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Customer Development

Customer Development, Customer Success

How to Become Customer-Centric like @TrunkClub, @InVisionApp & @Atlassian

customer-centric
Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

You’re all about your customer – I hear you. You make what they want, deliver what they need, and bend over backwards, forwards and sideways to help them if they should run into trouble. Maybe you’re doing everything right, but maybe your company still isn’t customer-centric.

A truly customer-centric company involves their ideal customer from the beginning, in the product development phase (aka. customer development) to accurately target problem-solution fit. From there, a Customer Success strategy takes over, building into the product, company model and marketing whatever it takes to deliver the ideal customer’s desired outcome. Then, the customer-centric company keeps tabs on their success rates through something like a regular NPS survey, and adjusts accordingly.

Read More on Segment


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Customer Development, Customer Success

Don’t Make Your Business about You – Your New Mantra? Or the Worst Advice Ever? ft. @VioletaNedkova & @LincolnMurphy

dont-make-your-business-about-you
Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

“Figure out what people want and give it to them. Excuse me? I’m supposed to be a robot? I want to see what I want, then see what they want, and then see what they want from me.”

Violeta Nedkova

To be fair, Violeta’s next words were:

“From there, you can build your groundwork and start giving value.”

But I’m a fan of the provoking, out of context soundbite. I just love how she neatly phrased the prevailing wisdom and then dashed it on the rocks.

I got into a debate with someone on Twitter recently about this – they posted an article about how your business is not about your customers, it’s about you. I posted a rant in response, essentially saying that they were clearly trying to make non-ideal customers happy instead of making ideal customers successful. My argument is: If you make your business about you instead of your customers, you’ll be your only customer – because you’re the one you’re attracting!

Think about it. If all of your copy is about you, written to appeal to you, who are you going to attract?

But, over time, cooler heads prevail. I realized that for some entrepreneurs, like Violeta for example, their ideal client really is them. Or people very much like them. People who hold the same values, want the same things, have the same aesthetic tastes. For business coaches and life coaches, there is a tremendous amount of mirroring that happens in marketing.

But then a friend told me about one of her clients, a middle-aged British guy who was VP of marketing for a major budget bridal-wear chain, who preferred high-end, luxury brands to the budget-friendly one he worked for. If he created marketing that appealed to himself, he couldn’t be further from his target market than if he built a billboard on Mars. His target market was the budget bride, and the things that are important to her weren’t even on his personal radar.

“Don’t make your business about you” should absolutely be that man’s mantra.

It absolutely should not be Violeta’s.

But what about you – the SaaS founder or marketer? Where does SaaS fit into this theory?

For the vast majority of products, unless yours is particularly personality-driven, I would recommend the “Don’t make your business about you” approach. Identify your ideal customers – the ones who have a severe problem you are uniquely able to solve (and who are willing to pay for it) – and get to know them.

In depth.

Understand what their day-to-day life looks like. Learn what they do all day at work. Find out what frustrates them, what wastes their time, what drives them crazy, and what inspires them. Discover what they wish for themselves as people and as employees. Then, make your product and your marketing all.about.them.

But if you skip this crucial step, well, I’ll let Lincoln Murphy tell it.

You see, either way, whether you are making your business about “you” or not – you’re still defining your ideal customer. Maybe that ideal customer is you (well, people similar to you). Maybe your ideal customer couldn’t possibly be more different.

I guess, in the end, it really is always about the customer.


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Content Marketing, Customer Development, Customer Success, Product Management, SaaS

Free E-Book by @NikkiElizDeMere: How to Align SaaS Content Marketing and Product Management

success
Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

You’ve seen the studies – companies that retain customers grow bigger and faster than companies focused solely on customer acquisition. You can fill your funnel to the brim, but if your onboarding process acts like a leaky sieve, you’ll never have enough revenue to build and grow sustainably.

The good news? You have everything you need, right now, to create a sustainable system for acquiring and retaining your ideal customers.

It’s not a magic formula. It’s just two people: Your content marketer and your product manager. Working together.

We hear you. We understand every objection rattling off in your head about the crazy – COMPLETELY CRACKERS! – notion that content marketers could actually help your product development department:

  • Do better work, more efficiently
  • Be less distracted by support tickets
  • Align behind a single, shining vision of your ideal customer
  • Produce products, features, and updates that result in retention and growth
  • And have more fun

These are wild claims to be sure, so allow us to present you with a 3-part paper that will show you how your content creators and product developers can join forces to build the kind of business you’ve envisioned all along: A business with the right products, successful customers, and zero limits.

Read More on Inturact


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Customer Development, SaaS

Who Owns SaaS Customer Development? ft. @sgblank & @CindyAlvarez

who-owns-saas-customer-dev
Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

“I have seen startups fail because founders were either too prideful or just plain shy (find a +1 to help!) to connect in meaningful ways with customers – potential or actual.”

– Amazon Customer review of Lean Customer Development by Cindy Alvarez

Don’t you love Amazon user reviews? They tell the unvarnished truth (unless, of course, the reviewer you’re reading happens to be the author’s BFF). This one, in particular, nails one truth that every founder interested in Lean methodology and customer development must face: You’ve got to be willing to put yourself out there.

Not in a metaphorical sense. I mean this quite literally.

Yourself. Out. There.

You, the founder, are the key ingredient. Your vision is more important than any other part of your nascent company, which is why you – not an intern, not your product developer, not your assistant, not your head of marketing – have to be the one listening to your customers.

I know. I know. You are so busy. You’re trying to run a company, after all! And I’m here saying you have to be the one on the phone, on the street, or in the Skype session, gathering qualitative data.

What am I, nuts?

Well, if I am, I’m no crazier than Steve Blank and Bob Dorf, co-authors of The Startup Owner’s Manual. According to them, this is precisely how new companies, and established companies creating new products, are growing intelligently and sustainably, while avoiding the pitfalls that have spelled disaster for the thousands of companies that fail each year.

If the definition of customer development is asking your customers for input that helps you develop the solution they’ve been hoping for – who better than the founder to lead the charge? By learning from your customers, on the ground, what they need most, your vision can and will change – for the better.

Why should I conduct customer development interviews when I know what my customer wants already?

In The Startup Owner’s Manual, the authors make a list of “9 Deadly Sins” that qualitative data is uniquely able to absolve, including…

  • Assuming “I know What the Customer Wants”
  • The “I Know What Features to Build” Flaw
  • Emphasis on Execution Instead of Hypotheses, Testing, Learning, and Iteration

Blank and Dorf recommend founders create a set of business model hypotheses for how they envision their businesses working, and physically go out and ask people in their target market for insights:

Of all the lessons of Customer Development, the importance of getting out of the building and into conversations with your customers is the most critical. Only by moving away from the comforts of your conference room to truly engage with and listen to your customers can you learn in depth about their problems, product features they believe will solve those problems, and the process in their company for recommending, approving and purchasing products.

The road to bankruptcy is littered with founders who thought they knew what people wanted, but never bothered to test their hypotheses. It’s a completely unnecessary risk, especially when avoiding these pitfalls is as simple as finding the answers to three questions:

  1. Do you really understand the customer’s problem, in its entirety, within their everyday context?
  2. Is the problem severe enough that people are highly motivated to solve it?
  3. Will they care enough about the problem to tell their friends?

To find the answers to this list, you’ll need to do a few things:

First, identify your ideal customer – the customer who has a severe pain they’d do anything to solve, and who is willing to pay you real money to solve it. Bonus points if this customer has been so desperate that they’ve hacked together a stop-gap solution on their own already.

Then, ask your ideal customers open-ended questions that lead you to these insights:

When you collect and use qualitative data correctly to inform their product designs and marketing strategies, you’ll have the information you need to produce a product that people need and want, finding problem/solution fit (and product/market fit too).


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Customer Development, Customer Success, SaaS

5 Steps To Rock Your Value Prop for SaaS Customer Success ft. @MorganB

5-steps-to-rock-your-value
Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Special thanks to Morgan Brown for contributing insights. ❤️

Use qualitative data to uncover language-market fit

When the right words appear in front of the right people, it’s like the copy from your page joins a conversation already happening in the minds of your prospects. It becomes a dialogue of “I wish I had this” and “Do you wish you had this? Let me show you how you can get it.” The conversation continues from there, sometimes with other people, like user reviewers, chiming in just at the right moment. Sometimes with your marketer sending an email that is so perfectly timed your prospects wonder if you’re reading their minds.

In this conversation, your job is to convey a simple message of the value you have to offer. But, crafting that message is anything but simple. It all starts with…

Customer Success

Customer Success is a complete customer-lifecycle process that helps customers achieve success – whatever success means for them in the real world – with your SaaS so that you can decrease churn, increase revenue, and create an exponentially increasing mountain of new sales. 

I’m not over-promising. When you nail Customer Success, those are the results.

This process begins with qualitative data research: Real feedback from real users. This research can help you form a unique value proposition to attract your ideal customers from the very beginning so that you (and they) can start achieving Customer Success, and all of the results that come with it.

Qualitative Data Research

At best, analytics can tell you what is happening, but they can never tell you exactly why. They can tell you a channel is underperforming or a page has a high bounce rate but those are symptoms, and you can either guess at the root causes or you can conduct qualitative research to get meaningful answers. When you’re investing time and money into growing a business, guessing becomes expensive. Running A/B tests or trying new things based on your own intuition or your team’s brainstorming without getting outside of the building is an easy way to waste time and money. 

In fact, this is how many startups fail – or make fools of themselves. Remember the fiasco when iTunes gave everyone the latest U2 album?

When you try to guess what to improve upon or how to fix what’s wrong, it’s not just that you might waste time getting to what ultimately works, it’s that you might not ever make the change that really matters. As people, we’re great at coming up with options and ideas based on the combination of things we “see” or understand, but we’re not good at identifying the factors that may be completely off our radar. 

As Donald Rumsfeld famously said, we’re not good at dealing with the “unknown unknowns.” Unfortunately, it can often be those unknown unknowns that are holding back Customer Success. And we’d never get to the answers ourselves. Unlike Sherlock Holmes, we usually can’t identify the dog that’s not barking. So research isn’t just about speeding up the process of finding wins—it’s essential to finding them in the first place.

Qualitative research breaks down into a few key buckets: surveying, interviewing and observing, and inbound analysis. 

Let’s Get Started

Here’s five steps you can use to gather, analyze and utilize qualitative research to continually improve your language —and ultimately rock your value prop:

5 Steps

  1. Identify your ideal customer
  2. Gather qualitative data from existing and potential customers
  3. Form a unique value proposition to begin establishing language-market fit
  4. Update and test your language
  5. Monitor

1. Identify your ideal customer

Most SaaS companies don’t want to narrow their focus to an ideal customer, but this is critical. After all, how do you know what kind of language to use if you don’t have a clear picture of who you’re talking to? 

Think you can write a sales page that appeals to everyone? Think again. Copywriters know that effective copy, the copy that converts into action, must be highly targeted on just one persona (or, at most, two – but they don’t recommend it!).

You can start identifying your ideal customer by using Lincoln Murphy’s Ideal Customer Profile Framework.

We’ll wait here while you do that.

2. Gather qualitative data from current and potential customers.

Once you’ve identified your ideal customer, you need to determine how the market perceives their problems and your product through the language that you’re currently using on your website and marketing materials. 

After all, language is the foundation of growth.

Here are four methods you can use to accomplish this:

  1. Surveys
  2. Interviews
  3. Observation
  4. Inbound Customer Feedback

Surveys

 This is pretty straightforward. Implement regular surveying of both website visitors and customer segments via onsite and email-based surveys. These include product/market fit, customer satisfaction, net promoter scores, demographic/psychographic profiles, product features and more. 

Why you should talk with “qualified noes”

Onsite surveying is great, but you can also end up getting feedback from people who aren’t your customers – ie. unqualified leads. This is not the feedback you want. Instead, focus on surveying the “qualified noes” (the people who are qualified but decided against buying anyway.) These are the people that can unlock real insights to improve your customer acquisition efforts.

There are two parts to talking to qualified noes: part one is asking your questions within the context of the right parts of the user experience to talk to qualified visitors; part two is asking the right questions. 

The right questions at the right time

You want to ask people who just bought what convinced them to buy, and people who abandoned at the last minute why they changed their mind. All of this is detailed well in this article about “golden questions” with Conversion Rate Experts and Sean Ellis.

Custom surveys via email are another important part of qualitative feedback. Ideally you have a regular survey that goes out to your user base on an interval—say every quarter—that asks the same set of questions about overall satisfaction, demographic data and more. This helps you understand if your product is improving or not, and how your user base is evolving. 

Pre-launch Surveys

In addition to regular surveys, you should survey your customers occasionally about new features or initiatives you’re thinking of launching. These can be stand alone, one-off surveys sent from time to time.

Targeting these to the right people is essential to get meaningful feedback.

For instance you don’t want to send new product feature surveys to users who haven’t logged in recently – if they don’t care about your old features, they aren’t likely to invest interest in the new ones. 

You can get a lot more detail about how to survey users in Qualaroo’s Marketer’s Guide to Surveying Users.

Surveys are great for aggregate qualitative data, but they often only collect data around the issues you think are important—after all your team is writing the questions. So they are not always the best at getting to unknown unknowns. Free-form fields can help here, but they’re not as good as interviews and observing users. 

Interviews

Interviews, such as those done in usability studies, ethnographic research and customer development provide a much richer profile of users. They also help uncover unknown opportunities and issues. The key to interviews is to ensure you’re not leading the interviewee, and are able to elicit the insights and information you’re looking for. Interviewing is a skill, and whether it’s for usability research or customer development, knowing the right questions to ask and being able to put subjects at ease are critical to making the sessions valuable. 

Ash Mayura does a great job of outlining the specifics to customer development issues in Running Lean and includes a specific format and question recommendations to help you get the most out of the interviews. Of course it’s critical that you’re interviewing the right types of people—people who are like the customers you are trying to attract or retain.

Observation

Beyond interviews, observation can be really valuable as well. Especially when it comes to usability it studies and ethnographic research, simply watching people interact with your product or service is highly instructive. You can do this remotely, with tools like UserTesting.com and Inspectlet, or you can do it in-person with some of the user testing studies outlined in Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug. 

Ethnographic research has you observing users in their actual environment with your product. Watching someone work all day and then pick up their phone to use your app, or login to your service while trying to manage their leads, etc. is an incredibly illuminating experience that not only provides great context to understand how your users think about and use your product in relation to the rest of their lives, but it also creates a great deal of user empathy which is essential in creating new features, campaigns, etc. 

Inbound Customer Feedback

Combining these individual deep dives with other qualitative feedback can help provide context to results and analytics data. All of this is proactive research led by the organization, but you also have a great deal of qualitative inbound data that you can take advantage of.

Complaints, support tickets, phone calls, posts on social media, reviews and chat logs are all founts of qualitative data that can be mined for insights. They can be structured, through tools like UserVoice, or they can be mined from unstructured data like support logs or Twitter mentions. 

While most inbound customer feedback is simply used to manage complaints and triage issues, the growth team can use this feedback to find new opportunities for features and campaigns that can lead to growth. One of my favorite examples of this is from Bryan Eisenberg, who likes to show how different the language is in e-commerce product descriptions and the consumer reviews of the same product. By mining these reviews, e-commerce companies can find inspiration for everything from ad and landing page copy to new marketing channels to pursue.

User research is an important and rich area of opportunity for businesses. Most of the opportunity is squandered by a lack of action. As usability expert Jakob Nielsen said, even talking to just five users can lead to big insights and wins. By combining surveys, interviews, observations, and analysis of inbound customer feedback, growth teams can find brand new opportunities that can lead to big wins for their business.

3. Form a unique value proposition to begin establishing language-market fit.

As pointed out by Peep Laja on ConversionXL, your value proposition is the number-one thing you need to get right — and to test. It is a promise of the value to be delivered to the customer. It should be in the language of the customer and should join the conversation that’s already taking place.

To do this, you first have to understand what your customer needs (and what they’d like to gain), what their jobs are, and what their biggest pain points are. Don’t try to guess – use qualitative data gained from interviews and surveys of your ideal customers.

Then, look at what your product does, what benefits/gains it offers, and what pain points it relieves.

Where the two lists intersect is where you have problem/solution fit. And each “fit” becomes an ingredient of your value proposition.

Use this value proposition worksheet or Strategyzer’s value proposition canvas to get started.

value-prop-canvas

Of course, when filling out the value proposition canvas, you’ll have to condense your users’ answers in order to make a list to compare and contrast with what your product offers. But don’t throw away the complete responses from your interviewees. This chart will help you find problem/solution fit (aka. product/market fit) and let you know exactly which benefits to highlight for your audience, but it won’t tell you which words to use that fit your audience.

Your audience already has.

Within the responses your interviewees give you are perfect little sound bites, snippets of sentences, or possible full paragraphs, that precisely express – in the raw language of your users – what your customers need, want and fear. Use these sound bites as they are (correcting only grammar and punctuation if necessary) in your copy.

When your copy – even your value proposition – captures the diction, tone, and feel of your target audience, they’ll recognize it as quickly as you recognize your own signature on a check. And it will speak to them.

4. Update and test your language.

Now that you’ve collected your qualitative data and put it to use in a working value proposition, it’s time to update the language on your landing pages. 

You’ll need to continue to test your value proposition, so form a hypothesis for an A/B test and start testing to determine which variation has a greater positive impact on Customer Success metrics.

A/B testing may be simple, but it’s powerful. Much like the observation technique of gathering qualitative data, a good A/B test measures the real-world behavior of your customers.

Which metrics to look at depends on your goal. Is it lowering Cost to Acquire a new customer (CAC)? Is it monthly recurring revenue, or annual recurring revenue? Is it retaining customers after a typical “drop-off” point in your onboarding process?

Once you’ve chosen a metric and have a hypothesis – which can be as simple as “I think the new language will increase conversions on this page by 25%” – set up an A/B test to find out if you’re meeting your goal. If not, make one change and try again.

You may find that the issue isn’t your language but its presentation, so if you are confident in your value proposition and your on-page copy, you might try having your web design team change the placement of the text, the font, the color, etc. Don’t make lots of changes all at once, unless the page is brand new or severely underperforming. You need a benchmark to compare the new with the old.

5. Monitor 

The problem with A/B testing is that it doesn’t tell you why you’re getting the results you are, which is where qualitative data comes into play yet again. Once you’ve noticed that version B actually performs worse than version A, you can use on-page open-ended survey questions, or interviews, or any of the other qualitative data gathering methods to ask your customers “Hey, what about this page isn’t working for you?”

Then, iterate based on their responses and repeat the A/B testing cycle until you’ve optimized your value prop, or page, or onboarding process for customer success.

Conclusion

Qualitative data is at the heart of Customer Success initiatives – after all, how can you help customers achieve their successes unless you’ve first asked them what they are. With the foundation of insights ‘straight from the horse’s mouth’ you can build an empire.

  1. Identify your ideal customer by using Lincoln Murphy’s Ideal Customer Profile Framework.
  2. Gather qualitative data through the use of surveys, interviews, observation, and inbound customer feedback to validate your language.
  3. Use this value proposition worksheet to form your value proposition.
  4. Update and test the language on your site. 
  5. Monitor.

Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Customer Development

When you do everything right, and still lose traffic: A scary story with a twist. ft. @Buffer

When-you-do-everything-right,-and-still-lose-traffic-A-scary-story-with-a-twist
Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

“We’ve lost nearly half our social referral traffic in the last 12 months” is the title of a Buffer case study by Kevan Lee that fascinates me. It’s a perfect example of best practices gone wrong. I’ve got to tell you this story:

It was a dark and stormy night when Kevan Lee, of Buffer’s marketing team, admitted his even darker secret:

“We as a Buffer marketing team – working on a product that helps people succeed on social media – have yet to figure out how to get things working on Facebook (especially), Twitter, Pinterest, and more.”

Cue the crickets.

They had a ton of theories about their social slump.

We’ve Been Failing on Social Media for 2 Years. Here’s What We Think It Means. from Buffer

Most of their theories were really good.But still their social referral traffic went down. They lost nearly half in a year.

“I don’t have the answer for what’s gone wrong. I wish I did!”

Kevan found himself spiraling into self-doubt, resulting in some not-so-good theories and some major impostor syndrome (you can do it Kevan! I believe in you!).

Maybe we’ve reached peak content saturation, he wonders. Maybe there’s just too much competition (he cites this 2-year-old stat: “Every time someone visits the Facebook News Feed there are on average 1,500 potential stories  . . .  for them to see.”) Still, there are brands and people out there that continue to rock the social media space (shout-out to Gary Vaynerchuk), which dashes the peak content saturation theory.

One thing he does note is a recent change in the type of content Buffer posts. They moved away from productivity and lifehacking content (which got great numbers) and now share mostly social media tips and strategies.

What I love about this post is that he doesn’t deliver the answer, because he doesn’t know it yet. Instead, Kevan, being the rock star that he is (and I mean that sincerely), ends the post with a few things he’s going to try, and then opens up the conversation to comments and suggestions.

This is where it gets really interesting.

Scott Paley:

Maybe you’re measuring the wrong thing? Is ‘reach’ really what you want? Better to find 10,000 potential customers of Buffer than reach 100,000 people who won’t ever buy…Look at it this way… are sales down as a result of the reduced reach?

Scott Paley:

Another way to look at this… when you create more generally helpful stuff, maybe it goes viral and you get more traffic. But it’s not deep content (so it’s not super useful to your actual customer base.) Or you create content that IS super helpful to your actual customer base, making your product more valuable to those who actually pay for it (or would pay for it.) But that content isn’t super interesting to the general (non-paying) public. Those who are, or could be, customers are happier with the newer stuff. But it doesn’t get nearly the same reach. If this is your situation, you’re doing it right, even if you’re referral traffic is cut in half.

Kevan Lee:

Great one, Scott! Yep, I’d say we’ve leaned more toward the deep content with the hope that it would be more useful for social media marketers (a core demographic for us). One risk of that was reduced reach, which it appears has arrived! (We made the switch about 18 months ago)

And then Rachel and Melissa chime in with completely different perspectives.

Rachel Speal:

Kevan, I know this article is bit old; I actually use Buffer but almost never go to the blog. I found this article through Buzzsumo. Anyway, what Scott is 100% right. Nothing matters except ROI. While you’ve changed the angle of your blog, I think you’ve failed to tie your content to your users/prospects specific social marketing problems. And possibly your headlines aren’t strong enough. I think you need to go back to the blackboard and check who your real customers are, vs who you think they are. Perhaps the demographics have changed since you began. Once you know that, you can get a better handle on what problems they have, and connect your connect to that. Anyway, hope that doesn’t sound harsh. I am a customer of Buffer, and have been for many years. So I am happy with you guys…I just don’t see how the blog adds any value to what I – as a copywriter and marketer- need.

Melissa:

As a paying buffer customer, can’t say i agree with this theory. I used to enjoy the old topics more than the new, more specific ones. I commented in more detail above but essentially — i use buffer because it helps me manage social because social is not my entire job… i want to be efficient and quick with my social updates and buffer helps me do that. While im very into marketing and productivity, im not a social media geek. 🙂

All of a sudden, the conversation takes a turn onto the road of sheer genius, because it’s here that they begin talking about the importance of gathering qualitative data: Talking with your customers about what they want, why they want it, what their goals are, and how your product fits into the larger contexts of their jobs and lives.

Melissa asks Kevan if he’s done (or is doing) one-on-one customer interviews – and he hasn’t been. Though, he says, “I’ve thought a lot about taking a customer development approach to the blog.”

And then Melissa brings it home with this gem (I love Melissa. I haven’t met her, but I love her).

Melissa:

I can’t emphasize enough how valuable it was to do even a small handful of one-on-one interviews in addition to wider surveys. You’d be amazed at what you learn in a conversation that might never come up otherwise. I’ve led this kind of project at several companies now, and am always pleasantly surprised by how much you learn actually talking to customers 🙂

It’s one crazy blog post, and well worth a thorough read as the conversation changes from “why is this happening?” to a conversation about customer development.

I love a good twist at the end of a scary story, don’t you?

Takeaways

In the hundreds of comments this post generated, a few key ideas emerge:

  • Highly targeted content aimed at fewer, but ideal, customers is valuable. A high number of readers in general is really just a vanity metric.
  • If you want to know why your readers gravitate to one kind of content versus another, ask them. Their answers may surprise you.
  • Why don’t they like your new, more targeted content? Maybe they like your product, but don’t want to live your product (in which case: general, fun articles might actually be the right bait for this target audience).
  • Maybe just as many readers are finding you, but through different channels than they used to. Several commenters noted that they switched from following Buffer on social media to getting notifications of new posts via email.
  • Finding out what content appeals to your audience is not something that should be left up to guessing. Otherwise you end up with a really long post of “maybe it’s this, maybe it’s that” – which is interesting, but not nearly as helpful as a good comments section.

The end.


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Customer Development, Product Management

5 Worksheets You Need to Build Out Your Customer Development Strategy ft. @sgblank

customer-development

If you’ve read about the Product Death Cycle – a dire consequence of letting user feedback run you ragged – you may feel that asking prospective customers to guide your product development and marketing efforts is like waltzing on a pirate ship’s plank: One wrong step and you’re sunk. Yet, even though there are a myriad of missteps possible, customer development can save you from even more by giving you the precise information you need to find product/market fit.

In The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step by Step Guide for Building a Great Company by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf, their introduction to customer discovery begins with a list of things NOT to do – which also neatly describes five common pitfalls to which founders attempting customer development often fall victim:

“It’s instructive to enumerate all things you are not going to do:

  • Understand the needs and wants of all customers
  • Make a list of all the features customers want before they buy your product
  • Hand Product Development a features list of the sum of all customer requests
  • Hand Product Development a detailed marketing-requirements document
  • Run focus groups and test customers’ reactions to your product to see if they will buy”

The “Product Death Cycle” begins with just such a recipe. This is when well-intentioned entrepreneurs gather as much qualitative data as they can from all potential customers and act on all the feedback.

All is where the danger happens. And it’s all too easy to fall into it – which is why these 5 worksheets from The Startup Owner’s Manual* come in so very handy.

*Note: We have no affiliation with this book – we just think it’s incredibly informative and hope you do too!

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Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Customer Development, Tools

Most Useful Tools, Tips & Checklists for Collecting Qualitative Data ft. @sgblank

qualitative-data

Qualitative data – information gathered from ideal customers by open-ended questions – is the foundation of success for startups, SaaS companies, and anyone else who thinks they have a solution to a problem that could potentially make money. Asking real people pertinent questions allows entrepreneurs to avoid making costly assumptions, and most importantly, lays the groundwork for the kind of customer success that leads to retention and the potential for wild, insane, Google-level growth.

Steve Blank and Bob Dorf, authors of The Startup Owner’s Manual, recommend that founders interview 50 potential customers – in 10 to 15 in-person visits per week – which could require contacting 200 customers or more. While we’re sure the data collected from such interactions is worth the time and effort, we also realize that some of your ideal customers are located around the globe, which makes face-to-face time difficult (and expensive).

Here are the most useful tools, tips and checklists we’ve come across for collecting qualitative data without using up all of your frequent flyer miles.

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Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Customer Development, Customer Success, Product Management

Why the Customer Success Manager is the Product Manager’s New BFF by @NikkiElizDeMere

bff
Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

In 1853, U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry (no, not the Friends actor) sailed to the shores of Japan to strongly suggest (with several gun-laden vessels) that the ruling shogunate open Japan’s ports to outside trade. For 200 years, Japan had embraced a policy of near total isolation from the West, but with the Industrial Revolution fresh out of the oven, even isolationist Japan couldn’t ignore the benefits of trade. What does this history lesson have to do with Product Managers and Customer Success?

In most companies, each department is like its own, relatively isolated shogunate. Each manager has his or her patch of office space to rule, and each kingdom is somewhat suspicious of its neighbors. Take Sales and Marketing for example – a Corporate Executive Board Survey cited in Hubspot’s “The Power of Smarketing” revealed that 87% of the terms Sales and Marketing use to describe each other are negative. I would venture to say that the feelings of Product Managers towards Customer Success Managers are neither warmer, or fuzzier.

After all, as Product Manager, you’ve developed a product that works – why should it be your problem if buyers can’t figure out how to use it?

Nobody is going to hold a 19th century Paixhan shell gun to your head (they’re far too heavy), but opening your borders to Customer Success is the only way you’ll survive and thrive. Here’s why you, as Product Manager, should embrace Success. All across the SaaS B2B industry, this new and vital discipline is being developed. CSMs are charged with optimizing customer relationships, increasing product adoption and reducing churn.

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Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Customer Development

Collecting Qualitative Data for Customer Development isn’t as Hard as You Think ft. @Inturact

qualitative-data

Qualitative data in the marketing world comes down to the kind of information you can only get from interacting with real people in the real world. Yes, it’s a little difficult to quantify responses to open-ended questions, especially when they’re told to you over a cup of tea, but the value of this information to startups and growing businesses should not be underestimated.

Why Qualitative?

  • Agile product development.
  • Customer development.
  • Lean Startup methodology.

Read More on Inturact


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.