some folks that they just weren’t a good fit in general from a culture standpoint, and we weren’t able to really know that until we got into it, and so we’ve had to learn to fire customers and things like that.
That’s the problem that you run into with having any element of service to your product is that when you start to add people, it starts to make things complicated for better and for worse. It’s just something to think about in terms of the long game. A couple of years in, we were trying to figure out what was going to be the lighter products because we were looking for something that could democratize what we were trying to do across a wider base. That was the origin story of ProfitWell, where we started thinking about, “All right, this is what we want to do. This is where we want to focus. This is what’s gonna help us feed with data,” and crank from there.
Long story short, there’s a lot to get into with ProfitWell and how that came to be and all that kind of fun stuff, but that’s the straight up origin.
Holly: That’s awesome. I think that’s really interesting. I work with a lot of people who are at data driven products companies. I guess I should qualify. What I mean by that is the actual product is a data related product as opposed to a company where the products uses data to make the decisions. They often come across this challenge of you have some really smart, experienced people who have been in the position of using data to say, “Let me democratize this. Let me build a tool. Let me make it accessible because wouldn’t the world all want to have access to this data?”
That’s an awesome step, but the thing is that most of the world doesn’t know what to do with the data and then getting them to understand why that’s powerful and how it drives them to their outcomes. I feel like that’s a really hard part that comes after that. I find it fascinating to hear how you’ve attacked that and how you went through some stages and even got to a point where you could say you might need to fire a customer. Do you have any specific stories you can share? I’m super curious how that went down.
Patrick C.: It’s a terrible experience because you’re sitting there and you’re like, “All right, this person physically represents this much money.” I feel like we’ve all read stories about like, “Oh, there’s that $50 customer who won’t stop hammering our support, and we just don’t want to deal with them anymore,” but with us, it’s like, “Oh, this is $100,000 plus customer,” and that money is very, very real and they’re just not a really good fit, and so I think for us, we had to get in the position where we’ve learned that that was okay. I’ll be frank with you. I think that we’re still not 100% of this. We’re still getting a lot better at it, but I think that in a lot of cases we ended up moving into a position where we can identify what’s good, what’s bad.
We’ve had a couple of customers where, for one that I can remember distinctly and I feel like I can share the whole story, we got brought in really early by a champion, and the champion basically was the head of, I believe, products or the head of marketing, so one of those particular orgs, an important org within the organization. They were a C level executive. We thought everything was great. We were ready to go. What ended up happening is they signed the contract. Everything was awesome. High fives all around. Everything was going to be awesome.
The problem was is that as we got into the deal, pricing is something that is felt and is something that’s important to everyone in the company. We’ve known this for a long time, but given the size of the organization, we weren’t thinking, “Oh, the CEO wasn’t involved.” We weren’t thinking, “Oh, this person didn’t confer with anyone,” and we found out that that was actually the case, and so when we get into our kickoff and all this other stuff where we’re going to start collecting data and all these things, all of a sudden, the CEO is basically what I’d like to call a Darth Vader.
He is like, “Nothing’s okay. Nothing is good.” He knows better than everyone. It doesn’t matter what data you put in front of him, it’s terrible, and so we work really hard to convert those types of people and we’re really successful at like, “Okay cool. Like, this was a stutter step, and now we get everyone involved before we even sign a contract just to make sure we don’t run into this,” but in this particular situation, it was everything. I got involved, and I’m normally not involved in the front line anymore. It was one of those things where it was just like this was someone who … Later, he actually came back to us a year and a half later and just deeply apologized.
He was going through a bunch of personal stuff and that was just making him very, very edgy and very off the handle, but it was just one of those situations that I had never dealt with before. We got through basically some of the first sprint, so there was a lot of costs that was already associated with it. It was just like, “This is just not worth it.” It’s not worth the team, and he went off on a team member that didn’t do anything and it was very cut and dry, and so after cycling through a bunch of different things, it was just like, “Listen, this is just not worth it,” so I got on the phone.
I was like, “Hey, this doesn’t … Let’s settle up. This doesn’t feel like it’s a good fit for all of us.” Then I just felt bad because we had the person who was the head of marketing or head of product, I can’t remember exactly their organization, and they needed this. Their company absolutely needed help. It was just one of those things where we’re in this position, we’re sitting there, and we’re like, “You know, this person’s clearly having a bad experience.” There’s probably some things that we could have done better, and we implemented those, but there’s a lot of this that was just completely out of our control.
It was just based on the politics of the organization. It just wasn’t worth it, so we had to fire of that particular customer, and so it’s a really, really tough decision because you just want to fix it.
Holly: I understand that so well. I mean, that definitely is the situation that’s real. I envisioned to the work I’ve done. I obviously talked to a lot of people in the industry, and I think one of the tricks to keeping yourself and your company healthy is being able to identify when it’s something you’re not going to be able to change, and being able to make that tough call and say, “Okay, this isn’t going to work.”
I’m curious what happened to the head of product or marketing there that had brought you in. Did you keep in touch with them? Did they end up moving on? Are they still there?
Patrick C.: The head of marketing, I believe, left. I think this whole thing turned them off completely. It was a lot.
Holly: It sounds like the kind of thing that you would end up moving on over, because your boss makes such a difference in everything you do, right?
Patrick C.: Totally. Absolutely.
Holly: Going back a little bit, one of the things that you said that hits on something I’m always trying to help people talk about and understand more is the vision and where you wanted to go and how the product you started to build with ProfitWell had to fit that, because I think especially these days with agile being a lot more pervasive than it was 10 years ago, people often fall into the routine and forget to look at the big picture. I’m really curious to hear how have you handled that for the ProfitWell team, especially as the founder. How have you communicated the vision, and how did that play a role in what got built?
Patrick C.: I think alignment is one of those things that’s just definitely complicated within a company. It’s just a nature of humans. It’s not only we all assume we know what’s going on because if we didn’t know what’s going on, why would we do it, right? Then we assume that people understand what we’re saying at the exact same context in the exact same level as what we’re saying. You’re in this weird loop where it’s not only we’re all moving because we’re like, “Of course we need to move,” and then we’re assuming that everyone’s moving in the same direction. In reality, everyone’s moving everywhere.
I think we haven’t nailed this quite yet inside the organization, and so we’re trying to figure that out ourselves, but we’re working on trying to figure it out both internally and externally. When you throw in the fact that we’re a multi product company, all of a sudden it just gets super, super complicated, and so we’ve been working a lot on what makes sense and what is the best way to move stuff forward. I don’t know if I really have an answer for it quite yet. I think what I found though is that it’s a huge non-scalable game of just keeping things moving forward and constantly repeating yourself over and over and over again.
Holly: That sounds about right. Tell me a little bit about the product team that you have building the technology. I think a lot of the things that I’ve heard or seen about ProfitWell and about your background are at the high level founder, but since we are trying to help people who are also the right arm of the founder or the head of product or the director of product or maybe the first product hire or the first couple, how has that evolved for ProfitWell? Do you have product managers in house, and when did you hire them and how did you decide it was time?
Patrick C.: I think for me, I very, very much … I don’t know if I did this consciously. I think I got really lucky. I want to say that I was conscious with this, but I found … We didn’t have anyone. It was just me in a room for 18 hours a day. Then we hired Peter, who head up sales, and then we grew and we’re bootstrapped, and so it’s not like we were like, “Oh, let’s just hire five people and get moving.” What that led to was basically us being in a position where we needed to understand exactly like what was important and just be really comfortable with everything else being terrible.
What ended up happening is I was kind of struggling to find someone to lead a product, so looking for a CTO or a CPO or what that would look like. Fortunately, I got introduced by one of our first customers to Facundo, who’s our CPO, and he was basically very, very non negotiable on like, “I need to run product. I need to run product,” meaning him. That was a little off putting at first, but it turned out to be the right decision, so basically, Facundo leads product and he was a principal engineer, and so it was the perfect match finding that unicorn of someone who can come into the company and run that side of the business and basically run it very, very well, and not with plenty of arguments, plenty of quirks, all that kind of fun stuff.
That’s helped us a lot. Now, we’re starting to build out our product team, so we hired just a really young up and comer but a really, really hungry guy named Neel out of northeastern. Gosh, he’s been here just over a year, and now we’re adding our second product manager. I would say we try to imbue product throughout the organization as much as humanly possible. That allows us to just really understand exactly what makes sense and what doesn’t make sense, but it’s one of those things there that it’s a little bit more ad hoc than it probably should be, if that makes sense.
Holly: It totally makes sense. I hope I didn’t make it sound like it should have been everything was planned out.
Patrick C.: Oh no. Totally, but some people, they have very, very well planned out of what makes sense and what doesn’t.
Holly: It’s true, but then the rest of us, what happens when you’re growing a company, especially bootstrapping like you guys have been, can be messy, and you just figure it out and you try. I am a big fan of sharing the, “This is what we tried and here’s where we are.” Tell me more about … I guess I’m curious what … It sounds like you trust Facundo as your chief product officer, and that he’s beginning to grow his organization. Do you have any thoughts on what makes him good at what he does?
Patrick C.: I don’t know. It’s super tough. I think that there’s a mix of things. I think there’s some independent things that make him really good and I really good at certain aspects, but I think what works really well is that we joke, and this is not a real thing, but it’s directionally true that there’s a certain portion of us, like, 30% of each of us that just hates the other person. Then there’s 70% of us that just really loves the other person, if that makes sense. That mix, it causes a lot of we see the world very differently, and so when we’re making decisions on the marketing side and the sales side, he’s giving very divergent opinions.
When he’s making decisions on the product side, I’m giving very divergent opinions, and then a lot of times, then there’s the non negotiables, I feel like, we’re aligned on very, very well. Then the other stuff, we’ll healthily argue and it was not as healthy maybe a couple of years ago, but it’s just one of those things where it works out really well. I think specifically for him, I think what works out really well is he’s very, very strong opinions, loosely held and very, very stubborn in the right way. Then you just have to break that down depending on the view.
I think this works really well. It’s exhausting to be frank, but one of those things where I think that that a good sign of a product person is where they should have those strong opinions and then they should loosely hold them. Now, how loosely they hold them, it depends on the priority and the cost of what needs to get done. That’s where having that really stubborn opinion, I think, is really helpful because if he has a really strong opinion that’s a little bit less loosely held, that’s probably a good sign that it’s something important.
I think that he just has really, really good instincts after he’s older. He’s not a kid out of school, and so there’s some really, really good instincts as well on how the world should be seen and how the world should come to fruition, if that makes sense.
Holly: That’s great. Do you also have designers, and is there a role for qualitative and UX research in your organization?
Patrick C.: Yeah. Our design team, it’s kind of small. That’s been the biggest joke in the business, I think, that it’s one of those things where we … I mean, we’re 60 plus people and we have one designer, and so that’s super, super problematic as you can imagine because that designer works on all things marketing, and they work on all things product as well. We’re just sitting in a world where it’s just like, “Holy cow, there’s just so much to do,” and so that’s been the biggest joke, and it’s starting solving it.
It’s just one of those things that, I don’t know if you’ve tried to hire a designer recently, but it’s just brutally painful, because there’s so many of them and all that kind of fun stuff. I think that that’s one of those things, but yeah, we do a lot of user testing and things like that even with those limited resources. We’re pretty good about that, if that makes sense.
Holly: Then how do you use data or how does data drive product decisions in your organization?
Patrick C.: That’s a good question. Our products are all data related and so we’re very focused on data in general, but I think that what we think about is just making sure that data is very central to the gravity of the decision. What I mean by that is when you think about testing ad copy, I’m not going to collect a bunch of data to test ad copy, right, but if I’m making a $10 million product decision, I’m probably gonna collect a lot of data. We’re really good about instinctually and also just from past experience understanding exactly what we should be focused on and the depth through which we need to test things.
There are some bugs here and there that come up just because we’re not perfect at this, but it is one of those things where I think we’ve gotten really good about like, “All right, this makes sense. This doesn’t make sense.” I think it’s worked out well. I think the other thing is we’re probably not as fast as a lot of organizations, and that’s not because we don’t have the ability to go fast. I think it’s because we’re a little too thoughtful and we overthink things, and so that gives us some survivor bias because by the time we shipped something, it’ll have been really, really well thought out.
We’ve been working on how do we bridge that gap a little bit and go even quicker, if that makes sense. The way you do that is typically through adding the right amounts of data.
Holly: Interesting. One thing that I love that you said in there was about the cost of what is the decision impacting. Is it a $10 million investment or something cheap? I’m curious to hear if you think about some of our listeners being people who are really in the trenches trying to do this, what are the quick markers that you guys might use to know whether a decision’s worth that level of discovery?
Patrick C.: I mean, money is easy, right? It’s like, “Hey, how many people are going to be involved with X, Y, or Z?” That’s a really, really big thing. Then on top of that, there’s plenty of other kind of markers. Like, “Is this a decision that’s going to greatly, greatly impact some sort other aspects of the business.” It all comes back to cost. I think that a lot of times, I know that’s intuitive, but a lot of times, we don’t think enough about the costs of the things that we’re doing because we’re like, “Yeah, let’s just go build that feature for 18 months,” and it’s like, “Hold on a second, that’s 18 months.”
There’s not only the actual physical cost of whoever’s doing the thing, but there’s also the cost of all the other stuff that you could have built with that cash if that makes sense. Long story short, I think that there’s a ton of stuff that we can fix here just as businesses in general, but it takes a good number of reps to basically understand what’s going on.
Holly: Definitely. Well, we’re always learning and optimizing the things we do, right?
Patrick C.: Absolutely.
Holly: You mentioned about going faster and the amount of data that is involved in a decision. What did you mean? I think you said having more data, you would go faster. Tell me more about what that means to you. What do you think is the relationship between how fast it’s moving and the amount of data that the team itself is looking at, not the data in your product?
Patrick C.: I think that the thing is … As someone who has a product that’s very predicated on collecting and understanding data, this might sound a little blasphemous, but I think a lot of us, there’s two camps. There’s one camp that’s like, “I’m the embodiment of Steve Jobs. I don’t need to collect data. I don’t need to like look at anything. Collecting data is all going to be biased, so let me make these decisions and devoid of any data and things like that.” Then there’s another camp that’s like, “If it’s not in a data point, we’re not doing it.”
I think the problem is that both camps put data on the wrong type of pedestal. I think the thing that you have to realize is that all data is going to have some bias and all data is going to have some limits, and also, you can’t make decisions off of only one type of data. You have to look at qualitative. You have to look at quantitative. You have to look at market data. You have to look at customer data. You have to look at all of these different things, but it is important to make data based or data informed decisions. I think so many of us, we’re so absolutest about what we need to do and we’re so absolutest about, “Hey, it needs to be all or nothing.””
I think that that hurts us so much, and a lot of organizations end up missing the mark. They either paralyze themselves with analysis or they end up basically running into a brick wall.
Holly: That kind of funny, maybe sounds blasphemous with the organization being so much about the data your product provides, but people need to know what to do with it. I feel like we have a good sense of the product that you’ve built up or how your company builds product. There’s one other element of what you do that I am super fascinated in for our listeners, which is more about the experimentation and the research. One of the things that I love about ProfitWell is the research reports that you guys put out.
I’d love to switch gears and ask you a little bit about that. How do you go from a listener question or something that you wish you knew to looking through your data, and how do you know how to design that experiment and how to interpret the results?
Patrick C.: Unfortunately, that’s at least a 90 minute discussion, so I don’t want to minimize it, but let me maybe go through the highlights. The first thing is understanding what your research question is, and you can go very formal into hypotheses, and you could go do all kinds of different stuff, but I think the biggest thing to keep in mind and think about is focusing in on what makes sense and what’s the outcome you’re trying to go for. I know it sounds like super basic, but a lot of us are like, “Here’s the question we’re trying to answer,” and then we go out and do a bunch of data collection or a bunch of conversations.
Then all of a sudden, it’s like, “Oh crap.” Like, “Wait, what were we trying to answer?” There’s all these rabbit holes and all this other stuff, and that just takes so much extra time. If you focus on exactly what’s going on with the question that you’re trying to answer, what ends up happening is you limit the scope of the data you’re gonna collect. You put a deadline on when you’re actually going to answer the question or get the data or make a decision, and ultimately, you keep your momentum. I think a lot of folks, they come to us and were like, “Oh, solve my pricing.”
We’re like, “Okay, that’s like maybe a 24 month question,” because there’s all these different aspects that you can attack. There’s probably definitely things that are more important to attack than others, but I think it’s one of those things that it’s so, so, so crucial to basically attack the right things. Frankly, when you get that right, all of a sudden, involving the right people, so in the pricing question, involving sales, involving finance, involving marketing, evolving product, you get all the politics out of order inside your organization, and then all of a sudden, the data, when it comes back, you can actually have a real conversation about it.
You’re not dealing with all those politics upfront. Then making decisions, I think you have to, again, understand the limits of the data, “Hey, did we collect enough data to feel confident in a $10 million decision,” or changing the ad copy or changing up the brand. What are those things that we’re going after? Then ultimately, there’s a lot of other stuff that you can do. It’s a really hard question to answer on a podcast because it’s like asking like, “How do you grow?” It’s like, “Well …” There’s the theoretical and the top level meta answer and then there’s all the little details, and so hopefully, that gives some good insight into the overall process, if you will.
Holly: No, that’s fair. I threw you hard one. That’s a long detailed question.
Patrick C.: No, it’s not hard. It’s just like it’s a long question. I don’t know if you want me to basically take up all the tape. I know we’re not on tape, but you know what I mean.
Holly: Well, you know what, I think the high level is helpful, and I’m wondering if maybe we could talk about a specific one. One of my favorite pieces of data that you’ve produced that I like to share is about what we think we’re building and what we’re actually building. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about how long did it take from when you decided you wanted to answer the question about, “Are people doing useful qualitative research and useful discovery for their product, and how long did it take for them deciding to answer that question to crafting the actual …?”
I actually don’t know. Do you already have all the data in house? Do you go and run the surveys at the time? What does that process look like?
Patrick C.: All of our data collection is in house. We have some panels that we’ve stitched together and then we do quite a bit with, and so it’s something that we’ve built, and that is our price intelligently product is data collection. It’s one of those things that we have an advantage in if you will, but it’s not something that we did anything magical. It just built it over time. I don’t think that people need to go to the extent that we do because obviously we’re doing it for different reasons, but it’s one of those things that we supremely focus on understanding and making sure we have the data that we need.
Holly: You’ve sort of got those panels ready. You already have a lot of the existing data, and then you go and add the specific questions for the specific question you’re trying to answer. Is that sort of what it looks like?
Patrick C.: Exactly. It’s seventh grade scientific method. You know what I mean?
Holly: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Patrick C.: That’s really all the stuff is, and I think a lot of people, they just focus a little bit too much on like, “Let me make this complicated. Let me look for a silver bullet,” and it’s like, “No, just do the work and we’ll go from there.”
Holly: I liked that you mentioned the seventh grade scientific method. I’m a big believer that, really, we’re doing science and what it looks like to do science has changed over the centuries.
Patrick C.: Totally.
Holly: One other thing I’m curious about, I have to say for you in particular, I know sometimes, some of your marketing or your podcast talk about protect the hustle. I’m curious what that means to you.
Patrick C.: That’s a big existential question. What’s funny is … The origin of that is out of … I went to the college I went to on a debate scholarship. That was a phrase on the team, and basically the phrase protect the hustle meant, “Hey, whatever it needed …” Protect the hustle meant whatever it needed to be in the moment. It was a very amorphous. It meant like, “Hey, make sure you’re practicing. Hey, make sure you’re not distracting the rest of the team. Hey, make sure you’re getting enough sleep before the tournament the next day. Hey, make sure you’re doing the filing that you need to do. Make sure you’re doing all these things. Like, protect the hustle.”
The hustle is the forward movement of basically going up into the right, if you will, of trying to win or trying to be successful. To me, it’s an all encompassing term of protect the hustle. Are you protecting the hustle? It’s one of those phrases that you can use to keep people honest and keep people in the right direction. That’s what it meant. It’s a bit amorphous, but I think it’s one of those things that has meant a lot to me personally, and I think around the office, it’s meant a lot too when people are doing really, really well. Like, “Oh, that’s protecting the hustle,” and then people making sure that they’re doing … or not doing things that aren’t create as well.
Holly: That makes sense. Cool. I love that there’s a personal element from your history to it.
Patrick C.: Totally.
Holly: Awesome. Well, I think this has been a fantastic conversation. Thank you so much for sharing that perspective on building product and data and research. Congratulations on all the great work and success so far. I think you guys are building something incredible, and it’s awesome that you’re bootstrapping it too.
Patrick C.: Thanks. It’s a labor of love, but there’s a lot of strife as you know building anything, and so always moving.
Holly: Well, I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Patrick Campbell. If you’d like to find him online, you can find him on Twitter at Patticus, P-A-T-T-I-C-U-S, or visit his company’s website, profitwell.com. Thanks for listening. Enjoying this episode? Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss next week’s episode. I also encourage you to visit us at productsciencepodcast.com to sign up for more information and resources from me and our guests. If you love the show, a rating or a review would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.