Lovability: How to Build a Business That People Love and Be Happy Doing It

Lovability: How to Build a Business That People Love and Be Happy Doing It

by Brian de Haaff


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Lovability: How to Build a Business That People Love and Be Happy Doing It by Brian de Haaff

Love is the surprising emotion that company builders cannot afford to ignore.

Genuine, heartfelt devotion and loyalty from customers — yes, love — is what propels a select few companies ahead. Think about the products and companies that you really care about and how they make you feel. You do not merely likethose products, you adore them.

Consider your own emotions and a key insight is revealed: Love is central to business. Nobody talks about it, but it is obvious in hindsight. 

Lovability: How to Build a Business That People Love and Be Happy Doing It 
shares what Silicon Valley-based author and Aha! CEO Brian de Haaff knows from a career of founding successful technology companies and creating award-winning products. He reveals the secret to the phenomenal growth of Aha! and the engine that powers lasting customer devotion — a set of principles that he pioneered and named The Responsive Method. 

Lovability provides valuable lessons and actionable steps for product and company builders everywhere, including:
•   Why you should rethink everything you know about building a business
•   What a product really is
•   The magic of finding what your customers truly desire
•   How to turn business strategy and product roadmaps into customer love
•   Why you should chase company value, not valuation
•   Surveys to measure your company’s lovability

Brian de Haaff has spent the last 20 years focused on business strategy, product management, and bringing disruptive technologies to market. And in preparation for writing this book, he interviewed well-known startup founders, product managers, executives, and CEOs at hundreds of name brand and agile organizations. Their experiences, along with headline-grabbing case studies (both inspiring successes and cautionary tales), will help readers discover how to build something that matters.

Much has been written about how entrepreneurs build innovative products and successful businesses, but the author's message is original and refreshing. He convincingly explains that there is a better path forward — a people-first way grounded in love. In a business world that has increasingly emphasized hype over substance and get-big-at-any-cost thinking over profitable and sustainable growth, it's time for a new recipe for company success.

​Insightful, thought-provoking, and sometimes controversial, Lovability is the book that you turn to when you know there has to be a better way.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626344037
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press
Publication date: 04/25/2017
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 818,011
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Brian de Haaff seeks business and wilderness adventure. He has more than 20 years of experience building breakthrough products and has founded multiple successful software companies. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. and the world’s #1 product roadmap software. His two previous startups were acquired by well-known public companies.

Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life. More than 200,000 people follow him on social media and he is a regular contributor to Inc., Entrepreneur, and The Huffington Post. He has been named multiple times by LinkedIn as one of the world's 10 most influential management and culture writers.

He is a proud graduate of both The University of California at Berkeley and Northwestern University. Brian lives in Silicon Valley with his wife and three sons.

Read an Excerpt


How to Build a Business That People Love and Be Happy Doing It

By Brian De Haaff

Greenleaf Book Group Press

Copyright © 2017 Aha! Labs Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62634-403-7



In the history of e-commerce companies, Ebates is practically prehistoric, having been around since 1998. In a world where early dot-com stalwarts from Boo.com to Digital Entertainment Network have become cautionary tales, Ebates is doing something right. That something has nothing to do with technology or the company's brand and everything to do with trust.

The company's business model is built around the relationships it maintains with about 2,600 retailers ranging from Rite Aid to Ralph Lauren. When customers enter the Ebates online mall, the site directs them to a store based on their needs. They make their purchases, merchants pay a percentage of the order to Ebates, and Ebates returns some of that to the customer. Retailers get well-qualified customer traffic, the customer is rewarded for shopping through Ebates, and Ebates gets a piece of that commerce. But it would not work without trust.

To find out how building customer trust factored into their path of growth, I spoke with Serge Doubinski, Senior Director of Product at Ebates. He said that customers are frequently surprised by the seemingly "too good to be true" value of Ebates. And he told me that's why customer support is baked into everything from the CEO's office down to individual phone support personnel. Customer support builds value and trust for existing members. Ebates's ability to support customers as they shop online is essential, especially because of the many merchants and systems involved in getting them their savings and money back.

"Customer support is part of development for us, a shared metric across multiple teams," he said. "It's not an afterthought. Our customer support team might focus on the number of support tickets we're receiving and how to resolve them, but when we are developing a solution, everyone — from our product managers to our directors — is talking and thinking about customer support. How many tickets can this feature help resolve ? How can our product development efforts make our customers' experience better?"

The payoff? In 2014 Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten acquired Ebates for $1 billion.

Complete Product Experience

Businesses like Ebates have a holistic view of what constitutes their product, but they are the exceptions to the rule. When most companies think of a product, they think only of the thing that they directly sell. Customers focus on what is marketed and what they will use. With software, that means the features they interact with on their computer, tablet, or smartphone screen. For a website like Ebates, the product is the website where users go to shop. For a physical product like a smartphone, it is the thing they hold in their hand. But that is a narrow definition that leads businesses to see only part of the truth.

Let's look at Ebates again. At first glance, the product might seem to be the website. But that is not really what the customer values, even if they do not realize it consciously. They value the rebates they receive and the opportunity to gain financially from shopping with companies they already respect. But what they value most of all is what makes the entire exchange possible: trust. Customers trust that Ebates will deliver on its promises while keeping their information secure. That, more than anything else, is why the company sold for so much money.

In any business, but especially in technology, your product is not just the software or hardware that you ship or the basic service that you provide. It is not just the bits or even the tangible item that the clerk hands over the counter or that arrives at the customer's home. The product is the complete experience and the relationship you and the customer share. That creates loyalty, trust, and love. That is your product. That is the Complete Product Experience (CPE).

I am not the first person to talk about the CPE, and Aha! is not the first company to make it the cornerstone of its brand. In its television ad campaign, Discover Card — taking a subtle dig at its larger rivals — promises that when you call them you will talk to a real person. What's more, the campaign indicates that customer support representative will listen, understand you, and not try to sell you anything. In the commercial, the customer and the customer support rep are played by the same actor. The message is clear: We care about you just like you care about you.

Discover is selling the entire experience of carrying one of their credit cards, not just the plastic. Too often, such businesses are treated as outliers when they should be seen as thought leaders. The concept of the CPE gets marginalized and even ignored because it challenges product builders to work harder and leaders to think broader.

Harvard economist Theodore Levitt was the first authority to write about what he called the total product. A total product has four dimensions that marketers, executives, and support people need to understand if they want customers to appreciate the value of what they are selling:

1. Generic

What your product is — software, a suitcase, etc.

2. Expected

The essential features and benefits the product must provide, e.g., a refrigerator has to cool food.

3. Value-Added

Features and benefits that exceed customer expectations.

4. Potential

Future enhancements to value based on what customers want.

Levitt's thinking was daring but limited because it focused on features and benefits but not the overall customer experience. Then in 1999, Geoffrey A. Moore took Levitt's ideas to the next logical level with his book, Crossing the Chasm. According to Moore, the way to create a "whole" product is to think through both your customer's problems and solutions. It's not enough to address the core product — you have to think about everything needed to get your customer from consideration to an imperative to buy. This can be everything from the installation of the product to training to procedural standards to integrations, whether they are provided by your company or achieved using partners.

"The product is the complete experience and the relationship you and the customer share."

Moore moved beyond features and benefits — bigger iPhones with higher camera resolution — to something else: Being the solution to customers' problems. Doing that requires more than visionary engineers and brilliant designers. It means getting to know your customers, learning what they care about, and learning to care about them. That's why Moore is the grandfather of the CPE.

Redefining Product

In the era when digital, app-based, cloud-based, and Internet-based products dominate the marketplace, lots of companies are giving into the temptation to turn the customer experience over to technology. On the surface this makes sense, because it limits "costly" person-to-person interactions. That is a grave mistake. Customers want human interaction, and increasingly, they are making it a deal breaker.

A 2016 Accenture Strategy report, "Digital Disconnect in Customer Engagement," found that 83 percent of U.S. consumers prefer dealing with human beings over digital tools to solve customer service issues. Fifty-two percent have left a service provider in the past year due to poor customer service, at an estimated cost of $1.6 trillion. Not enough attention is being paid to managing all customer touch points — the CPE.

It is time that we redefined what we mean when we talk about product. From the point of view of the executive, marketer, or product manager, there are two versions of the word.

Product: What the customer thinks they are paying for.

CPE: The totality of what the customer really values and is expecting from a product over the long term.

Today's customer expects every touch point with the technology and the company that sells it to be a meaningful one that creates value. The software-as-a-service (SaaS) world offers a perfect example. Software delivered via the cloud as SaaS is not purchased but rented. Customers pay for it a month or a year at a time. If you understand that, you are more likely to think about delivering it like an ongoing service instead of a one-time sale. Remember, the last S in SaaS stands for service.

In that world, you do not just make a sale and walk away any more than you would if you rented a house to someone. You form a relationship with the user of your service. If you want to create lasting value for that customer — and lasting value for your business — you must maintain a mutually beneficial relationship. That takes personal contact, responsiveness, and attention to every stage of the CPE.

The Seven Components

In the world of software and technology, the CPE has seven main components, presented here in a rough order that shows the typical product adoption process. However, the reality is that customers tend to adopt products unpredictably, according to their own tastes and priorities. An organization must be flexible enough to handle multiple adoption paths while staying focused on delivering a high-quality, lovable CPE.

The seven components of the CPE are ...

1. Marketing is how potential customers learn about your product and determine if it might be a fit to help them solve their problem. This is taking on new forms as people grow increasingly connected: social platforms, online reviews, and company-published content.

2. Sales is the process of prospects learning more about the product from a company representative and possibly using it in a trial. They educate themselves about the product and get the information they need to determine if the solution is right for them.

3. Technology refers to the core set of features that customers pay for. In our case, that is the online software that they log into our servers to use. For others it could be the actual phone, credit card, or even an insurance policy that is purchased. However, technology should represent not the end of a transaction but the beginning of a transparent, interactive relationship.

4. Supporting systems make it possible to deliver the product. These are internal systems that the customer rarely sees but which can have a huge impact on their overall happiness: billing, provisioning, analytics, and more. For example, if you call customer support and the representative always seems to have a comprehensive history of your purchases and support issues at their fingertips, you can thank supporting systems.

5. Third-party integrations enable new products to fit into how the customer already lives and works. All products exist in an ecosystem, so they have to play nice with the other products the customer is already using and the way that customer already works.

6. Support is everything from answering customer questions to training, and even helping customers integrate your product with their existing systems. Support describes all activity that helps the customer achieve something meaningful with a product.

7. Policies are the rules that companies set to govern how they do business. At their best they provide a framework for employees to be their best. At their worst, they create unresolvable frustration that drives customers to ask "to speak with the manager."

Why the CPE Matters

In corporate circles you rarely hear anyone talking about all of the aspects of the CPE or how to measure what costumers thank of them. It is messy, human, and imprecise. Most people prefer high-level conversations and traditional metrics, which provide what appears to be a predictable snapshot of reality. That thinking belongs to the past, when customers had fewer choices and businesses had their hands on the product delivery chain from beginning to end.

Today, technology is increasingly commoditized. Customers have endless choices, more products are self-service, and adoption of them is more transactional. In almost any vertical of today's universe of technology, there are many gifted teams putting bits together in terrific ways that deliver value.

In this environment, your features will not set your company apart. Meaningful person-to-person interactions — the CPE — will differentiate you from your competitors. A customer might choose you for your software's eye-popping features list. However, that customer will stay with you for the long haul instead of switching to one of your competitors. They may even enthusiastically send you dozens of new customers. Why? Because you give them an experience that makes them happy while offering reassurance that you will continue to deliver even more happiness in the future. If you are a market leader (or aspire to be one), delivering a lovable CPE is mandatory.

Customer Journey Mapping

That is a monumental task, to be sure. Fortunately, there are powerful tools designed to help you understand your CPE, even if you are completely new to the concept. You may already be familiar with the customer journey map, a visual diagram that tracks all the ways your customers engage with your company over time, from their experience with your website to contact with customer support. A customer journey map is a great way to blend analytical data (web traffic, churn rates) and anecdotal data (customer stories, accounts from support teams) into a complete picture that answers a big question: How are our customers experiencing our company and where are we failing to deliver a lovable experience?

There is no one right way to create a customer journey map, but there's a plethora of tools available to you to help you create and manage yours. It is worth the time. The only way to get the CPE right is to have a deep understanding of the customer and to map their journey across every single touch point within your company.

I suggest that you think about your customer's journey as a unified experience that has three key phases: motivation, education, and adoption. Motivation refers to the reasons your prospective customer has for seeking you out and the potential needs your product can satisfy. It also asks the question, "What experiences or emotions motivate the customer to move to the next stage of the journey?" Answering that question helps you provide what the customer needs to progress to the next phase, education.

At this point, the customer chooses from among a wealth of possible options for learning about your products and your company, from reading online reviews and engaging on social media to reviewing your company's documentation and maybe even signing up for a free trial. In the education stage, every business strives to accomplish two goals: control the message and prevent confusion. Your website and support resources should be easy to use, comprehensive, and invite interaction because you want them to be your customer's first choice. Unlike with Yelp or Twitter, when customers are interacting directly with you it is easy to share information you know is accurate, up-to-date, and relevant. That prevents the confusion that keeps people from buying.

Mapping the final phase, adoption, reveals the experiences that convince customers to buy and those that frustrate them into giving up. What makes people take the plunge ? How long does it take and why? How can you accelerate the adoption process without compromising the customer experience?

Suzanne Vaughan, who ran Customer Success at Aha! and is now an executive coach, shares a story about working to understand the motivational journey toward Aha! by a big global software company — $560 million in revenues with 30,000 customers in 60 countries — that intended to build its own in-house product roadmapping solution. Suzanne talks about the time invested to learn about the customer's journey and earn their trust:

The new CEO, who had started in January of 2014, had set "clear, concise roadmaps" as his first-year goal. They had a 2015 budget and were planning to build their own solution. A group of three women within the company saw that this would not only mean building a product outside their core competency but all the ongoing cost and maintenance that goes along with that. They preempted that plan when one of the women, a portfolio/practice manager working at a startup inside the company, tried Aha! She knew we would not only help her team but could be the solution they needed to accomplish the new CEO's agenda.

That was only the beginning of the journey, however. We invested hours of consultation and training to help them effectively structure their products, processes, and workflows. We trained more than 100 people on how to use Aha! and were invited as experts to consult during their internal trainings using their company's own product data. Our consultation went beyond using Aha! and into best practices on product structure, communication to stakeholders, and navigating traditional, agile, and hybrid methodologies.


Excerpted from Lovability by Brian De Haaff. Copyright © 2017 Aha! Labs Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Part I Grandpa-Inspired vii

Introduction 1

Part II Why Build Lovable Products? 17

Chapter 1 What is a Product? 19

Chapter 2 Pursuing Love 41

Chapter 3 The Ten Building Blocks of Lovability 59

Chapter 4 The Benefits of Being Loved 77

Chapter 5 Chase Value, Not Valuation 93

Part III Creating Lovability 115

Chapter 6 The Old Ways Are New Again 117

Chapter 7 The Responsive Method 145

Chapter 8 How to Build Lovable Products 169

Chapter 9 Being a Lovable Company 199

Chapter 10 The Lovability Toolkit 223

Acknowledgments 233

Notes 237

Index 247

About the Author 261

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