What the Indian product community
can learn from the Superhuman
experience

What the Indian product community can learn from the Superhuman experience

 
 
 
 

Avinash Raghava

 
 
 
 

Apr 13, 2020

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Avinash Raghava

 
 
 
 

Apr 13, 2020

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As the world reconciles itself to a post-pandemic working environment, one of the things that I guess many of us are doing a lot more of is evaluating new products that can help us negotiate this “new normal” better.

It was during one such search that I found an application that completely fascinated me. This application was interesting not simply because of the way the product was crafted but also in terms of the way it was brought to market.

 
 
 

Say hello to “Superhuman”.

Super Human
 
 
 

Superhuman is an email app that promises to be “the fastest email experience ever made”. Other than Superhuman that has been generating a lot of buzz in recent times, Basecamp also launched Hey.com recently in the same email space. While Hey.com seems to be a good application with a clear “opinionated” product perspective, it is Superhuman that seems to be far more interesting.

Why so?

 
 
 
I still use a lot of email. Perhaps after WhatsApp, email is what I use most. So despite the fuss around “email-killers” like Slack, email is still a very relevant application for me personally and I suspect for many others. While this may possibly be because I am from an older “pre-millennial” generation that is accustomed to using email for all major communication, it might also be because of the email newsletters and players like Substack who have helped restore email’s primacy in many ways. There’s only so many new things one can learn!
 
But in the last few years, email wasn’t talked about much, there wasn’t a lot of innovation happening. We just used it everyday, like we always did.
 
This was the first thing Superhuman changed.
 
While we will get to the specifics, I find it amazing that there is so much innovation and new-found energy around email — an application area that most people would say was a “solved problem” and done and dusted between Microsoft Outlook and Gmail.
The way they talked about email was amazing marketing and there are a few other things they did that really get my attention. I feel that there are a lot of lessons that founders and product folks can learn from Superhuman and this post is my humble attempt to capture some of these learnings.

How I learnt about SuperHuman

 
 
 
Some time back I got an email from a friend which has an intriguing footer — “Sent via Superhuman”. My first thought was that it was a bot-type thing that sends out automated emails. But when I went to the website, I realised that it was an email tool, and quite surprisingly, that there was a waitlist to get in! The fact that the application was not available for everyone was in itself a bit of an incentive for me to want to try it out!
 

“I think having a waitlist is great marketing: You create desire for your product in the consumer’s mind. Add that here with the sent via Superhuman message from a trusted source and I immediately wanted to know what this was about”.

How they kept me hooked

 
 
 

Sometime later, a friend was kind enough to send me an invite, and I got an email from SuperHuman. I was on the wait-list and was assigned a number (more FOMO!). I realised it will take me a couple of months to get there.

I promptly forgot about it and moved on, but from time to time Superhuman periodically sent me messages updating my journey up the waitlist and how soon they would onboard me and so on — notice how they kept the excitement alive by appealing to my curiosity. I also loved the way they crafted these communications.

One of the next steps is that they run you through a personalised demo from one of their customer success/growth people, who of course call themselves, Superhumans. They even keep sending you messages that say 2 hours left, or you’ll be a Superhuman soon, and so on, again designed to keep you curious and excited.

When I finally did get to see the demo, it was super-personalised. The Superhuman understood how I used email, my requirements, and helped me do the same things super-fast by way of shortcuts.

Super human

You get this when you hit Inbox Zero!

 
 
 

Every feature looked cool and valuable. What I found interesting here is that this personalized “white-glove” onboarding concierge experience not only made me feel special, it also sort of helped me justify and rationalize the steep $30 monthly price for the software.

 
 

“You didn’t think it was free, did you? And that is just another psychological aspect that Superhuman has handled extremely in a clever way. It didn’t even allow me to think about the fact that they are replacing Gmail (which is free!), neither did it allow me to consider the possibility that many of these keyboard shortcuts are probably available in Gmail as well — it is just that I never bothered to take the time to explore the app and discover these features on my own”.

How they made me look (and feel) cool

 
 
 

The underrated part about Superhuman as a product is the bragging rights it automatically bestows upon you. Right from the name, the idea is to make you feel that you are someone who gets things done, an emotional motivator marketers should take note of.

And yes, the product has in-built marketing, as I pointed out before: Every email that is sent has the message sent via Superhuman. And it immediately evokes curiosity and FOMO.

Superhuman did another thing extremely well here — they just focused on one feature — speed. All their messaging is pivoted on the one central theme that it is the “fastest email experience ever”. Not only does this “need for speed” imperative thread itself through every aspect of their marketing communications, it is also weaved intricately into the product experience as well — every interaction is designed to reinforce this facet.

Also beyond the actual benefit of saving time by processing your email faster, Superhuman seems to be designed like a game, injecting small rewards and incentives that appear on each action that you do and give you dopamine hits which further increase your love and engagement for what would have otherwise been a pure utilitarian product.

 

Will I be using Superhuman?

 
 
 

Though all of the above was super cool, I still don’t think I will pay $30/month for shortcuts and the “dopamine hits”. But chalk that down to my personal nature of being careful about spending money!

Still, there is a large enough prosumer market that will respond to Superhuman, and they are likely to be very successful. Here, Superhuman’s innovation is how they have sharpened their target user focus to only those email power users — folks like sales people who put a price on every bit of their time and secondly folks who want to be in the “cool” set by socially signalling their cred by using a “hot” app like Superhuman.

So while Superhuman is never going to be used by hundreds of millions of users like those who use Gmail or Outlook, their $30 monthly price gives them the flexibility to build a $100m ARR business by attracting merely 300,000 odd users — a target that is by no means unrealistic or out of this world.

Superhuman features I loved

 
 
 

I would like to end this post by listing a set of Superhuman features that I found particularly interesting:

  • For every email, you have an option to remind yourself when you’d like to follow-up.
  • Mention a day, and it automatically pops up your calendar to show empty slots.
  • Notifications on documents show up in a split inbox. You can also create one for important colleagues and family.
  • It allows you to see the read/unread status of your email. No more Chrome extensions!
  • You can easily unsubscribe to messages, including from individual senders.
  • A feature called snippets — short messages you can keep sending to users, who you need to remind about something important.
  • Shortcuts galore: You name a feature, and there’s a shortcut. It is superfast to use.
  • Emails you check once in a while, like promotions, social, and forums are moved to a separate tab.
Split Box

Rahul sends these regular emails which gives you tips on how you can use the tool effectively.

Parting Note

 
 
 

I have also been a big fan of Rahul Vohra, founder/CEO of Superhuman, right from his Rapportive days. Many aspects of Rapportive’s product philosophy can be seen here in Superhuman. This podcast, where he talks about product-market fit and a lot more, is a must-listen.

 
 

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