Tony – the designer of the iPod and the iPhone – walks us through his design and production principles

The Rabbit Hole is written by Blas Moros. To support, sign up for the newsletter, become a patron, and/or join The Latticework. Original Design by Thilo Konzok.

Key Takeaways

  1. A customer doesn’t differentiate between different parts of your company. It’s all one. All the same. Never lose sight of the customer journey
  2. Who are your ideal customers? What do they want? Why would they care about your product? How do they find you? Demographics and psychographics. Where would you sell it? How would you sell it?
  3. Each phase of the journey has to be great to move customers onto the next step. There are bumps between awareness and acquisition, onboarding and usage that you have to help customers overcome. In each of these moments, the customers asks why? Why should I care? Buy? Use it? Stick with it? Your product, marketing, and support have to remove friction and continuously communicate the why. To do this right, you have to prototype the whole experience. Draw pictures, make models, create mood boards, create a rough outline in wireframes, write imaginary press releases, create mock-ups of how the customer would move from the ad to the store to buying it. Write up the reactions you want, the headlines you want to see from reviewers, the emotions you want to elicit. Bring it to life. Get it out of your head. Map out the whole journey as you map out what your product will do. You should prototype your marketing far before you have a product to market
  4. Don’t tell me what’s so different about your product, tell me what’s different about the user journey
  5. Master the “virus of doubt” – sharing why and how some experience can be better. Why a customer needs your product
  6. Define your Team heartbeat and product heartbeat and company heartbeat. Make the metabolism fast. Have them tie together and communicate
  7. Write a press release containing only the essentials of things that people get excited about and use. Even if you have to pivot, that’s ok. Rewrite the press release. Do it again and again
  8. Why will people need it. Why will people love it. Start with why and then get to what
  9. Analogies give customers super powers
  10. Give self a deadline and reverse engineer features into it, rather than the other way around
  11. 3 characteristics of great ideas – it solves for “why” (clearly know the problem it solves), it solves a problem people have in their daily lives, it follows you around
  12. You make the product. You fix the product. You build the business. Repeat
  13. Take notes and keep priorities and questions by hand. Sunday night review and type up and print and start again. Zoom in and out and Share list with management team with a name attached to it. See what leader is focused on, what you’re accountable for, what upcoming milestones are.
  14. Micromanagement is ok in a crisis
  15. The most valuable thing about a crisis you survive is the story you can share with the company afterwards. How the team came together, the crazy things you did, the will to survive
  16. As you grow, be mindful of necessary reorgs. These are messy and annoying but vital. Try to be ahead of them by a few months at least and they typically hit at similar stages. 10-30, 30-50, 50-80, 80-120…
  17. Knowing what to outsource and when is key. Nearly everything non-core should be outsourced to start and more things brought in house over time. You shouldn’t outsource a problem until you’ve at least tried to solve it yourself
  18. Avoid habituation at all costs. You can’t solve interesting problems if you don’t know they’re there.
  19. The product is the brand
  20. The why, the what, and the narrative the product paints needs to be a living thing that evolves as you better understand the problem and your customers
  21. Context matters. Lay out all the different ways a customer might learn about you and then craft the message to fit that context
  22. Product management and product marketing should be the same role – what will get built and how I’m the story will be told
  23. Aim to build a relationship-driven sales culture rather than a commission based one. Offer salary and equity and performance bonuses that vest over time.
  24. Perks should be subsidized and it spontaneous. Make sure people don’t come to expect it
  25. Private boards are 3-5 people. Insider and outsider, CEO, and exec team. Sometimes a chairperson. Need seed crystals – board members who can attract other great board members . The right investors and operators with experience building at your stage

What I got out of it

  1. An energizing and practical book on how to build things that matter – customer journeys, working backwards from press releases / marketing to actual products and features, the product is the brand

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