What is a lever?

What is a lever?

In tech product you’ll often hear people ask ‘what are the levers’ they can pull to make something happen.

Let’s imagine that you are a commercial media publishing company. In order to get up the search rankings you need to have lightning quick pages. In order to make money you need to carry commercial pay-per-click advertising.

You have two levers. Adverts make the money. Page speed gets the rankings. Which one do you pull? If you have super-fast pages with no adverts you’ll make no money and if you have enough adverts to turn a profit your content will never get found.

Another example, you are the product manager for an online store. This time you have identified four levers. Attract, convert, encourage, retain. Attract is about getting the potential customers to come to you to begin with. Convert is about getting the potential customers to buy something from you. Encourage is about getting the new customer to buy more than they may have originally intended. Retain is about getting them to want to come back, a loyalty scheme for example.

Levers are the guide that product managers can use to guide their decisions. They can become outcomes in their own right, but generally lead to an outcome. They can have performance indicators set against them too.

And so it flows: in order to grow the business, we want to convert more customers. We can measure this by seeing if Average Order Value (AOV) has increased or decreased, for example.

Generally, the tricky bit with levers is that they all offer a balance, they have a gravitational effect on one another. You only have so much resource and if you invest all your effort in to one, then you ignore the others at your peril. If you invest equally in all of them you may not be responding to customer need enough. For example, there’s no point in attracting people to your offering if you then have nothing useful to offer them.


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