I remember an episode of Growth Hacker TV that aired nearly two years ago. Brad Flora, co-founder of Perfect Audience, a thriving startup that offers to simplify your retargeting campaign on Facebook (as well as Twitter and several display networks), had just returned from his trip to Y Combinator. Among the points that received the most attention, Brad explained that the various office hours conducted with partners mostly centered around two topics: the iterations made to the product and the qualitative and quantitative data that could be collected from users (product value vs consumer behavior). This second element alone can determine your company’s destiny.
Often overlooked in many aspects, you must feed a true obsession on this point. Because on this product/market fit quest, you will have to implement of a rigorous strategy from day one. This is also the purpose of this essay to show you the many hacks you can leverage to initiate a constructive dialogue with your community and to always iterate smarter on your product.
#1. The four core issues.
Talking with users comes at a cost, both in terms of time and/or money. On the last point, some companies may employ radical methods: Box encouraged, for example, some California customers to move to their headquarters to initiate a discussion in return for an iPad. On the other hand, with fewer resources, we discover equally fascinating strategies such as Frederic Mazzella, BlaBlaCar founder, who carpooled with his users (hiding his true identity) in order to conduct live interviews. Remember, the fewer reasons you give people to lie to you, the more constructive feedback you end up with.
Make sure your entire team (without exception) is involved in customer support. Whether responding to emails, tweets, private messages on Facebook or managing your chat (intercom, olark…), set up a foundation to ensure that everyone devotes part of his agenda to these tasks. Buffer is an illustrious example: every employee has an obligation to spend an average of one day a week (for some a month) to respond to complaints, solve problems and conduct interviews to determine expectations and use of the product they’re building. I recommend you take a look at the work of their Happiness Team as much as possible.
Here are four key questions you must ask and resolve gradually.
– The first focus is to identify how this user has discovered your product. You are looking to identify the earliest possible acquisition channels that appear to be the most prolific in order to capitalize on one of them until saturation. Make sure to take a hard look at Google Analytics and the section concerning traffic sources and referrers.
– Often incorrectly assumed, you must also identify if the user understands what you are doing/selling. The whole point of this question is to analyze if your value proposition is clear enough and if the value is perceived by this segment in question.
– You must then identify if and how that person uses your product. You are trying to determine here the use made of it and its frequency (daily, weekly or monthly for example).
– Finally, a typical attribute of a product/market fit, find out if this user has already recommended your product to a third party (be it a friend, a coworker…). And if possible in what context. This is a key indicator that you have a real need to resolve and that it may be time to capitalize as much as possible on your existing user base to grow further. You have to understand that the true goal of a growth hacker is not only to get growth but to accelerate the growth curve and through the experiments he spearheads everyday.
“The purpose of an interview is not to ask people what you need to do but to understand them better than they understand themselves to conclude on what they need. Avoid making the person a designer.”
#2. Identify and establish points of interaction.
One point that should create unanimity now lies in the notion that one never treats its users in the same way. For this, you must come to understand very early on the different types of people that make up your product for discerning power users from standard users and those who drop off at a specific section of the funnel (use Mixpanel, Hotjar and Google Analytics). We will highlight this point in this essay but forging a special relationship with your power users is crucial.
To find an effective interaction point, the first thing to do is to identify one decisive action that is performed by a segment that converts. We will keep a very simple case in mind, but take the example of a startup that sells e-commerce products (works also for presales): a user who just bought / preordered a product necessarily implies a strong commitment on your part. Contact him (always as a founder), build a relationship with him and understand what makes him act.
Hack #1: The virtues of Rapportive.
Before requesting an interview, it is always interesting to know who you are addressing. Rapportive is a small extension for Chrome and Firefox (works with Gmail) that allows you to view the Linkedin information of a contact from their email. You can identify his profession, position, location and sex (profile photo). And as all users who purchase your product enter their email, very interesting discoveries may result.
Take the case of Tryndo, one of TheFamily‘s startups that lets you access the best running and sports studios of Paris with a monthly badge. Through Rapportive, the founders were able to quickly determine that among its customers (predominantly female) were a significant number of lawyers. Essential information that certainly changes your interview strategies and acquisition tactics over the short term.
It is of course necessary for this person to be registered on Linkedin with the email for that extension to retrieve the additional data.
Hack #2: Intercom and circumstantial triggers.
Intercom is a must-have, and should probably be installed on your site. It allows you among others things, to install a chat system (and configure the first message) that you can trigger when something happens.
There are situations that require to initiate a live discussion with a user. Take the case of an e-commerce and the specific moment when the buyers must enter their payment information. Being the most intrusive part of the funnel, a good way to reduce friction is to distinguish two cases: the individuals remain several minutes on this page (period of hesitation) and customers whose payment has been refused. Again, these users are not to be treated like the others. Trigger Intercom and engage a discussion with them.
To convert potential leads, Intercom is an exchange channel you need to prioritize. I recommend you take a look at their documentation but here are some useful commands.
// This will show the default Intercom message window. /// If there are no conversations it will open with the new message view, if there are it will open with the messages list. Intercom('show'); // To open the message window with the message list you can call Intercom('showMessages'); // To open the message window with the new message view you can call. // Second parameter for pre populated content. Intercom('showNewMessage'); Intercom('showNewMessage', 'pre-populated content'); // This will hide the default Intercom message window. Intercom('hide');
On a side note, I am currently working on a new project that includes a great live chat, a CRM & a Customer Intelligence platform for eCommerce called StorePilots. If you want to know more about it, don’t hesitate to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. 😉
Hack #3: The power of a Facebook group.
The state worthy of the greatest successes that each entrepreneur has to reproduce: the habit. It is this ambiguous concept that refers to the appearance of your product on a user’s head when he meets a defined problem. Fancy a burger? (you all thought about McDonalds) making a purchase on the Internet (Amazon), to send a personal message to friend (Facebook, Whatsapp, Skype), a photo (Snapchat, Instagram)? All of these companies managed to gradually identify themselves strongly in a particular niche. And in a society where the players are fighting constantly for attention, it is essential to succeed in creating the habit.
Facebook concentrates an incredible number of active daily users. Depending on your location, it may be worthwhile to encourage your most engaged Facebook users to join the group of your brand/your industry in question. Your most relevant posts will appear in their timeline (and hence your product is on their minds at the same time it is impacting retention) but you’ll especially have the possibility to freely exchange with them on Facebook Messenger. Why? Because you will be an administrator and thus, the messages will not appear in the inbox “others”.
Hack #4: Switching the communication channel.
Sometimes one wishes to initiate a dialogue with a clearly identified group of users and despite the quality of emails sent, he don’t manage to get responses. Keep in mind that each channel has its specifications. This can vary according to the personal habits of a user, but only a small group are particularly effective at interacting.
First, we should not have any complex to go against the tide. Our mailboxes are full, and although most people pay more attention to their professional inboxes, it is difficult to distinguish yourself from the mass to get your information noticed. From my experience, when trying to create an effective exchange, there are two predilection channels: WhatsApp (provided you know the phone number and you have some humour to open the discussion) and especially Facebook Messenger. Sometimes, by changing the channel, you get responses.
Hack #5: Say goodbye to Skype and hello to Appear.in.
After a few messages (through Facebook Messenger for example), it may be smart to change the communication channel once again. There is nothing more effective than a video conference or physical meeting to give a demo or get a more important flux of information. But of course, you have to create a proximity beforehand or to create an incentive that are worthwhile enough to convince your recipient to spend his time with you.
In this transition “messages to video conference”, a key point to understand is to notice the environmental change. Although a large majority of people have a Skype account, this demand for some to launch (or worse to reinstall) the software and then to accept your friend request before finally to validate your call. All these steps are harmful to the user and those useless efforts are just one more reason to say no.
To avoid this situation, I recommend using Appear.in. Creating and joining a room takes only a few seconds and you will have the ability to chat and share your screen. You can also integrate appear.in right inside your web page.
Hack #6: Generate temporary phone numbers with On/Off.
Another very useful B2B communication channel to convert potential leads is to display a phone number that is available for calls. By displaying it prominently in the header/footer of your site or by highlighting it when a very interesting behavior is identified (bounce exchange, ouibounce etc.), it can provide answers to very complex issues in order to active more customers. Nevertheless, for spamming reasons, many entrepreneurs do not wish to display their personal number.
This application that is available on all OS, lets you take advantage of multiple phone numbers without changing your SIM card (the first one is free, take advantage of it). Each additional number costs €2.99. The hackers here will surely seen the benefit of this solution to crack captchas verification by phone but I’ll say no more.
Hack #7: Simplify your customer support with Recordit.
Sometimes it is difficult to explain in text how to perform a specific action on your website. You probably know the saying: a picture is worth a thousand words, and time is money.
This excellent application allows you to record your screen and export the screencast as a GIF. You can easily insert it into your emails or upload images on a web host to get a link to share. Reducing the time required to understand may lead to convert a prospect. Speed and clarity are the words of an effective customer support. You can also use it for all demonstrations of your product whether in your articles or on your landing page.
Hack #8: Strengthen the relationship with your power users.
There are indirect ways to communicate with someone in order to create a link with them. A surprise with a thank you gift is a big part of it. Growth Hacker TV has long benefited from this strategy to strengthen the commitment of its active users while at the same time facilitate the exchange with them. When a user was viewing a large number of interviews in a short amount of time, Shirtbot automatically shipped them a T-shirt with the image of the brand.
Many services offer a wide range of products highlighting your logo, the values of your startup while expediting them for you. Among them, we find the excellent ThePrintful, Sticker Mule or Handiemail (for letters written by hand, a technique of the Buffer Community Champions).
Hack #9: Using Clarity differently.
Clarity is a marketplace that allows you to seek the help of an expert on a specific topic. Need help refining the growth strategy of your startup? Tips to prepare and launch your next Kickstarter? Or simply get recommendations on how to design and scale your server infrastructure? Clarity includes a variety of profiles in vast areas to enable you to make better decisions faster than ever.
Now, let’s think for a moment about how to use this platform to get in touch with our users. If you are a follower of inbound marketing and you keep an updated database of articles in order to attract targeted visitors, use the relevance of your content and embed the Clarity widget with it all. Set your hourly rate to $0 and encourage your most qualitative readers to set up a call with you. In the forefront, the problems they face (in your niche of course), this can give you ideas to iterate smarter about your product in addition to consolidating a very strong close relationship with them. Solve their problems with Clarity and try to understand what they need. 🙂
#3. Collect and manage your data.
All this qualitative data can make the collection and the interpretation difficult. Therefore, there are a number of relevant tools to help increase productivity.
Typeform is the perfect tool to quickly build intuitive forms with minimal friction. From a simple text field, passing through the multiple choice questions, notes and the installation of a payment module, you have access to a range of features to suit most of your needs. Also, and this is the whole point of Typeform, the administration interface graphics will give you a glance to analyze your data.
Old school but so effective, a simple spreadsheet (Google Sheet) is a very interesting solution for building and maintaining multiple data collected by your team.
When you consider contacting each of the emails contained in your spreadsheet, Yet Another Mail Merge (YAMM) is the ultimate solution. This plugin, which works in harmony with Gmail, allows you to send personalized messages on the fly: See demo here.
In short, any application that allows you to collect / record your results in a document accessible from the cloud will be amply sufficient. Remember that your efforts must be focused in the interpretation of these data. Evernote is also very useful to synchronize your notes between your different devices and access them from anywhere.
Communicating with your users is a priority. The various hacks listed right here (and the multitude that have yet to be discovered) are just some of the different strategies to capitalize on and sustain a discussion with your most active members / the least convinced. Never neglect this part of the equation, because that is what must drive your implementation.
“In classes where I teach entrepreneurship, each student must talk to 100 users in 10 weeks. Many hate me during this experimental period but eventually they understand the importance of leaving the building to test and validate their hypotheses.”
However, base your tactics on a maximum qualitative data but on the other hand, never forget to consider your quantitative data (google analytics, mixpanel, flurry, heap… ). Because assessing on the comments is good, but assessing data is even better. This will be the entire subject of the next article and our second pillar of growth: KPIs, testing and analytics.
I would conclude on this last tip: through your interviews, it is very likely that your users, one after another will suggest a multitude of features. Stay vigilant on this point and never complexify your product if it is unwarranted. When we add sticking points somewhere, we better make sure before (by testing on a small group) that the added value is there. In the long term, simple products always win the game.
And to all the Scorcese fans out there, he’s coming back soon with Leonardo in the promising “The Devil in the White City“. 😉
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