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Customer Experience, Customer Success, Emotion, Products, SaaS, Startups

A Completely Different way to Look at Customer Fit for SaaS Startups ft. @LincolnMurphy

There are so many ways businesses segment customers, and many of them are useless: demographics, location, purchasing histories, size of company, how much the customer pays, and so many more.

But there’s one method of segmentation that tends to be overlooked. And overlooking it will lead, invariably, to churn.

It’s called Appropriate Experience (AX). And I guarantee it’s not what you think.

What is Appropriate Experience?

Appropriate Experience is an extremely customer-centric idea, because it’s all about them. The customers. Their experience. But this isn’t “customer experience.” Forget CX and customer satisfaction. No, no. This is completely different.

Appropriate Experience is about how the customer needs to be treated and supported by you so they can reach their desired outcome.

But what is it really – in practice?

For SaaS, a good example of Appropriate Experience might be customers who need high-touch customer support vs. low-touch. Maybe the customer’s Appropriate Experience is self-service, because they have the expertise and technical abilities to figure out most things for themselves. Or maybe the customer’s Appropriate Experience requires some hand-holding, a designated customer-success manager and 24-7 help desk.

Lincoln Murphy, who championed AX, explains it this way:

You see, a customer has a required outcome. A thing that they need to achieve… And they have a way that they need to achieve that Appropriate Experience. That Appropriate Experience – AX as I call it – goes across the entire customer lifecycle.

He mentions Appropriate Experience within the context of the checklist he recommends using to see whether a customer has “success potential.”

Here’s that checklist (view full descriptions on his article about success potential.)

  • Technical fit
  • Functional fit
  • Cultural fit
  • Competence fit
  • Experience fit
  • Resource fit

In many ways, Appropriate Experience (aka. Experience fit) is the flip-side of Resource fit. Resource fit asks the customer if they can spare the resources to put in the time/money/manpower to succeed with the product. Experience fit asks you – the SaaS company – the same question.

The question you need to ask yourself is…

Do you have the resources to ensure that this customer has the experience they need to reach their ideal outcome?

What experience are you able and willing to provide?

You may not have the resources to serve customers who need the high-touch approach.

And that means that you can’t give that particular customer segment their Appropriate Experience, and they won’t be successful with you.

You can’t afford not to identify your customer segments by the experience they require.

Yes, that also means you can’t afford to keep customer segments to whom you can’t deliver an Appropriate Experience. Even if they’re paying you.

It sounds crazy to turn away good money, I know.

But these are people who will never be satisfied with what you offer. They won’t refer you business. They’re highly likely to leave lackluster reviews. And they will churn – after wasting a tremendous amount of your time and resources trying to make them happy when that was never gonna happen.

What happens when you segment your customers and find that a lot of them could use a different experience? Well, then it’s…

Problem-solving time

When you use Appropriate Experience as a factor in customer segmentation, you may find that a large part of your customers demand a type of experience you’re not currently providing.

Uh oh.

You have a few options.

You might consider expanding your services and scaling to meet that need.

If this is a possibility, you’ll want to first survey that segment and ask them what experience would most help them achieve their desired outcomes. But when you do, keep Lincoln Murphy’s checklist in mind. Are these customers who have success potential, if only they had a slightly different experience?

Also keep in mind that Appropriate Experience isn’t limited to how much help a customer gets. It’s not just a high-touch/low-touch issue. If my desired outcome is to go out to dinner with my significant other for a romantic evening, there is a very specific experience I need to achieve that, and Burger King isn’t going to do the job. Think holistically.

Another option, of course, is to not scale or change the experience you provide. You could decide to focus on the customer segment whose Appropriate Experience matches what you’re prepared to offer.

Both are actually good options.

The only bad option is accepting the business of someone you can’t really serve.


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

Content Marketing, Startups

Startup Founders, This is How to Do Content Marketing from Day 1

Want your website to summit the search engine results page? You need a blog. Want to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry? A blog can make your name. Need to provide content that nurtures leads and gives current customers what they need to be successful with your product? All of that can be done with a blog.

This isn’t news.

You know you need a blog. And, by now, you’ve probably figured out that just having a blog isn’t enough to get any of the above results. It has to be good.

Scratch that.

“Good, unique content. Problem is, almost everyone can get here. They really can. It’s not a high bar, a high barrier to entry to say you need good, unique content. . . . If you can’t consistently say, ‘We’re the best result that a searcher could find in the search results,’ well then, guess what? You’re not going to have an opportunity to rank.” — Rand Fishkin, Why Good Unique Content Needs to Die — Whiteboard Friday

It has to be great.

But even Level-Great content is becoming saturated because the secret is out. Content is the key to:

  • Build brand recognition — 71% of all respondents who maintain blogs for a business report that they have increased their visibility within their industries through their blogs.
  • Establish leadership in your space — In 2016, 36% of Fortune 500 companies have a public blog.
  • Boost acquisition — 77% lift in median monthly leads occurs to businesses with over 51 blog articles.
  • Improve retention — “A business’ best protection against churn is a Customer Success team armed with a content marketing strategy.”

Unbounce figured this out almost immediately. In an interview, Unbounce Co-Founder Rick Perreault said, “We started marketing the day we started coding.” What did that marketing look like? One marketing employee who focused on creating high-ranking blog content that produced significant and consistent value to the reader.

You know all this. You’re sitting there thinking “Yeah, I know, content is king, quality is king, we’ve got a pair of kings and our content STILL isn’t getting us to Page 1.”

The problem is: You’re creating all of this quality content without a cohesive SEO strategy in place. A strategy that leverages your great, big body of content to achieve the most effect.

We’re not talking about a list of keywords here.

But to understand the kind of strategy we’re suggesting, you’re going to need a brief history lesson.

Read More on HubSpot’s “Think Growth”


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

Customer Success, Onboarding, Product Management, SaaS, Startups

How to Create Customer-Centric (Not Product-Centric) User Onboarding Flows ft. @Appcues

Onboarding is a magical time—magic in the sense that if your users don’t find what they need and get the results they want, they will magically disappear. Also, magic because of its transformational power to turn tire-kickers into loyal users.

Will your onboarding process lead to a disappearing act? Or will it enable you to build a lasting customer relationship?

It all depends on how you build customer success into your user flows.

Many onboarding user flows are designed to help the user set up their accounts and learn how to use the product. That’s all very useful. But these user flows are missing a step.

Account setup and functional learning are important, but only as much as they help the user achieve their ideal outcomes.

Your user doesn’t care about your interface. They don’t really care about your tool either. They care about achieving their ideal outcome in the simplest, easiest, fastest way possible.

That’s what your product is designed to deliver, isn’t it?

Yet, too often, we fail to include the actions that mean success for the customer into the very user flows designed to get them there!

It’s time we re-think product-centric user flows—especially in onboarding.

Read More on Appcues


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

Growth Hacking, Startups, Teams

Why Hiring is the Growth Hack You Never Considered by @OmerMolad

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

“Growth hacking is about running smart experiments to drive growth within your business.” – Sean Ellis

If you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with the term “growth hacking”, which seems to be everywhere at the moment. Everyone I meet is a growth hacker all of a sudden. But despite a little bit of froth on the milkshake, the hype is very real and it’s here to stay. Here’s why.

First, people will do almost anything to grow their business. For a small business or startup, growth is the difference between life and death.
For a small business or startup, growth is the difference between life and death. Click To Tweet

Second, it’s in our nature to experiment. We try different foods until we figure out what we like and we date different people until we find “the one”. By and large we live life through trial and error and we learn through our experiences.

Experimenting across different traction channels or, in “human language”, trying to find customers in different ways, is a smart way to drive growth. It’s time to take this one step further and create a culture of experimentation by applying a “growth (hacking) mindset throughout the entire business.

The obvious place to start is people – building and growing teams – because there is no better growth engine than a great team.

It’s A People Game

“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” – Jim Collins

Ask any investor about the first thing they look for when making an investment decision. It’s the team.

Ask any lender what will always be a deal breaker, regardless of cash flow quality. They’ll say management.

What’s the single biggest factor in job satisfaction? Quality of co-workers.

We’re just humans building products for other humans, either to ease pain or give pleasure.  Everything else is a means to an end.

Yet, while we use words like “obsessed” and evangelist” about getting customers, we don’t tend to think of hiring people in that way. We use very sophisticated methods to find and win customers but tend to be stuck in neutral when it comes to building teams.

At Vervoe, we’re changing that.
At @VervoeHQ, we're changing evangelism around hiring the right team. Click To Tweet

Just like experiments have proven to drive growth, they will also help you hack hiring. You just need to cast aside any long-held views and embrace experimentation.

Here are four dead simple ways to apply a growth (hacking) mindset to hiring and immediately make your business more valuable.

Four Easy Hiring Hacks You Should Start Using

Hiring Hack #1: Ditch the Résumé

Ditch the résumé. Résumés are not required to make a hiring decision.

 

“I think, to me, reality is better than being fake.” – Ice Cube

Hypothesis: Résumés are not required to make a hiring decision.

Still asking candidates for résumés? Go résumé-free for one role.

Résumés are typically used to decide who to interview. Instead, don’t decide, just give everyone a chance. Sound like a waste of time? Actually, it’s faster if you use automated interviews.

This delays the first impression we form about people to after we see them perform. It allows us to focus on what people can do and who they really are, as opposed to what they’ve done previously, which school they went to or how weird their name sounds. Because, honestly, who cares about that stuff.

After you pick the best performers in the interviews, go over their backgrounds and ask yourself whether you would have picked those people out of the résumé pile. Then go over the ones you rejected and see if any of them have fancy résumés that would have made you choose them for an interview.

Be honest.
Hiring Hack: Résumés are not required to make a hiring decision. Click To Tweet

Hiring Hack #2: Don’t Outsource Your Most Sacred Activity

Don’t outsource your more sacred activity.

 

“Social media is the ultimate equalizer. It gives a voice and a platform to anyone willing to engage.” – Amy Jo Martin

Hypothesis: There is no value in outsourcing your recruitment.

Do you use a recruitment agency or a headhunter? We’re going to put an end to that and see if it makes any difference.

External recruiters, like most brokers, are the product of information asymmetry. You assume that they have access to better information than you so you pay for that information.

But the internet has made the world flat, we just need to know where to look and how to make it easy for people to find us. You can share your job ad on every social network and ask your own personal and professional network to refer people. Reaching people has never been easier.

If you incorporate hiring hack #1, you won’t need to worry about deciding who to interview, a service traditionally performed by recruitment agencies. All you need to do is get your job in front of enough eyeballs, which is pure marketing.

Now, here’s the real hack. Work out the commission you would have paid the recruitment agency. Let’s say it’s a 20% fee and the role pays $100,000. Now spend every cent of the $20,000 you saved on promoting your job on every major job board, industry board and social network.

Is it money well spent? How many applicants did you get? What about for $2,000? What about for $200?

Sound insane spending that much money to get access to candidates who will all automatically be interviewed anyway? There’s your answer.
Hiring Hack: There is no value in outsourcing your recruitment. Click To Tweet

Hiring Hack #3: Expert Questions Are Better Than Yours

Expert questions are better than yours.

 

“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.” – Thomas Berger

Hypothesis: Other people ask better interview questions than you.

Wait, what?

If you’re running a business, there is a good chance you’ll have to hire someone into a role you’re not an expert in.

Next time you’re trying to hire someone, use interview questions written by an expert instead of your own. To learn more about how to hire for a role you’re not an expert in, read this.

If you want to do it all online, you can easily choose an interview script from Vervoe’s library.

But the concept is equally applicable offline. Call a friend who’s an expert and pick their brain on how they would hire for the role. Then create a process that aligns with the expert’s recommendation. If the expert thinks the best way to hire a chef is to spend a day in the kitchen together, then that’s what you should do. Speaking of cooking, here’s an omelette story that illustrates this exact point.

You can A/B test within the role itself by randomly interviewing half the candidates using your own questions and half using an expert’s. But I suspect the benefits will be evident even before candidates do the interviews. You’ll know from the quality of the questions whether the expert is improving your approach.
Hiring Hack: Other people ask better interview questions than you. Click To Tweet

Hiring Hack #4: Don’t Ask People to Fit In

Don’t ask people to fit in – cultural fit is overrated.

 

“Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit.” – Jawaharlal Nehru

Hypothesis: Cultural fit is overrated.

Talking about your company’s vision, values and culture in your job description is a great way to proactively qualify candidates.

However, instead of asking people to fit in with your culture, look for people who will add to your culture. Ask for cultural contribution and look for people who can improve your team’s cultural fitness.  

The result of this experiment can only be verified after several months of working together. But you’ll see glimpses during the hiring journey. Encourage candidates to tell you what they’ll be bringing to the table. Get creative with your interview questions. And more of all, be open to being challenged.
Hiring Hack: Cultural fit is overrated. Click To Tweet

Time to Start Experimenting

What you do with the results of each experiment is up to you. But I guarantee you’ll learn a lot about hiring and gain insight into the mindset of your candidates, and perhaps even your own.

Let me know how it goes.

Data Science, Startups

Engagement: The Key to a Data Driven Culture ft. @UseNotion

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

A “Data-driven culture” is what so many businesses aspire to be. They think that if they have the data, organize the data, and use the data to make decisions, that they will automatically infuse it into the very fibers of their corporate culture.

If only it were that easy.

Yes, obtaining data and organizing it may be the first necessary steps towards creating a “data driven culture,” but unless you can get your team excited about using that data – it’s close to worthless.

Having a data-driven culture means that everyone – not just analysts, product managers and marketers – understands the data you’re collecting, can find the data you’ve collected, and knows how to use that data to improve and optimize their work. And, of course, it’s not about your team just knowing how to use the data, but feeling empowered, encouraged, and even excited to make data an integral part of their work.

For that to happen, employees need reasons why adding data to their lives will make their work easier and get them better results.

But, engendering enthusiasm can be an uphill battle, especially if your mountains of numbers tend to scare people away.

Read More on Notion


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

Startups

The Lean Startup Way to Fail ft. @AshMaurya

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

The road of progress is paved with failures – that’s not a quote; in fact, I made it up – but when you’re talking about Lean Startup methodology, it’s nevertheless true. If we don’t fail, we can’t grow, which makes failure actually very exciting, and something we encourage. Failures force us to question our convictions, and possibly discard them to make way for new ones that work more effectively.

When you think of failure that way, it’s not so bad. But, it also opens the door to the possibility that:

You’re doing failure wrong

In Scaling Lean: Mastering The Key Metrics for Startup Growth, author Ash Maurya (also author of Running Lean and creator of Lean Canvas) talks about the right way to deal with failure so you can reap the most benefits from what appears, at first, to be a significant setback.

“Can you find the common theme across these discoveries: penicillin, microwave, X-ray, gunpowder, and vulcanized rubber? . . . In each of these cases, the inventors were seeking a specific outcome and instead got a different outcome. But instead of throwing away their ‘failed’ experiments, they did something very different from most people: they asked why.”

As Maurya points out, Lean entrepreneurs today don’t fail, they pivot – but if pivoting means rushing to correct course, instead of examining the cause of the failure, you’re doing it wrong. In fact, pivoting  might not be the best response at all. Only through careful, collaborative analysis can you determine whether to persevere with your hypothesis, pivot your strategy to reach your goal by different route, or chuck the idea altogether.

Whichever route you choose, you’ve been given an opportunity. When a hypothesis doesn’t hold true, you have the ability to learn things about your customers that you never would have otherwise – by asking “why?” (a lot).

“Why?” lets you dig deep into the reasons far below surface assumptions. The “5 Whys” exercise developed by Toyota Motor Corporation can be a useful tool after just about any failure, crisis, setback, or experiment.

Read More on Notion


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

Startups

Build, Measure, Learn, + Communicate ft. @LauraKlein

build-measure-learn

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Build, measure, learn. They’re the fundamental building blocks of Lean Startup methodology. Critics equate this 3-part cycle with tossing half-baked products to consumers to see if they work – a mistake easily made if you don’t fill in the spaces between Build – Measure – Learn with a little common sense and a lot of communication.

But first, let’s clear up a miscommunication. This isn’t simply about building a product. It’s about a lot more than that.

The goal of Build, Measure, Learn isn’t to build a final product, or even a prototype. It’s to learn as much as possible about your target audience, their pain points, price points, and possible solutions through incremental, iterative engineering. The value of approaching product development this way, rather than the waterfall model (in which a set of requirements leads to product design, followed by implementation, verification and maintenance), is that the product develops as a result of customer feedback from the beginning, rather than developing the product before sending it to Alpha and Beta testing.

Read More on Notion


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

Startups

Test Big Strategies via Small Experiments ft. @AshMaurya

test-big-strategies

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

“The best way to test a big idea or strategy is through small, fast, additive experiments.” – Ash Maurya, Scaling Lean

Lean startup methodology is predicated on the idea of making a minimal investment (and taking minimal risk) to learn the most valuable lessons. When it comes to creating highly effective strategies, the method is the same: creating small, fast, low-risk, highly informative tests.

How do you create “small” tests?

Small tests begin by getting to the heart of your strategy – what is the biggest, perhaps riskiest, assumption your strategy makes?

Ash Maurya in Scaling Lean: Mastering The Key Metrics for Startup Growth uses a content strategy as an example.

For instance, if you wanted to test a new content marketing strategy, what would you do? Here’s a possible task list:

1. Pick a name for your blog.

2. Register a domain.

3. Design a logo.

4. Set up a WordPress site.

5. Publish your first blog post.

6. Promote the blog post.

The first four items on this list require acquisition of additional resources. While relatively inexpensive in money terms, they cost time, which is more valuable than money. More important, they don’t do much to test the riskiest assumption in this strategy, which is ‘Can you write compelling content that engages your audience?’ This is tested only in steps 5 and 6.

Do you even need your own blog to do this? You can instead leverage other people’s networks by guest blogging first. Not only does it get you to step 5 faster, it also takes care of step 6.

Read More on Notion


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

Startups

How to Create a Lean Startup Culture ft. @UseNotion

how-to-create-a-lean-startup-culture

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Some describe work ‘culture’ as a “learned process,” or “a set of rules and standards,” or even behaviors that fall within a proper and acceptable range according to the organization. Those sterile definitions may work for traditionally corporate environments, but startups? No. Startups have a culture all their own.

Startup culture – it’s a work hard, play harder, scrappy environment of passionate people willing to do what it takes to achieve greatness (or at least a profit). And that culture asserts itself through establishing a shared sense of purpose, a shared “why” for the what you’re producing. If you’ve come that far in your startup journey, you’re ahead of most.

And heck, that culture can be so motivating, innovative, and even profit-maximizing that large organizations of all kinds are adjusting their strategies and policies to encourage a startup mindset in their enterprise companies.

That culture isn’t necessarily Lean, but it can be. And when it is, the combination of passion and process can yield extraordinary results.

Read More on Notion


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

Startups

5 Reasons You’re Failing at Lean Startup Methodology ft. @UseNotion

5-reasons-youre-failing

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Most startups fail – that’s the premise of The Lean Startup, its methodology and analytics. It’s all about setting up your startup for success by waiting to build until you know exactly what your customers need and will pay for, and then embarking on a journey of data-driven improvements.

All the while, you’re investing as little as possible to learn the most possible, making the iffy, insecure world of startup entrepreneurship a little more sure, a little more stable.

It’s no wonder that startup founders have taken notice. Something that lowers risk and improves the ultimate product? ‘Where do I sign up?’ – right?

But here’s what few people are willing to tell you: A lot of startups also fail at adopting Lean Startup methodology and there are a few reasons why.

Read More on Notion


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