All Posts By

Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré

Design

Creatives: How much does what you wear to work matter?

At a recent Design Leadership Forum dinner in New York City, the topic of what you wear to work came up when attendees discussed what it takes to give designers a seat at the table. Educating your organization about the importance of design is a common strategy, but could the clothes you wear play an important role in getting design buy-in?

“Clothes make the man,” as Shakespeare wrote, but that line actually comes from a much earlier Greek proverb: “The man is his clothing.” From togas to tights, fashion makes an impression and not just on other people, but on ourselves.

To dive deeper into this conversation, we spoke with several women designers to get a sense of how they use personal style strategically in their work lives, what challenges they face, and how perceptions of workwear differ for corporate designers on the East and West Coasts.

Read More on InVision

Customer Development, Customer Experience, Product Management, SaaS

How to Tackle the #1 Problem Product Teams Face: Customer Feedback

What’s your biggest problem as a Product Dev professional? Too many demands and not enough time? Limited resources? Oddly enough, none of those topped the list for Hiten Shah’s crowd.

Hiten Shah (of KISSmetrics, Crazy Egg, and Quick Sprout fame) recently wrote in his newsletter that “the problems people have on Product teams fall into two main categories: Customer Feedback and Alignment.” This conclusion came after Hiten asked his readers to share their biggest product problems, and in more than 100 replies, those two themes emerged as the leaders.

Wootric helps customers gather, organize, categorize and analyze customer feedback – at volume – every day. And we’ve got a few insights into how Product teams can solve the issues that come with customer-centricity – while improving alignment at the same time.

Let’s go through the problems real Product professionals sent Hiten Shah point by point.

Read More on Wootric

Design

Do you need a creative safe space for your design team?

A space that’s perfect for collaboration and creativity. Source: Inside Design: Yesware.

While it’s not a universal experience (and very much depends on company culture), some designers in corporate environments have restraints put on their creative expression. Those might be physical restraints, like rules against whiteboards and Post-it notes out in the open, or ideological restraints that stop the creative process in its tracks.

Maybe you work in a creative utopia, or maybe you don’t.

But creativity is delicate. It needs room to grow and a nurturing environment to bear fruit.

So we’re dedicating this post to finding ways to establish safe spaces for creativity—and creatives—to thrive in corporate settings.

Physical “safe space” for design

“GlaxoSmithKline, the global pharmaceutical giant, thinks it has found the cure for the drab, inefficient office: fluid spaces where you do what the moment requires, alone or in groups, moving throughout the day. Each employee has a laptop with a built-in “soft phone,” a locker for personal possessions, and maybe one file drawer. That’s it. Even US head Deirdre Connelly doesn’t have an office.” – Inside the New Deskless Office by Frederick E. Allen, Forbes, July 2012

New trends in office design and space usage have cut down on clutter, and often even personal space. Shared workspaces and “hot-desking,” where employees move from desk to desk as needed, might minimize the expense of square footage, but it does come with other costs.

You can’t make, or leave, “messes.”

But designers need room—and possibly rooms—to create. To put their ideas out there and see how, or if, they work together.

There are strong arguments to be made for clean, tidy workspaces that lead to clean, tidy minds. But creative minds are messy, and a few studies shows that creativity spikes in messy environments.

“Forty-eight research subjects came individually to our laboratory, again assigned to messy or tidy rooms. This time, we told subjects to imagine that a Ping-Pong ball factory needed to think of new uses for Ping-Pong balls, and to write down as many ideas as they could. We had independent judges rate the subjects’ answers for degree of creativity, which can be done reliably. Answers rated low in creativity included using Ping-Pong balls for beer pong (a party game that in fact uses Ping-Pong balls, hence the low rating on innovation). Answers rated high in creativity included using Ping-Pong balls as ice cube trays, and attaching them to chair legs to protect floors.

When we analyzed the responses, we found that the subjects in both types of rooms came up with about the same number of ideas, which meant they put about the same effort into the task. Nonetheless, the messy room subjects were more creative, as we expected. Not only were their ideas 28 percent more creative on average, but when we analyzed the ideas that judges scored as “highly creative,” we found a remarkable boost from being in the messy room — these subjects came up with almost five times the number of highly creative responses as did their tidy-room counterparts.”

Designate a physical space that allows you and your team to make a mess. Click To Tweet

Read More on InVision

Customer Success, Mobile, Mobile Apps

“Do push notifications increase retention?” Answer by @NikkiElizDeMere

Do push notifications increase retention? Hah! I spent the first 10 minutes of my morning disabling push notifications AGAIN from my phone (because apparently app ‘updates’ = resetting my notification settings?).

I am not alone, apparently. Andrew Chen said it best: “notification-driven retention sucks.”

In all seriousness though, push notifications only increase retention as much as they are *useful.* Tell me when something is wrong. Tell me when something goes through correctly. Tell me when a friend, or client, contacts me. Tell me when you have a 20% off sale (anything less than 20% I consider spam, let’s be real here).

This morning though, my phone was pinging for no reason I could find at all. Disable. Disable. Disable. Like someone from Facebook should have listened when PostFunnel’s Matt McAllister said “Push notification permissions are a privilege… Users can take them away at any time.”

So I’ve got this crazy idea:

What if we took another look at how we use push notifications, and this time, see it through the lens of Customer Success?

How can we use push notifications to *help* our customers be successful with our product?

Not just ‘ping’ them into submission.

Let’s think about that for a moment, in the context of what your app does, who uses it, and what their ideal real-world outcomes are. Can getting a message at just the right moment help them (not just you) be successful?

Starbucks is doing this really well. If you’ve got the Starbucks rewards app on your phone, they optimize what they send you based on your purchase history, listed preferences, even the local weather, like sending an iced coffee notification when it’s 101 degrees.

And how about a crazier idea – most of the ‘push notifications’ we want to see are the ones alerting us that a personal friend, or a client, or a human (vs. a brand), or a member of a group we’re in, have said something interesting, that we might want to know about, NOW.

That’s right – the most effective push notifications are based on human relationships. Shocker!

This is actually great news when you’re trying to use push notifications to drive retention and engagement, because relationships also drive retention and engagement!

What if you focused on building relationships, say, with a social media community built around your product, and when something of interest is posted in that space, send a push notification to invite users into that conversation? I always want to know what’s happening and who’s saying what in my Facebook groups and Slack channels. That will always get me to click.

But when you start with what your customer needs and wants, they’re not going to spend their mornings like I did – disabling your push notifications!

Mobile, Mobile Apps

“What are the best practices to optimize retention in a mobile app?” Answer by @NikkiElizDeMere

First, let me state some fun facts.

  • Last year, there were more than 20 million apps on iOS App Store and 3.5 million on Google Play.
  • In 2017, the average person had 80 apps on their smartphone – but, only used half of those apps on a monthly basis.
  • The odds of someone becoming a long-term user are really slim. Only 29% of app users continue using any given app after 3 months.

In that landscape (appscape?), retention is an enormous challenge. And a lot of SaaS companies are trying techniques in Nir Eyal’s Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, using push notifications and emails as “external triggers” to get people to essentially practice going to the app and building positive associations with it. Almost like building muscle memory.

Or an addiction.

But let’s look on the sunny side of the street (while acknowledging that the shady side is really dark) for a moment.

One of the ideas in Hooked that I like most is “habit testing” your product. The Habit Testing process places a lot of emphasis on understanding “Who your devotees are,” in addition to “what part of your product is habit forming, if any” and “why those aspects of your product are habit forming.”

Understanding your customer is where every retention effort should start.

Talking to your best customers to find out why they use your product, how they use it, and when is vitally important. Using that information to tweak your user flow to get your customers to their goals faster and easier is the raw material of retention.

But I would go farther. I recommend interviewing your best customers (or people you believe will be your best customers, if you haven’t yet launched) to find out what they’d really like to do, and how your app moves them closer to that goal.

That goal that lives outside your app.

Let’s take Facebook for example. My goal as a Facebook user is to stay in touch with my friends, feel a sense of community and camaraderie in my groups, and share photos of my cats. Facebook has won my long-term usage by making it easier (mostly) for me to do these things by suggesting “people you may know,” sending notifications when someone posts in one of my groups, and allowing me to upload kitten pics in HD.

And, of course, there are the psychological rewards built in – the dopamine boost of the “notifications” tab, the constant drip of “what will show up on my feed next?!”

But if it didn’t get me closer to my core goals? I could live without Facebook. Happily.

The ways in which you engage your customers should be ways that help them reach their goals. Whether those are emotional goals (I’m bored! I want to see kittens playing in boxes! Hello YouTube!), practical goals (I must budget! Baby needs a new scratching post!), self-improvement goals (I will eat kale at every meal!), or professional goals (I’m going to make Partner in 5 years!).

We can personalize in-app experiences to nudge people towards making real progress. We have that technology. And I predict that, when customers are tired of being manipulated into forming habits that may not be in their best interests, they will gravitate towards apps that are genuinely designed to help them become better versions of themselves.

Customer Development, Customer Experience, Customer Success, Growth Hacking, Product Management, SaaS

There is no better “growth hack” for SaaS than talking with your customers.

Not just when you’re developing or marketing a product, but through every stage of the customer lifecycle.

It sounds simple — but it’s not easy: talking with your customers through every stage of the customer lifecycle. There’s been a lot said about the value of talking to your customers before you build the product to ensure market fit, but very little said about continuing the conversation past marketing and past the sale.

Why do I know talking with your customer is *the* very best predictor of, and contributor to, SaaS business growth? Because creating a constant flow of customer feedback, input, and conversation makes Customer Experience (CX) better.

Multiple studies show that CX leads to revenue growth.

CX also drives brand advocacy (aka. word of mouth), creating a virtual sales army, which leads to:

Decreased cost-to-acquire.

“Customers with the best past experiences spend 140% more than those with the poorest past experiences.” — Harvard Business Review

Increased customer lifetime value.

“Customers with the best past experiences have a 74% chance of remaining a member for at least another year.” — Harvard Business Review

Plus, qualitative customer research leads to making data-informed decisions that streamline product management, ensure customer success, and make marketing and sales far more efficient.

In short, as Laura Klein, author, VP of product, and co-founder of Users Know says,

“User research saves time. Period. When you actually understand what your user needs before you build things, you have a much lower chance of having to go back and rebuild everything after shipping something that nobody uses.”

But what does “talking with your customer” really mean?

It’s not like you’re inviting them over for tea and cookies every week for a casual catch-up (though that would be awesome, and you should do that and invite me).

When we say “talk to your customers,” or “listen to your customers,” I usually mean getting on the phone with them (or better, meeting up with them in person). But, it can also mean sending surveys that include long-form response fields, or building quicker in-app surveys into your roadmap to uncover moments of friction.

And, of course, if you’re earlier in your business, there’s the Lean approach of interviewing dozens of target customers in person and over the phone — groundwork that helps founders (and product developers and marketers) form better hypotheses around what will deliver the best product-market fit.

There’s also user testing.

These are all valid ways of listening to your customers. But I’d like to advocate for doing all of these things and going several steps further. I’m talking about combining all of the above and adding genuine conversations to the mix.

It’s just not input. It’s just not feedback. It’s getting to know your customers as human beings and building relationships with them that drive positive CX far more powerfully than any of these elements could do alone.

So much has been written about interviewing customers prior to developing products that I’d like to focus on how to keep communication lines open after the launch, after customer acquisition, starting with onboarding.

Track more than actions, during and after onboarding

(This is a chart I created for: “Product Managers: Why You Should Include Customer Success Milestones in Your User Flow”)

The first key to ensuring communication stays clear and open is to observe your customers. We communicate far more by our actions than we do verbally, and tracking the actions of your customers, especially (but not limited to) during onboarding can tell you the truths you need to hear.

Tracking customer behavior during onboarding and throughout product use allows you to see:

  • Time to first value (how long is it taking?)
  • Where customers run into trouble and need tech support
  • When customers typically need Customer Success help to reach their desired outcomes
  • Which customers reach their success milestones (the points in their user journeys where they see real progress towards their ideal outcomes)
  • And which customers don’t reach their success milestones

Yes, you want to track how well your customers accomplish the required tasks outlined in your User Flow, but usually, tracking stops there. If they press the right buttons at the right times, if they input the requested information, if they log in relatively regularly, it’s easy to assume customers are happily using your product.

But that’s not always the case. There may be ‘success gaps’ you can’t see that are causing churn. FYI: A ‘success gap’ is “the gap between what you think represents the customers’ successful use of your product and what they think equates to success,” according to Lincoln Murphy.

This is where aptly timed in-app surveys come in handy, which I’ll get to in the next section.

Tools that can help:

  • Appcues for onboarding
  • Intercom for targeted in-app messaging
  • Segment for easily managing your tools without dev

Check in with event trigger-based surveys

While you’re tracking user behaviors, successes and failures, you’ll also want to check in with your users in an unobtrusive way to get their feedback at specific points in their user journeys.

For example, if you identify a page or prompt during onboarding that tends to ‘lose’ people, have a trigger-based in-app AI chatbot pop up and offer to clarify, or transfer them to an agent. (This, incidentally, would have saved my relationship with more than one app! If you hit a ‘wall’ during onboarding, the odds of completing the process and becoming a successful customer are terrible — unless you get timely help).

You can set up event trigger-based surveys to deploy when users spend too much time on a page, ‘click away’ before completing the action, or when they’ve been ‘dormant’ (not logging in) for a while.

By giving customers opportunities to tell you they’re confused, are experiencing failure, aren’t getting the results they’d hoped for, or are suffering from a lack of time/motivation/technical skills etc., you will know who is really at risk of churning in time to save them, and really impress them with your customer service skills.

Finding friction with customer effort scores

Another place where checking in with your customer can really pay off is after the onboarding sequence is complete. It’s a perfect time to ask “How difficult was this?” (aka. A Customer Effort Score survey). The easier a process is, the less friction people experience, and the more likely they will be to complete your desired actions and reach their desired outcomes.

Then, after your new user has had a chance to put your product to work, you should send out a Net Promoter Score survey (NPS) to find out how they *really* feel about your product. Do they like it enough to recommend it to a friend or colleague? That’s an excellent indicator of how well they’re succeeding. And be sure to send an NPS follow-up question to understand the why behind the score.

Tools that can help:

Wootric: For these types of in-app surveys, I recommend Wootric. Their dashboard makes it very easy to understand what you’re seeing, and they do great work with extrapolating insights from qualitative data questions too.

The Game Changer: Have real conversations in your community

Tracking what customers do and asking them what they think at strategic points is a very good start; the trouble is, that’s where most SaaS companies begin and end. But SaaS businesses are subscription-based. They’re in this for the long-haul. They depend on customers sticking around (customer lifetime value! retention!).

And that means you also have to build relationships with your customers.

This is why I so strongly advocate that SaaS companies build social communities around their products. It’s an opportunity to relate to your customers as people.

The bonuses are many. SaaS product communities give you:

  • An on-tap resource of customers who are delighted to answer your questions and give you real-time feedback on everything you do
  • A straight line to your most engaged customers
  • A real-time capability of helping customers in trouble and creating delightful experiences for them, on a public forum, with everyone else watching (warm fuzzies all around!)
  • An opportunity to cultivate a culture around your brand and a genuine community
  • And… it’s possible — ZERO churn!

The most important thing to remember about building a community is that it’s not a one-sided arrangement. This isn’t a place for you to ‘shout into the void’, post blog posts nobody reads, try to ‘sell’ or advertise. It’s a place where you and your customers can come together around your common interests. Human to human.

Tools that can help:

  • Facebook
  • Slack
  • Your social community of choice!

Bring it all together now!

When you are tracking user behavior in your product, identifying predictive patterns of behaviors/successes/failures, locating trouble-spots and offering timely help, checking in with surveys to ask your customers what they think — in their own words and with numerical ratings, AND forging human-to-human relationships in the casual setting of social media groups, you’ll see a few things happen…

  • Your referrals will skyrocket as more customers achieve success
  • Your retention rates will go through the roof
  • Your acquisition and product development spend with become more efficient (as you target the right prospects, and use customer feedback to guide your iterations)
  • And you will grow — fast

Are you ready for that?

If you thought this was good — Sign up for my newsletter to hear from me on Sundays. I’m also available for SaaS consulting.

Customer Development, Customer Success, Product Management, SaaS

How Product Experts Use Qualitative Data for Roadmap Planning

Wouldn’t it be great to get customer feedback before there are even customers so you know what new features and products to prioritize?

Yes, we’re talking about gathering feedback from customers who don’t yet exist, for a product that doesn’t yet exist, to create a product that will perform better, sell better, and get rave reviews.

And it’s possible.

It’s just the opposite way Product dev usually works.

The usual way: When evaluating a new product, usually you present the product, a minimum version of the product, or a beta version of the product, to a group of users (or beta testers) and listen to their feedback (qualitative data) and look at their behaviors (behavioral analytics) to see where you’ve succeeded, and where you still need to pick out the bugs. But on brand new features and products that aren’t launched, knowing that customers want and need most is educated guesswork. A series of hypotheses and trials.

We’re going to show you how to leverage qualitative data to build better hypotheses to reach successful new products and features faster.

How can you leverage qualitative data when the product or feature doesn’t exist yet?

You have to talk to customers who don’t exist yet.

Seriously.

When preparing to create a new product or feature, your first task is to speak with potential future customers – people who are a good fit for the solution you’re thinking of building. If you have an existing user base and are planning to introduce a new feature, you can start there by finding groups of people whom you think are likely to need it.

Your goal is to check your assumptions against their real, qualitative feedback – and there is nothing like a two-sided conversation for gaining insights you’d never expect. Schedule calls with at least a dozen people you think will be a good fit, and ask:

  1. What goals, inside and outside of work, are you hoping to accomplish today, this week, and this year?
  2. Tell me about your work process – what do you do exactly?
  3. What frustrates and aggravates you on a regular basis – what are the hurdles between you and getting things done?
  4. What might make reaching your goals easier?

Then, present your product idea and ask if they think it could help them reach their goals and reduce (or eliminate!) the hurdles.

Of course, interviewing individuals doesn’t scale. So when you do have hundreds or thousands of users to poll about a new feature to your existingproduct, you’ll need to gather your qualitative data a little differently.

Read More on Wootric

Community, Customer Success, SaaS

SaaS founders: you have six months to go from scattered to hyper growth — GO! 🚀

If that was the challenge, could you do it? Would you even know where to start? And could you keep your momentum up the whole way, positive that you’re making the best possible choices?

Well, if you can — then you should be teaching this Mastermind instead of me! (Seriously, hit me up on Twitter, I’d love for you to be a workshop teacher for future masterminds).

But for everyone else, getting your product from that hazy, aspirational, trying-to-do-everything-at-once pre-launch place all the way through the nitty-gritty groundwork that leads to growth…

The kind of growth companies like Drift, Hotjar, AutoPilot and InVision have had…

(And yes, I’m name-dropping those companies for a reason — I’ve worked with all of them.)

It’s hard! Hard to do on your own, hard to prioritize, hard to know what will work (and what to do when it doesn’t work).

And when you actually do start to grow, it gets harder.

And more confusing. And more expensive, and time-consuming, and soon your entire world is your startup and its crumbling under the pressure…

Breathe.

Successful SaaS startup founders either have experienced a lot of failure already, or they had help. And help is what I’m offering with the Customer Obsession Mastermind, which I’m co-hosting with Marketer / Brander / Copywriter / Story-teller extraordinaire, Alaura Weaver.

In six months, starting January 2019, we’re taking a select group of SaaS founders through everything — EVERYTHING- they need to:

  • Develop a product customers will love (product-market fit!)
  • Successfully launch that product and bring it to market
  • Create a sales funnel that works, supported by marketing that speaks to your ideal customers
  • Build in Customer Success measures from the start to generate retention and referrals
  • Lay the foundation for a strong business that keeps getting better

Sure, there are books that tell you how to do all of these things (I’ve read them, they’ve got great ideas). But no book will say “normally this is what people do, but in your situation, you should try this…”

And that’s where a Mastermind group led by consultants top SaaS companies hire to help them grow comes in handy.

If you’re wondering “Okay, Nichole — what qualifies you to lead a Mastermind?”

Here are my bona fides:

I am a SaaS Growth Consultant and Customer Success Evangelist. I’ve been working with communities and top startups for more than 10 years (like Segment, Hotjar, Copy Hackers, Autopilot, Vervoe, Wootric, Appcues, InVision, HubSpot, Drift, ChartMogul, Notion, Product Plan, Growth Hackers, Product Hunt… you get the idea), and — outside of these startups — I’ve seen too many early-stage SaaS startups fail for entirely avoidable reasons. Mostly regarding language-market fit and customer success. Which is why this Mastermind is “customer-obsessed,” because your success begins and ends with their success.

Alaura Weaver and I are hand-selecting each member of the group right now — and if you want in, apply NOW! These slots are filling up fast, not everyone who applies will be accepted, because we only want serious SaaS founders who can commit to quite a lot of work.

Yeah, this isn’t one of those Mastermind groups where you just talk at each other once a month, and maybe do a little homework in your spare time. Make a vision board or something.

No.

We push you to succeed. We give you real tasks and deadlines (and a LOT of support!) that you have to do because your business depends on it.

Going from scattered to growth in sixmonths is a big promise, and we aim to keep it.

Intrigued?

Read more about our Customer Obsession Mastermind for SaaS Founders.

Photo Friday

Photo Friday: 8/9/18

Taking Instagram photos is my hobby. In this series, I post a few photos on Friday that I recently took.



Follow me on Instagram for more of my work. I also have prints for sale.

Community, Diversity, Human-to-Human (H2H), Inclusion, Marginalization, Social Media, Women in Tech

Don’t tweet in a bubble: why & how to diversify your feed

Birds of a feather tend to flock together, but that’s why they call them ‘bird-brains.’ Here’s how, and why, to diversify your Twitter feed.

Twitter Stats & Social Facts

Tech doesn’t just have a diversity problem in the workforce – tech workers and leaders often live in an online social bubble of, well, men. Mostly white men.

When the echo chamber of our tech community continues into our online social communities, it’s too easy to find yourself in a homogenous bubble that is so large and opaque that it eclipses the world outside of it.

And that is dangerous to us as people, as world citizens, as tech makers and users.

Yes, the Twitter feed diversity problem is real.

Not-so-fun fact: Elon Musk didn’t follow a single woman on Twitter until October of 2016 – and only then because a Motherboard article called him out on it. Musk isn’t alone. The Guardian looked at the Twitter accounts of several male tech leaders and found that they followed between 2 and 11 times as many men as women. The CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai, for instance, followed 238 men and 29 women at last count (also in 2016).

And that’s just the male to female ratio. They didn’t even touch on people of color or the LGBTQ communities.

When you consider that most founders of tech startups in America are white, and the average white American only has one black friend (75% of white Americans don’t have any black friends), it’s clear that not only do most of us in tech live and work in our bubble – we’re so far in it that it’s hard for some to imagine how to climb out.

I suggest starting to diversify your life and work by inviting in different ideas and opinions on Twitter. No, it’s not going to fix the diversity problem in tech or lead to world peace. But at least it’s a start.

How can you diversify your feed?

As with making most changes, awareness is the first step.

Check yourself

It’s easy to look at the list of people you follow on Twitter and feel fairly satisfied that you do have a diverse group. The human mind is funny that way. We see what we expect to see. Try this app, Proporti.onl, to see how your feed really stacks up. If you’re surprised by your results and feel like you’ve got a long way to go, that’s okay – I’m still working on diversifying my feed, too!

Consider all types of diversity

Diversity doesn’t just mean ethnicity or the spectrum of LGBTQ – it’s also about cultural diversity. People who believe, think and act differently than you. That isn’t to say you should befriend people who don’t share (or who are actively against) your core values. But try to recognize and respect other ways of being.

Don’t just add – listen

James Governor, co-founder of RedMonk, wrote about his effort to diversify his Twitter feed and made a very important point:

It’s not enough to add people who are different than you – you also have to listen to them. And that’s not always comfortable.

“You will certainly find yourself challenged. […] Question your assumptions. Get out of your comfort zone. You’ll be smarter for it, and learn crucial lessons in empathy. Sometimes it’s the little things.”

The benefits are worth the effort. When you listen with an open mind to what different people are saying (and yes, complaining about) you gain insight into how to treat people with more sensitivity and communicate more effectively.

As James Governor also says, “following a broader range of people means that suddenly – surprise! – it’s a lot easier to find amazing speakers for tech events.”

Perhaps, most importantly for us in tech, this is an exercise in empathy. When we have empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another – we build better products, better user experiences, and better relationships in and outside of work.

Not sure where to start? Here’s my shortlist of diverse voices who are sure to add unique, smart perspectives to your feed