(originally posted here)
Last Saturday in Chennai at the SaaSx3 I had the privilege of participating in my first “Product Teardown”
A Product Teardown, “or simply teardown, is the act of disassembling a product, such as a television set, to identify its component parts, chip & system functionality” – Wiki
In the context of the teardown of my company, Hummingbill, a Software as a Service (SaaS), it involved a deep dive into the company’s Idea, Discovery Process, Landing Page, Sign Up, and its “Wow” experience.
(image courtesy of Suresh Sambandam of Kissflow)
But before getting into the details of the teardown I want to make mention of the audience in front of whom I presented, and the panelists who judged me. This teardown event was among several sessions during this year’s SaaSx – a conference cum meet up of India’s best-in-class SaaS founders, among whom in the audience were Girish Mathrubootham, founder of FreshDesk, Avlesh Singh, founder of WebEngage, and Pallav Nadhani, founder of FusionCharts. And as impressive as the audience was, so too were the group of panelists critiquing my company. They were, Shekhar Kirani, partner at Accel Partners India, Suresh Sambandam, founder of Kissflow, and Bharat Balasubramanian, director of Design at Freshdesk. The entire experience was an honor, to say the least.
So! how did it all go down?
The panelists had me up on stage with a projector showing our website, and we started with Shekhar and Suresh who was requested a description of the Idea of Hummingbill, which included a snapshot of the problem, solution, and our characteristic customer and user.
(bear with my plug!) Hummingbill is a Gmail plugin that automates accounts receivable management for organizations that track hundreds of unpaid invoices from hundreds of customers. Our characteristic clients are SaaS and advertising companies. Currently, these companies use QuickBooks Online, Tally and Zoho to manage their invoices, but the problem is that these softwares make invoices inaccessible to those who need them most – sales reps and account managers who are among many things also responsible for payment collection. Today, the only window accounts and sales staff have into Accounts Receivable is a manually generated, manually distributed weekly aging report sent from the finance team.
Second, we discussed the Discovery process of Hummingbill:
or how businesses find us on the web. Because Hummingbill is more of a direct sales organization at-the-moment, we were let off-the-hook on this one, but for any disciplined SaaS company, they must be extremely conscientious of the “keywords” they use on their website to make their website more likely to be found by their target customer on Google. This is called Search Engine Optimization. By identifying those keywords – e.g. “Invoice Management” and “Accounts Receivable” – and carefully placing those keywords into their website, businesses can improve their performance ranking on Google which allows them to be more easily found by their target customers.For an example of a highly search-engine-optimized website, have a look at Hiver. They are one of my favorite examples of a company that carefully updates its website over and over again to improve its performance for specific keywords within its category.
Then, after discussing discovery, Bharat critiqued us on the Design of our website
A lot of learning happened here. Some of the key takeaways were:
- If you have big customers like we do, put them up at the top of your webpage. This helps build trust in your product.
- Use the most accurate language possible on your landing page for your target users. Don’t be generic. During the event, the title on our landing page was “Get Paid Faster” – Suresh pointed out that this title would be an empty statement for our target users, CFOs and Heads of Finance. Instead we should use more accurate language like “Reduce Days Sales Outstanding”.
- Add a second Sign-up button at the bottom of your landing page. This makes it easier for people to sign-up for your product .. .which is just good for everyone.
After the Design step, Bharat walked us through the Sign-Up process
or onboarding experience of Hummingbill. This step is where new users enter in their contact information and preferences, and then are guided through the software product. If you’re not familiar with SaaS, then you should know that this step is the first impression customers have of your product, so it can “make or break” a business. It’s the reason why, for example I didn’t use Ola cabs, a very popular taxi service in India, for a whole year – I found their sign-up process clunky and time consuming, so I immediately switched to their competitor taxi service. And similarly to how I fell-off of Ola, SaaS founders need to be conscientious of their target customers’ patience, less they lose them at the first step to using their product. Building a fluid and intuitive sign-up process takes significant discipline to decide which information to collect from users now vs. later, and which features of the product to show now vs. later. For inspiration on great onboarding experience, check out UserOnboard.com to see examples of how some of the best tech companies in the world sign-up their users.
And last but not least, the product teardown ended with the functional Wow of Hummingbill. The functional Wow is simply the moment when users experience the 1 or 2 features of your product that fulfill the value they were seeking and found on your website. This is where products can close the deal and why it’s important for companies to get to that functional Wow delivered as quickly as possible. For example, if a company has a CRM product, then the functional Wow would be something like guiding the new user to creating a “prospect” customer in their sales pipeline, enter in the prospect’s details, and then move the prospect to becoming a “lead” in the CRM. For Hummingbill, we like to Wow users during onboarding by getting them to:
1. Generate an Invoice
2. Track the invoice in Accounts Receivable
3. Receive an email aging report
This functional Wow helps confirm to the users why they signed-up for your product. Seeing is believing, so the best practice here is to show your users the functional Wow ASAP
All-in-all the Product Teardown was an excellent learning experience for my team and I
As a public forum, it forced me to look more carefully at Hummingbill through the eyes of my target customer. Because SaaS is very much a numbers game – about driving as much traffic to your website, then trying to convert as many visitors to becoming users of your product, then trying to convert those free users to becoming paid users – SaaS is all about constantly iterating your website and customer onboarding experience to improve those conversions. Do teardown your product yourself. Though it’s an exhausting process, do it with a potential-user who can be honest with you and give their feedback in real time as they visit your website, sign up, and try your product for the first time. Best of luck in this process and keep doing it because it’s the only way for early stage companies, apart from marketing, to ensure they will have a constant growth of new users.