Customer Feedback: How To Collect And What To Do With It

Customer feedback is gradually becoming the cornerstone of growth initiatives.

A new research published in the Harvard Business Review found that the act of just asking for customer feedback in itself is enough to help keep customers satisfied and coming back for more — even when they do not respond to your request.

Several theories of consumer psychology point to the fact that even a simple satisfaction survey appeals to your customers’ desire to be coddled, reinforcing the positive feelings they might already have about your product, and making them more likely to buy from you.

The very process of asking questions or seeking opinions induces people to form judgments that otherwise wouldn’t occur to them. They might not consciously realize that they love a feature unless you seek feedback about it.

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Customer feedback has become one of the primary drivers for long term growth. Present day organizations jump at every opportunity to talk to the customer or learn about them. Businesses are spending millions of dollars on setting up feedback channels: emails, reviews, surveys, website analytics.

The pertinent question now is: how do you utilize these channels to actually learn from the feedback? Before you establish the viability of a channel, it is crucial to develop a clear picture of WHY you are collecting feedback.

Are you seeking first-hand advice on product improvement? Are you building a new feature for which you’re seeking the users’ inputs? Have you been receiving a lot of complaints? Once you have the end goal clear, proceed to the tactical part: how do you collect feedback?

There is no one-size-fits-all tactic to gain information from your users. Different situations require different methods of collecting customer feedback. For example, a survey form sent to an already disgruntled user will only make matters worse; a phone call works better here.

Let’s find out what are the best methods of collecting customer feedback:

THE BEST WAYS TO COLLECT CUSTOMER FEEDBACK

There are hundreds of ways to collect feedback from customers. The ones we’ll talk about here are the most popular — they are the most effective too.

1. Long form-based surveys

These most common way of collecting customer feedback are survey forms with a set of questions that are usually sent in an email.

The one thing you have to always keep in mind here is to not get carried away and ask too many questions.

QuickTapSurvey states that the connection between the number of questions and the time spent answering each question is not linear. The more questions your survey has, the less time your respondents spend, on an average, answering each.

In other words, the more questions you ask your respondents, the more likely they will “speed” through it, and the quality and reliability of your data will suffer:

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It is clear from the above table that the longer the survey, the less time will the respondents spend on each question. The takeaway is to make the survey as short as possible.

There is, however, no ‘ideal’ length for a survey. A few experts do say that anything between 5 and 10 questions is a decent number.

To keep your surveys short, a good rule of thumb to keep in mind is: only ask questions that fulfill your end goal. Ensure that every question serves a clear purpose. If you do not intend to use the information, do not ask that question. The aim is to collect customer feedback and not to have them write an essay.

For example: If you are surveying a customer who has just exited your paid plan, there is no point asking them if the onboarding was easy! Your only aim should be to understand why they are leaving and what can you do to prevent that.

It is also important to start with open-ended questions. Let your customers surprise you. Multiple choice questions will give you answers based on your own assumptions. If you really want to know what the customer is thinking, give them an open-ended question.

A great open-ended question is: What do you love the most about the product. It is also a great hook to have your respondents start the survey on a positive note.

When to use form-based surveys to collect customer feedback

The best place to use this is when we want detailed inputs and have some open-ended questions to ask. This should only be sent to an engaged user, who you’re sure would like to take the time to provide feedback to you.

One way we used this in Hiver was to understand from our users which integrations we should build. We asked customers open-ended questions about how they use Hiver. Then asked them which integration they’d like to see, which was an MCQ, followed by another open-ended question about how they’d like to put the integration to use.

2. Short in-app surveys

Customers are constantly thinking of ways your product can work better for them. Maybe parts of your app do not have what they are looking for, or maybe the design could look a little better, or maybe they found something that is broken.

More often than not, they will not reach out to you on your support address. That happens only when the problem is big. But for the minor lapses, your users will just give up and walk away slightly frustrated.

A great idea is to offer a survey while your customer is using your app. The survey can be prompted the moment a user has finished interacting with a particular feature in the app. Since the user is already in the process of using that feature, it is very likely that their feedback will be very precise and to the point, and not ambiguous.

Remember: Your users are on the app for a certain purpose, it is not a great idea to throw a long survey at them. Keep it to two to three questions that are relevant to the page that it’s being displayed on.

Intercom.io is a fantastic tool to trigger in-app surveys in your app. For example, the moment a user finishes using a particular feature, a quick question like the one below is a great way to get their ideas about improving it.

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When to use In-app surveys to collect customer feedback

When you want a quick feedback from someone who has performed a certain action. Timing is of the essence here — you have to trigger the survey at the very moment a transaction ends.

The questions should be specific to what the user is using or has just used, and NOT about the product in general.

3. Phone calls

It’s said that if you truly want to understand someone, you will have to talk to them.

The surveys and tests will give you tons of data but they can never tell you what a person truly feels about your product. This is when you need to reach out to your users through the phone. It is a personalized and proactive method that generates the best responses.

Hearing a person’s voice and tone is the best way to sense what they actually feel about your product.

A call will help you tell the features that get users excited, features that really make their lives easier.

The key here is that the person calling the user should genuinely want to understand their problem and offer solutions. Do not do it because you have to do it. Do it because you care. This is not a sales call.

The second factor to keep in mind is the time when you call. Studies have shown that customers are more likely to respond between 8 am and 9 am, and between 4 pm and 5 pm. Lunchtime, between 1 pm and 2 pm is the absolute worst time to reach out to anyone.

When to use phone calls to collect customer feedback

Scheduling calls with your users, talking to them, and making sense of feedback which is not as structured as entries in a form is a lot of hard work. The key here is to focus on the users who can give you the best feedback to improve your product or service.

It makes sense to do phone calls only with the users who are avid users, have deep knowledge about the area you operate in and can give you actionable feedback.

This is not a good avenue when you want to reach out to a lot of people at the same time.

4. Transactional emails

Transactional emails are the ones that you receive right after signing up for a new service, or upgrading to a new plan, and so on. Basically, these are emails triggered by a certain interaction between the user and your app.

More often than not, transactional emails are treated like a necessary notice and companies would not put much effort in creating a dialogue with the customer. These emails often lack the aesthetic appeal of the website and the newsletters and deliver an inconsistent customer experience — that’s a shame.

Contrary to this popular practice, transactional emails can be used as a powerful weapon to foster a dialogue with customers. If we look at email open rates, these emails do better than all other emails, says an Experian report. The reason is that people actually want to receive these emails — for instance, they want to know if an upgrade went through or not. Asking the right feedback question in these emails will certainly get good responses.

Viking does a great job at it by asking users to rate their delivery right after they have delivered a product:

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In situations when you do not have a question to ask, it’s a good idea to give your users a very easy way of getting in touch with you. Buffer does it neatly:

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Interestingly, the peak-end rule states that ‘our memory of past experience does not correspond to an average level of positive or negative feelings but to the most extreme point and the end of the episode’.

Say a user receives a transactional email just after they’ve upgraded — asking a question at that juncture would evoke positive feelings about the product and set them on the path to loyalty.

When to use transactional emails to collect customer feedback

When a user does something significant: signs up, upgrades to or exits a plan, and so on. You can send them a quick one-liner question or a short multiple choice question. The key is to gain an insight at the right time without burdening them with too many questions.

5. Net Promoter Score Surveys

It’s the simplest question you can ask your customers: ‘’how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?’’ It is, basically, a method to measure your customers’ sentiment about your product.

People who rate you 0 through 6 are known as “Detractors”, those who rate you 7 or 8 are known as “Passives”, and those who give you a 9 or 10 are known as “Promoters”, as illustrated here:

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Net Promoter Score (NPS) = Percent Promoters — Percent Detractors

Let’s take an example. Say there are 100 respondents.

10 responses were in the range 0 to 6 (Detractors)

40 responses were in the range 7 to 8 (Passives)

50 responses were in the range 9 to 10 (Promoters)

NPS: [(50/100)*100] minus [(10/100)*100] = 40

The worst score you can get is -100 and the best score you can get is +100.

Apple uses NPS surveys to find detractors and improve their retail store experience. Whether a customer made a purchase or scheduled an appointment to try on an Apple Watch, they e-mail a survey to rate the in-store experience.

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Remember: Any score above zero is good, anything above +50 is excellent, and over +70 is considered world-class.

The greatest advantage of NPS is its simplicity and ease of use. It can be set up in minutes and is easily understood by everyone in the organization. It also makes it very easy to compare yourself with the industry standards.

When to use NPS to collect customer feedback

When you want to understand the general sentiment of your users about a transaction. You can use NPS for any of the touchpoints that the customer might have with a team: sales, customer support, etc. For example, it is a good practice to send an NPS survey after a support query is resolved.

6. Suggestion boards

Suggestion boards take collecting feedback a notch up: it allows users to collaborate on ideas with not just the company, but also with other users.

These boards allow users to create feedback posts which can be upvoted or commented by other users. Top posts that have been upvoted or highly commented can help you discover what the majority of your users need.

The best thing about suggestion boards is that ideas that had been suggested by some customers became popular ideas among others who hadn’t thought of the benefits those ideas could bring.

Aha.io is a wonderful tool for creating these boards.

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It is important to make the board very easy to navigate. Users should be able to add new posts with ease. Creating categories, allowing your customers to view the most popular ideas, and making it searchable are key.

Results will take some time to develop. Feedback will not be accumulated immediately. Wait till your users leave enough feedback so that you can determine which ones are popular to your entire base as a whole.

When to use suggestion boards to collect customer feedback

When you are looking for new ideas from your users. You should start with inviting the extensive users first — they know your product well and will be in a better position to suggest improvements or new features.

After you have a few ideas on the board, you can start inviting more users — they can upvote or comment others’ ideas even if they do not have one.

Once you’ve collected the feedback you want to pay attention to, the next step is to analyze the data and take actual steps to make things better for all stakeholders.

WHAT TO DO WITH THE FEEDBACK YOU’VE COLLECTED

“Every day, companies solicit feedback from customers, yet only a few translate that feedback into meaning. An even smaller fraction of companies actually take action or close the loop with the customer, to let them know their voice was heard,” says Whitney Wood, managing partner of the Phelon Group.

If you handle it right, the dialogue between you and your customers can become the biggest growth driver for your business.

The only way to reward your vocal and consultative customers is to roll with the punches and bring in actual changes.

Let’s talk about taking the feedback data to actual use:

1. Identify product improvement areas

More often than not, your loyal users would have developed an expertise of your product features; some of our users understand the product as much as our product managers do.

The standup product improvement meetings can only take you so far — the real insight comes from the ones who use your product regularly.

No matter how hard you try to empathize with them and put yourself in their shoes, your users will always have some exciting ideas that you did not think of.

So, stop brainstorming and start following the advice your customers give you. Not only will your customers appreciate your willingness to listen and implement their ideas, but you will set yourself apart from your competitors, as a business that genuinely cares.

LEGO Ideas is quite possibly one of the best examples of how customer insight can be used for product development. Enthusiasts can easily submit their own designs on this mini site. The projects gathering more than 10,000 votes from the community undergo LEGO review and are turned into new sets if the review is favorable.

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2. Feed it into your product roadmap

Nobody understands the pain points of the product as well as the customers. If companies are able to incorporate customer feedback into the product roadmap successfully, they have certainly come very close to the ideal market-fit.

It is crucial to classify feedback into improvements and game changers. Let’s take a couple of examples from Hiver itself.

  • A few of our customers thought shared labels can have different colors as that would help them manage their inboxes better. Now, this is a product improvement — we added it to our ‘task manager’ and had implemented in almost no time!
  • After we built the shared mailbox, a few customers suggested we implement automation that will allow emails to be assigned based on a few pre-set conditions. Now, this is a game changer as it would significantly reduce the time people spend on task assignment. We added it to our ‘brainstorming session’ and discussed the pros and cons of doing it. It took us a few weeks to build it, but it’s been worth it.

The biggest challenge is to get your customers to suggest. Would they really bother to spend time suggesting a feature?

Fitbit implemented the suggestion boards and noticed that even the ones who did not have a suggestion were either upvoting and downvoting. Ideas suggested by other customers became popular among others who hadn’t thought of benefits those ideas could bring.

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3. Find your niche

Most companies are not a hundred percent sure about the verticals they should focus on. It is never an exact science and companies end up spending huge amounts on trial and experimentation.

Customer feedback can be a good way to find out where you belong.

During the process of analyzing feedback from customers from a broad spectrum of verticals, you will begin to see patterns as to where do the majority of your happy customers come from.

Once you have discovered the verticals where the majority of your happy customers exist, start working on strengthening the relations you already have with them. Strive to make them your advocates and seek recommendations.

4. Prevent customer churn

Are you stuck with the principle that negative feedback should be swept under the rug and kept silent? It is a clear indication that you have set your customer success goal to a low ‘simply meeting customer expectations’. It is crucial to use feedback to improve customer service.

A customer who has taken the effort to call you is a lot more likely to tell their friend about the same problem — ignoring the negative feedback will have a compounding effect.

Contrary to what most businesses think, a negative feedback is an opportunity to prevent customer churn and foster a long-term relationship with the customer. These are the guys who’d need a little extra work: call them, understand their problem and ensure you do your best to make them happy. Ensure that you check on them regularly — make them feel ‘cared’. Showing that you care goes a long way in building a healthy business relationship.

By keeping the two-way conversation open and building trust gradually, you can turn these problem customers into raging evangelists.

Remember: they have taken the time out to give you a feedback when they could have just switched to another product. Any feedback is a display of interest in your product. Be wise and use feedback to improve customer service.

5. Discover potential advocates and nurture them

Customer satisfaction is the primary indicator of how happy they are with your product. Gathering feedback will help you quickly identify the happiest of your users.

The next step is to nurture them into advocates. Get them sufficiently excited to rave about your product and recommend it to friends and colleagues. Monetary rewards do not motivate advocates. Do simple things — thank you notes is a great idea.

HEX is one cool company that attributes a lot of their success to the handwritten notes they send to their customers.

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Here are some great ideas to turn your customers into advocates.

Imagine the world where most of your new customers came from business referrals. This can be achieved only when you know who your advocates are.

6. Motivate your team

Customer feedback can act as a secret driver to motivate employees.

Say you’ve been hearing praise about a feature — pass compliments directly to the person who built the feature, and ensure the team knows it too. It is a good way to encourage healthy competition among your team members.

Say you’ve been getting some brickbats about a certain feature — pass it to the person who built the feature and let them talk to the irate customer directly. It makes them feel in charge of that feature and they will be ready to take more ownership in the future.

Share conversations that are interesting and come up with new ideas about the product (improvements or game changers) with the whole team. It would help everyone understand the larger picture.

Wrapping Up: Feedback matters

A startling truth about most SaaS companies: your support team always understands more about what the customer needs than your product team.

It is time you start discussing your product roadmap with the support team as well — they are the ones who know about the ‘actual’ problems your customers face.

Building a good product and marketing it well is the job only half done. A lasting commitment to evangelizing a customer-centric culture, followed by a fierce commitment to gathering, analyzing, and sharing the feedback across the company plays a vital role in propelling your product and the business forward.

Always go back to your users and tell them you implemented something they suggested — this is a solid step in building a long term relation with them.

Originally published by Niraj Ranjan Rout at hiverhq.com on April 5, 2017.

Meeting Product Startups #Ahmedabad

Over the last few months, I have interacted with a couple dozen awesome product startups in India as a part of product roundtables organized by iSPIRT, a non-profit industry group for software product companies in India. The roundtables that were in Pune, Delhi and Ahmedabad included around 8–10 product founders getting direct feedback about their products from their peers and experienced product founders.

The goal of this roundtable is to help software product companies gain more traction without doing sales. Sales is a great tool, no doubt. But if the product is designed in a way that it can be used without anyone’s hand-holding, then it can be used by a large number of people very quickly. The feedback from these users creates a virtuous cycle of improvements and more users. This has been the central theme of these roundtables.

Most of the products we saw were well executed. A cottage industry of SAAS applications and marketplaces is blooming all over India. Many of them have the potential to become sustainable and profitable businesses. The obsession is ofcourse about building the next unicorn, the billion dollar startup, but we will keep that on hold for now. If we are able to create an ecosystem with hundreds of successful apps, the unicorns will automatically emerge.

As a bootstrapped and sustainable startup, with a product that is more than 8 years old, we are probably only a few steps ahead of these young startups. Sometimes, you can learn a lot more from people who are a few steps ahead of you than those who are way ahead, so I am happy to share my journey with them. In the process, I have learnt a lot from these startups too and having interacted with so many of them. There are some themes that I have seen again and again that seem interesting.

Making good looking CRUD apps is a commodity

The state of web tools in 2016 is such that building a basic app that has CRUD (create, read, update, delete) functionality is very easy. The frameworks and design resources available can make your apps look professional and neat. A couple of devs can churn out such apps with reasonable polish, within a few weeks. Using contractors and themes, you can churn out good looking websites pretty fast too.

What startups need to think about is distribution. How will people know about the app? Why will they sign-up? Why will they tell their friends about it?

Sales is still the default option

Most startups still rely on high touch sales to get users. The good thing about doing sales is that you get first-hand feedback from your users. If you are a good sales person, and if you are persistent, you can convince the user to sign-up for your application too.

The bad thing about this is that you have no idea what a user who has no context about your product thinks about it. You have no idea of easy or hard it is to start using your app instantly. You cannot reach out to users who are not in your network or timezone. And doing sales is expensive and not scalable.

To build applications that get customers without sales, products need:

  1. Great copy on the website that makes it extremely easy for someone to understand what the product is about.
  2. Automated, instant, no-hassle sign-up.
  3. On-boarding workflows.
  4. Online help with videos and documentation.
  5. Excellent product usability and quality.

Often, these projects are as daunting as building the original app, if not more. Often this is what takes time and is largely under-estimated.

Standing out, communicating clearly

Very few of the products we saw were memorable in terms of their marketing and communication. Since we live in the internet era where we are exposed to the best quality of content, it becomes even more important to be memorable and interesting. As the branding and design great Stefan Sagemeister puts it, “Everyone who is honest is interesting”, companies need to be a lot more honest about who they are and why they do what they do.

The best example I can think of is Basecamp. They have set the standard of how companies should communicate about themselves. Companies can use a lot more authenticity and their personal stories a lot more. Using stock images with caucasian models just does not cut it.

Closing

It has been fantastic communicating with these startups and the credit of making this happen goes to Avinash Raghava and iSpirt. Doing grassroots work is always hard and unsexy and not very visible, but is very necessary if you want to create a lasting change. It has been awesome to interact with Niraj and Pravin, two awesome product thinkers with whom I have conducted these sessions.

I wish I had access to such mentoring when I was starting off few years ago, and I am excited about the future sofware products that are coming out of India.

Traction Trumps Everything – How to get traction for your SaaS product

A wise and successful entrepreneur once said, “Traction trumps everything”.

Indeed, traction is the only thing that brings you customers, VCs, and energy to keep going.

iSPIRT in partnership with PuneConnect & SEAP organized a playbook roundtable on “Getting traction for your product startup”. It was focused on peer to peer learning and taking away real feedback, rather than just typical “general gyaan”. The playbook roundtable was moderated by two very successful SaaS product entrepreneurs Niraj Rout of Hiver (earlier known as GrexIt), and Rushabh Mehta of ERPNext. Both are building highly successful SaaS products bringing very different approaches/strategies yet finding great synergy in their thought processes. Hiver is a simple-to-use product for business workflows, fast growing, young, funded and profitable startup whereas ERPNext is a highly complex, very stable, bootstrapped, profitable, world’s second opensource Saas ERP product.

The RT discussion was attended by founders building SaaS products in Innovation, eCommerce, business communication, personal customer loyalty, education, personal finance, recruitment, fashion and technology domain.

SaaS Valley of Death: Rushabh got our attention right away by asking “Do you know SaaS Valley of Death?” Its like your product is complex to use and cheap at price. Its very very difficult to sale. You can be either very simple to use and cheap or you can be highly complicated and pricey. You can’t be cheap and complicated. But ERPNext falls in that category. Rushabh briefly shared his long haul journey of 8 years of building a product out of his own need and making it open source for people to use/modify it. ERPNext gives it at fairly low price to host it and charges additional for product consultancy.

Open-Source strategy: Rushabh realised that if such a complex product has to have innovation, then hiring talent is quite difficult. Instead making it open-source brings immediate advantages such as your users brings innovation, it is easy to hire from the developers community which already knows your product code, less efforts needed to support the product as your community is your biggest support structure. Recently, this trend has started by major tech companies like facebook, google and others by making their api’s open-source for community to play around and bring true innovation. Also interesting to say here that open source is more than a marketing strategy, you have to believe in it to work. Also companies are open sourcing not just APIs but also entire projects (Apple just joined with Swift)

User Onboarding:  It is very easy to get signups, but what happens after signup is the crucial one. The real game begins from sign up onwards. Rushabh at ERPNext created a great user onboarding workflow for various categories of users. At signup, ERPNext asks its user several questions to understand user and his/her needs. Accordingly, it customises the rest of the onboarding flow. This “personalized” flow helps user to connect and understand ERPNext quite easily. There are several videos created for user to educate about product features and uncover true benefits. “Founding/Core team has to take product to a initial revenue level, until then one should not make a mistake of hiring a sales person”, insisted Rushabh. This helps you build and quickly tweak/change onboarding flow as your know your users better. This also helps in positioning and marketing the product better.

Product Market fit:  Niraj of Hiver (GrexIt) shared his journey of conceptualising the product as knowledge management place (for enterprises) to pivoting to tap a SME segment where quick workflow matters. Its all about finding a product-market fit. On a lean methodology which suggests to work with your customers and tune the product, Niraj shared a good observation. If you talk to your customers, they will always suggest small incremental improvements/suggestions, customers can never give you extraordinary (or 10X) innovation. Its your vision that defines what your product could actually do. However it’s essential to understand how users are using the product and what key activities they are doing repeatedly.

Buyer’s mindset:  For a product, you have to understand whether it helps user generate money or save money. Does your product falls into cost center or revenue center, accordingly you have to create your marketing campaigns and positioning.

Simple Growth hacks:  Startups don’t have big pockets to spend on marketing/sales. Simple techniques like Your domain specific keywords, Search Engine Optimization, Influential bloggers write about your product, your customers talking and referring your product are a few simple growth hacks every startup can try. Always get real customer’s/brand’s testimonials and showcase them on key pages.

Critical choices:  In the initial days when you don’t have traction, its an important call whether you want to give it to a few people and learn and tweak the product or you just throw it in the space for thousands to use and let them figure out. Both have their own pros-cons.

Post Lunch session, Niraj and Rushabh encouraged every startup to showcase their product’s landing page and quick onboarding workflow. Duo and other founders provided critical feedback to individual founders with immediate actionable takeaway. It was a great peer-to-peer learning exercise. Below is a summary of what came out of the discussion that generically applies to most SaaS product startups.

Landing page:  Product’s landing page is the most critical real estate. Be innovative and build it wisely with new/current trends. A few examples of well designed landing pages were discussed. Products from 37Signals (Basecamp and KnowYourCompany) were highlighted for their innovative approaches. Like Steve Jobs once said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal”, you need not to always reinvent the wheel, just see the best products in your category and steal (find inspiration)!

A few tips for a well designed landing page –

1) The main image and punchline should be appropriate for user to understand your product quickly. Thats where user decides whether I should scroll down (to know more).

2) Always talk about benefits user will get, nobody cares about features.

3) More than 3-4 scroll is overdone. Have only essential information upfront so that user is not overwhelmed with information overdose.

4) Testimonials from real user/brands works great, people feel more comfortable.

5) Less verbose, more visual is always better.

After Signup (User onboarding):  Engaging with user for first few days and making personalized communication helps build rapport as well as improve stickiness.

1) Build a user friendly Quick tour with an option to quit and restart

2) Let user experience your product as quickly as possible

3) Videos or user guides “How to” are essential and helpful

4) Website and user behavior analytics tools like Google analytics, KissMetrics, Mixpanel provide good data know your users better and make appropriate changes in your product

5) Intercom like products helps you build user behavioral based engagement

6) Provide triggers/incentives to appeal user to perform certain actions. Nir Eyal’s HOOK framework  (Trigger, Action, Reward, Investment) was briefly mentioned to emphasise the point.

7) Your product is a leaky bucket, user may fall off anytime. Identify such holes and fill them up with creative solutions

7) You don’t have to be too generous with free plan. Start asking for money (plan upgrade) for valuable/exclusive features

8) Track analytics daily to know traffic to trial to paid customers journey

9) Always do A/B testing of every change/tweak you make to understand how its working.

10) Understand, there is always a churn. Account for that

11) Always promote long term (annual payment) plans, it gives you better visibility on your revenue. 

As traction book says, “Almost every failed startup has a product, what failed products don’t have are enough customers (traction)” and “Traction is growth. The pursuit of traction is what defines the startup”.

This playbook RT was first of its kind where only real stuff was discussed and critical feedback was provided to every startup on their product traction leaky bucket. All startup founders walked out with several actionable takeaways.

There are great SaaS product startups coming from India. The successful entrepreneurs like Niraj and Rushabh have vigor to share their learnings and help budding entrepreneurs to avoid mistakes and leapfrog their journey. This is a movement to build a product nation, one roundtable at a time.

Guest post by Abhijit Mhetre founder at Canvazify – a structured innovation platform for teams to collect, brainstorm, and act on ideas. Abhijit is passionate about startups and collaborative innovation. Follow Abhijit @abmhetre

Jump Start Your SaaS Business by Selling to US Market: Learn the Nuts and Bolts from Whodunnit

jumpstart-guid-1Are you a first time SaaS entrepreneur targeting the US market? Learn it from the masters through the Jump Start Guide to Desk Marketing and Selling for SaaS put together by Krish Subramaniam (Chargebee), Niraj Ranjan Rout (GrexIt), Sahil Parikh (Brightpod), and Suresh Sambandam (KiSSFLOW). Aaron Ross launched the guide during the first SaaSx event in Chennai put together by iSPIRT, attended by more than 100 SaaS entrepreneurs.

The following are the take-aways. Use the guide to understand in-depth and develop your strategy to hit $100 million in sales. All the very best!

Marketing

  • There are four different strategies employed by Indian entrepreneurs for customer acquisition: Learn from Wingify, KiSSFLOW, GrexIt, Freshdesk.
  • Free trials don’t work for higher sales value. And prices are not listed publicly by most companies.
  • What is the right pricing? There is no one sutra to it. But get it right before you push your sales pitch. Learn strategies from the hackers who did it before.
  • Have a team in place to handle marketing efforts with clear segmentation of the team: marketing/product/sales. Have clear-cut roles as they often blur.
  • Understand the 10 recommended activities before you start marketing.
  • Focus on building the trust of the customer visiting your product website for the first time. To make it attractive, for example, think of a “Benefits” page instead of listing “Features.”
  • Learn how to build content around long tail keywords for effective SEO.
  • Marketing based on content generation (content marketing) has many dimensions to it. Use all of them for maximum benefits.
  • Social channels ensure better outreach. Make your presence felt on social pages.
  • Retarget your customers who just dropped by your website.
  • You can innovatively market using your product itself.
  • Get a marketing team in place.
  • There are some sales channels you must ignore before starting the SaaS company.

Selling

  • Learn what catching, coaching, and closing mean.
  • Winning the first few customers is the founder’s job.
  • Learn what tools to use for customer development.
  • Develop an effective funnel.
  • Facilitate self-selection and build engagement with the customers.
  • Collect key information during the engagement process.
  • Post-trial offers work for closing the customer.
  • Learn the customer closure techniques to use.
  • Structure your sales team clearly.
  • Doing a great customer service after sales is essential to retaining the customers. Learn the tips.

Download the guide here{link}.

Growth Hackers Will Share Their Secrets at SaaSx Chennai

This Thursday evening will witness the largest gathering of SaaS founders in India. In the event conceived by iSPIRT called SaaSx Chennai, more than 100 people, largely SaaS founders, apart from a few handful of product industry influencers, will brainstorm on various aspects of a SaaS business, especially taking the SaaS organization from a $10 million revenue to a $100 million revenue.

Girish Mathrubootham, CEO of Freshdesk, talks of Aaron Ross, the author of Predictable Revenue, as the brain behind Salesforce.com’s recurring $100 million revenue year on year. He initially started a company, raised $5 million, burnt the whole cash, and shut down the company. Then he joined Salesforce.com as a cold caller. Finding cold calling to be a bit arduous in winning customers, he conceived what Girish calls Cold Calling 2.0. His idea was to first interact with the customer on email and then establish a rapport, before calling the customer. The idea behind this exercise to first zeroing in on the most suitable customer for your product. This turns the prospect into a paying customer quickly.

SaaSx_headerAt SaaSx Chennai, Aaron Ross will deliver the keynote as SaaSx via video and will release the Jump Start Guide Desk Marketing and Selling for SaaS, co-authored by Suresh Sambandam, founder of KissFlow, Krish Subramaniam, co-founder of ChargeBee, Niraj Ranjan Rout, founder of GrexIt, and Sahil Parikh, founder of BrightPod.

jumpstart-guid-1Suresh says the event was conceived on the lines of SaaStr Conference, hosted by Jason Lemkin. He attended the event in San Francisco this February. Buoyed by the 300 to 400 founders coming together from all over the world in SaaSter, he wanted to bring together the SaaS founders in India. SaaS companies are witnessing phenomenal growth all over the world, and India is also seeing an uptick in this sector. Chennai is emerging as the SaaS hub of India, thanks to six big companies that are running their operations here. There are startups emerging as well. “Just two days after we announced the event, 65 signups happened and SaaS founders were excited by the idea,” says Suresh.

“In a focused event, founders can discuss real problems,” says Girish. A conference of a general nature does not give a beneficial take-away for an entrepreneur. “The idea is to bring similar people at similar stages of growth and discuss their pain points,” says Krish of Chargebee. He says cross-learning from each other will be useful in solving many problems the SaaS entrepreneurs face. “Even before the event, many one-on-one meetings are happening among SaaS entrepreneurs,” says Krish.

The event will have four parts. A My Story session with three SaaS founders, followed by an open house on Anything and Everything on SaaS moderated by Girish, aided by Suresh and Krish.

Aaron Ross will deliver the keynote then and finally, the Jumpstart Guide will be released