This week on Product Love, I sat down with Dan Smoker, VP of product at Ibotta, a mobile technology company that lets users earn cashback from everyday purchases. So, how did Dan get started as a product manager? He actually began his career in pharmaceuticals as a project manager for clinical trials. New drugs always had to go through three phases of testing before they were marketed, so his job was to shepherd that process.
He then decided to broaden his horizons by moving to Colorado, where he became a project and product manager. That was his first attempt at product management — you can probably imagine how that felt. Dan immersed himself in several product-focused blogs and podcasts and went through on-the-job training. While that was as stressful as it sounds, he fell in love with product at the same time. It’s an interesting space where one can work cross-functionally with other departments and also be at the forefront of groundbreaking tech.
In this week’s episode, we talk about the B2B and B2C spaces, prioritizing feedback, and how to communicate well with other stakeholders.
0:35 – Dan provides a little overview on himself. He has a degree in biology and started his career in the pharmaceutical industry.
1:45 – He describes his first time being a product manager and says it was like being thrown into the lion’s den.
4:00 – To learn more about the product space, he went to conferences and meetups and talked to his new coworkers about their experiences.
4:28 – What made Dan love being a product manager? He really enjoys problem-solving and working across the organization.
5:22 – What drew him to Ibotta?
9:40 – Dan talks about Ibotta’s growth trajectory,
10:50 – What was the “a-ha moment” when the company realized they needed to really invest in the product?
12:40 – How did the team go about finding product-market fit and establishing what Ibotta is today?
15:00 – Dan talks about moving into payments and driving shopping behaviors.
16:05 – Ibotta is a B2C that is B2B. It’s an interesting model because you can’t have one without the other. Dan discusses marrying the two bases (brands and consumers) and growing them.
17:25 – Dan talks about getting the B2B/B2c balance right. Brands and retailers are always concerned about scale, so they have to find ways to push the envelope.
19:00 – Ibotta has to meet consumers wherever they are, whether that’s a mobile or desktop app. How do they ensure they’re getting in front of them at the right moment?
20:18 – What’s Dan’s advice for people working into a specific market? Test a lot and incrementally drive your product forward. Also, be creative.
21:50 – How do you prioritize feedback?
23:37 – Ibotta is moving into the payment space, which requires a high degree of user trust. Trust is something the team is focusing on this year as a strategic pillar.
26:00 – Product leaders have a responsibility to ensure trust and data safety/privacy.
26:42 – What advice do you have for working cross-functionally? Communication is huge, as are collaboration and documentation.
29:22 – What’s it like being a product leader in the mobile space?
30:55 – What trends should product people at Ibotta be taking note of? One is augmented reality, which might be really huge in the industry in the next 9-10 years.
35:22 – What are the qualities of a strong product leader? A major one is being a good listener.
37:25 – What’s your favorite product?
39:18 – Three words to describe yourself.