Your Product Isn’t Growing Because It Sucks

Cliff Lerner
5 min readNov 18, 2017


Much of this information is taken from my new Best Seller Business Book, Explosive Growth, which you can purchase on Amazon.

There is one question that can make or break any marketing campaign, but you never hear it asked at meetings:

Does our product suck?

It’s a scary thing to say out loud. Leaders don’t want to appear to lack confidence in their product, and team members don’t want to piss anyone off.

But in my experience, asking that question can be the difference between a launching a product that is dead on arrival, and building a $150 million dollar company.

Why It’s So Hard To Ask Ourselves If Our Product Sucks

In the spring of 2007, I was running a dating service I founded called

At the time, IMFT was acquiring a few thousand new users every month organically, which was decent, but still wasn’t enough. We needed a much bigger influx of users, because the initial financial runway we built was running out.

Something was wrong somewhere, but I wasn’t sure what it was yet.

A lot of founders find themselves in this same space. You launch a product with middling success — decent signup rates, mediocre retention — and while other people on the team are thinking “This is just the start!” you’re asking yourself, “Is this our ceiling?”

I found myself with that exact anxiety, asking myself, “Does our product suck?

It’s hard to say that out loud when people’s jobs are depending on your product not sucking. This wasn’t a fun idea we were building out of my garage — this was a real company that I’d asked people to bet their futures on, and I was questioning whether or not our core product was worthwhile.

As I searched for an answer, I found something even more frightening:

I had virtually no way of knowing if my product sucked or not.

How To Tell If Your Product Sucks

These days, there are a lot of early indicators to tell if a product sucks, or at least whether it’s remarkable or not:

  • Are people tweeting about it?
  • Are people sharing it on Facebook?
  • What is the overall social media buzz?

#ExplosiveGrowthTip: Having a remarkable product is not subjective. Either people remark and it grows organically or they don’t. Are people remarking about your product? Visit the Explosive Growth website to see more explosive growth tips for entrepreneurs.

But ten years ago, when SNAP Interactive (the parent company of our dating apps) was starting to grow, the landscape was much different:

  • Twitter only began in 2006, so tweeting was still reserved mostly for bird calls.
  • Facebook had barely begun to expand beyond the college walls, so that wasn’t a factor either.
  • Analytics platforms hadn’t developed to the levels we find today, so it wasn’t as easy to track and analyze every piece of user activity and engagement metric in real time.

Therefore, it was a little harder for me to determine if our product sucked, despite having a decent number of users.

Ultimately, what I learned was that if something isn’t jumping out as extraordinary right away, there might be a problem. Something magical should be very clear from the outset.

While still wondering if our product sucked or not, I asked some family and friends their opinions. They told me all sorts of wonderful things to offer their encouragement, support, and probably feed my ego at the same time, but they didn’t shed any light on why our product wasn’t flourishing:

  • “Your product’s great, Cliff!”
  • “I love IMFT — it’s way better than Match!”
  • “Everybody should be using your online dating app.”

All these glowing responses only fueled my concern even more because, if all these people really thought my site was so amazing, why hadn’t they told their friends about it, and why weren’t they using it more often?

A grim reality dawned on me. We had a unique product, but just because something is unique, doesn’t mean it’s a game changer.

The timing might not have been right. The user experience might have been too clunky. Or, the idea might just not have added enough value for the user to switch to it.

That’s when it clicked for me:

We needed a product that was doing something not just slightly better, but massively better — ten times better — than the other dating sites on the market. That’s called the 10X effect, and we clearly didn’t have that with IMFT.

#ExplosiveGrowthTip: A marginally better product is worthless. It needs to be at least ten times better. Have you quantified how much better your product’s core offering is than the competition? Visit the Explosive Growth website to see more explosive growth tips for product managers.

My product did suck, but admitting that meant that I had nothing to lose. My worst-case scenario was watching my bad product die a slow death (i.e. what was already happening), which meant I was free to make a risky, all-in bet with our company’s future.

How Admitting My Product Sucked Made Me $150 Million

I knew something was inherently wrong with the product, and it had something to do with two metrics key to the success of any business: Net Promoter Score (NPS) & retention.

We were getting great press, but it didn’t amount to enough new users. Perhaps most importantly, we weren’t retaining the users who did sign up.

#ExplosiveGrowthTip: Marketing a product with a low Net Promoter Score (or retention) is essentially saying to potential customers, “Hey, my product sucks, come check it out.”

There was a pain point in the user experience that was holding users back, and after exploring the problem thoroughly, we discovered the cause: It took several minutes to create a IMFT profile — you had to find and upload photos — and in the modern fast-paced, on-demand world, that was far too long for most users.

What if there was a way for users to upload a complete profile with their best pictures and all the necessary information with just one click?

If you’re screaming “FACEBOOK” at your screen right now, congratulations, you made the right call. After pivoting our entire site and model to become an integrated Facebook app, we were able to remove friction and scale the company from $3 million to over $19 million in revenue in just 2 years. Soon after, our valuation would increase from $5 million to $150 million.

But remember, this was 2007. Facebook had only been fully public (as in, not only available to students) for a year.

I was pushing all of my chips in, betting the future of my company on a platform I was incredibly uncertain about.

If I had been laboring under the delusion that my product was great as-is, I would never have done that. By admitting my product sucked, however, I was free to make that bet — and ultimately, put the company on a path to achieve explosive growth.

One of the best books for entrepreneurs is Purple Cow by Seth Godin, which brilliantly explains how to build a remarkable product.

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Cliff Lerner is the author of the #1 Best Seller Business Book, Explosive Growth. For more Explosive Growth insights, check out my PR Tips To Get Free Press, Viral Marketing Playbook, and Top 10 Entrepreneur Growth Tips. You can contact me by email or @CliffLerner on most social networks.



Cliff Lerner

Author of Best-Seller — “Explosive Growth: A Few Things I Learned Growing To 100M Users” —| Working on a new social app