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E71: Low-Touch VS High-Touch Products

by Sean Boyce

Let’s talk about the differences between a low-touch and high-touch product.

The type of product you choose to build has implications on everything from the customer experience to the pricing model.

Let’s talk about the differences and why you might choose one or the other.

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Episode Transcript
Hey folks, Sean here and today what I

want to talk to you about are the

different type of product companies you might build.

When I say different type, what I

mean is low touch versus high touch.

There are some key differences between the type of

experience that you might create for both your customer

and the type of product company that you’re going

to build for both yourself and your team.

And I’m going to start by kind of categorizing each

in terms of what are some of the more important

or typical characteristics you might see in each of these

and then sharing some examples with you.

I also want to talk about how you can become

more of one or the other as and you don’t

have to remain in either of those categories indefinitely.

So when I say low touch product

company, typically from a strategic perspective, what

that means is you’re creating a customer

experience that is typically product led.

And when I say product led, what

I mean is your customer’s first experience

with your product is typically the product.

As in they will go right into using

the software and that’s kind of their first

experience with your product and your company.

Also from a pricing model perspective, low touch products often

leverage simpler models as in customers might pay the same

amount on a given month or year in order to

gain and maintain access to your product.

Now, an example of a low touch product I would

like to use is Calendly, something I’ve used for years.

I get a lot of value out

of it and it’s relatively simple.

Calendly, if you’re unfamiliar, helps you with essentially that

what can become a merry go round of trying

to figure out how to get everybody synced up

so they can meet at a time that’s mutually

available for both of them.

So it helps you with managing your calendar but

the use of the calendar product is rather simple.

As such it fits well into

the low touch product category.

Now, on the other hand, a high touch

product from a strategic perspective, you’re usually leveraging

a model similar to being Sales lead as

in your customers first experience with your product

is actually through your team.

So they will meet with sales team or

someone to figure out what onboarding them might

look like or qualifying them as a prospect.

Because a high touch product is typically

more complex, it’s got more moving parts.

The whole experience is difficult to kind of

just dump a customer into and enable them

to be able to figure it out.

Also the product itself isn’t the

only thing that’s more complex.

Almost everything is the pricing model as well

as in gaining and maintaining access to a

high touch product typically involves multiple components.

Maybe an implementation fee may be ongoing costs.

There may be contracts with commitments

that may go beyond a year.

So the contracts may be

relatively inflexible and rigid.

So those characteristics typically speak to what we

consider to be a high touch product.

An example of a high touch product in

this instance might be something like Salesforce.

If you’ve never used Salesforce before,

it’s a heavy duty CRM.

But they as a company own a

ton of other products as well too.

So navigating kind of their

environment gets complex fast.

As such, some of your early contact with a

company like Salesforce, if you’re interested in a product

like that, is usually with someone on their team.

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Now, like I said earlier, just because your

product is delivering one or the other of

these type of experiences or falls into either

category, either low touch or high touch today,

doesn’t mean it necessarily needs to stay there.

I’ve seen products make a successful transition from

one to the other and you’ll often see

products trying to do that as they are

kind of figuring out product market fit.

So the most straightforward way to think about

it, if you would like to be one

or the other that’s why I described those

characteristics and some examples of each first, because

depending upon your experience with those products or

your ability to familiarize yourself with them.

That may or may not be.

It might become clearer for you in terms of

the type of product you’d prefer to build versus

the customer experience that you’re looking for and the

experience that you’d like for yourself and your team.

There are different implications depending upon which of

these two paths that you choose and you

don’t need to wait to choose this.

I think more often than that makes

the most sense to think about this

almost essentially right out of the gate.

But let’s assume you have some traction and you have

an established product with paying customers as well too.

Transitioning from one to the other or taking advantage

of the respective strengths of each is also possible.

Now, the easiest way that I typically think about

how to do that really is the core component

of that is the product experience, as in how

complex is it to use your product.

In order for a high touch product to

become more of a low touch product, you’re

going to have to simplify the experience.

So you might need to do things like cut way back

on in terms of what your product is capable of.

That might mean removing features or building

a new version of your product that’s

actually dramatically simpler than it was before.

This isn’t necessarily a bad strategy.

There’s obviously some engineering involved here.

But what you can do is if you kind

of got out of the gate with more functionality

than you were expecting to and you have some

early traction, what I’d recommend you take a closer

look at is where are you having that traction?

As in where are your customers the most active with

using your product and what are they getting the most

value out of soft, circle those features and essentially do

a quick mental calculation in terms of what percentage of

what your product is capable of.

Are those features where they’re getting the

most value and using the most frequently?

And can you create a simpler

product experience around just those features?

If you can, that’s where you have

great potential to convert essentially a high

touch product into a low touch product. I know that.

On the other hand, if you have a low touch

product and you kind of want to go beyond where

you are, some often may want to do that.

Depending upon if they want to raise their prices

or they want to scale their product company, things

like that, low touch products are less likely to

go further in that direction, so to speak.

If that’s the case, then you want

to have a better understanding for how

you want to continue your product experience.

And if you’re fulfilling a good regular experience

of performing research and discovery, that will help

you better understand what features you can add

to your product experience in order to add

and provide more value for your customer.

And if you’re doing that, over time, your product

may become more complex, which might make sense in

terms of transitioning to more of a high touch

product as opposed to what you might have been

before, which was a low touch product.