4 Lessons The BoS Community Taught Me
Hey 👋 I’m Paddy, and for the last 3½ years I’ve been heading up all things Marketing at Business of Software. As I write this, it’s my last week in the job. I’ve run my last BoS event, signed off on my last newsletter, and deleted myself from the ‘Meet the Team’ page. It’s strange to think that in a few short hours I’ll press ‘End Meeting For All’ for the final time, and that’ll be it.
One of the great joys of this job has been being a part of the BoS community. I’ve learned a huge amount from them over my time here, and as a parting thought I’d like to share 4 lessons that I’ll never forget which the people of the BoS community – you, the attendees and speakers – have taught me.
Lesson #1 – Make Your Users Awesome
The first BoS video I watched was Kathy Sierra’s seminal talk from BoS USA 2012, ‘Building The Minimum Badass User’. If you haven’t seen it, you should stop reading this and watch it right now:
Kathy’s thesis is this: if you want product adoption to grow (especially through word of mouth), don’t focus on making your product awesome – make your user awesome. It’s a brilliant talk in both content and delivery. The lessons I learned have stayed with me – not just because of the talk, but also because of the ripples from it that I still see in the BoS community.
I’ve been inspired by the way BoS attendees always focus on how they can make the user awesome. It’s never about just making a great product, the focus is always on the benefit for the user. I’ve noticed this over and over in conversations with attendees, Q&A sessions with speakers, and as a user of several products made by the community (I’m looking at you, YouCanBook.Me, Zapier, Doist, and Balsamiq, to name but a few).
Kathy’s thesis has driven the BoS event strategy since that day, and will continue long into the future. BoS Conf Online.Spring, 26-27 April, is the next chance for you to join the community – come and soak up all the learning you can at an event specifically crafted to help you become more awesome.
Lesson #2 – You Are Not An Impostor
I joined Business of Software in September 2017 as a fresh-faced and inexperienced marketer. On my 5th day in the job we flew to Boston to run BoS USA 2017. It was a bit of a whirlwind first week.
I barely even understood what SaaS was, yet at the pre-event drinks I was charged with speaking with hundreds of CEOs – incredibly successful and impressive people who I found pretty intimidating. “I don’t belong in this room”, said the voice in my head.
I quickly learned that I wasn’t alone in feeling like that. In one talk, the speaker asked everyone in the audience who felt like an impostor to put their hand up. Almost every hand in the room was raised – in a room full of CEOs.
Here’s the thing – if everyone gets impostor syndrome, then it’s not real. If your company is turning over $10m ARR, you’re not an impostor – you’re just good at what you do.
And so the lesson is this: if you’ve got a job to do, give it your all and work hard. Sure, it might take you a while to achieve the results you want – but you have earned your place in the room. Don’t let the voice in your head tell you otherwise. The BoS community reminded me of this time and time again – thank you for being generous with your time and advice over the years.
Tiffany da Silva put this much more eloquently in her talk from BoS USA Online 2020, ‘6 Lessons From A Marketing Fraud’:
Lesson #3 – Every Conversation Is A Learning Opportunity
I used to hate networking. Swapping business cards, exaggerating your achievements, vague promises about working together at some unspecified future point.
Eurgh. I’m sure you recognise that description. When you meet someone at an event who has come on ‘broadcast’ mode, the conversation is unlikely to bear any fruit for anyone.
One of the key values for networking at BoS events is that you come on ‘listen’ mode. There is zero hierarchy at the event – anyone and everyone has something to teach you, and vice versa. You’re in a room with the conference speakers, CEOs of public companies, and founders of companies who are a few steps behind yours. Every conversation is an opportunity to learn from somebody else’s experience and expertise, and pass on what you’ve learned.
The BoS community are an incredibly interested and interesting group of people. Be more interested in the other person than in yourself – ask them questions, see what you can learn from them, and how you can help them.
I’ve learned a huge amount from my conversations with the BoS community – a coffee queue chat with an attendee that sparked the idea for a new content stream, a conference breakout where someone shared some invaluable hiring advice, a lunch break where a speaker happened to sit next to me and answer a question I had about their talk.
The BoS community is a kind, welcoming, thoughtful, and helpful place. I learned a huge amount from you over the past 3.5 years – thank you.
If you’re not part of the community yet, your next chance to get involved is BoS Conf Online.Spring, 26-27 April – click here for more information.
Lesson #4 – Motörhead’s Singer Was Called Lemmy
Well, Mark spent enough time banging on about Lemmy over the past 3½ years that it’d be unrepresentative not to mention it here. I’ve learned almost as much about Motörhead as I have about SaaS over the past few years – and trust me, that says more about Mark’s devotion to Lemmy than my personal development.
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Mark – thank you Paddy, for everything. It seems like more than 3.5 years – in a good way! Looking forward to staying in touch and looking out for your next adventure.