This is a guest post written by Ryan Fujiu. Ryan is based out of Venice, CA and does product and business development for about.me.
Like many other startups, we take pride in being data driven. We watch our key conversion metrics, measure CTR, ROI, we even use data to drive what features we launch on the site. But when we started making our product video, we *assumed* we knew our top value props and use cases. So confident in our assumptions, we wrote a script and started shopping it around to production companies. Then we took a step back, did some research, and the results changed everything.
Almost every new product or service has a product video or screencast. Furthermore, almost every new product *launches* with one. The goals of the video are simple; to get the viewer’s attention, to explain the benefits of the product, and to explain why they should use it. In some cases, it should also devote a small amount of time explaining how to use the product.
As a founder, product manager or marketer, it’s easy for you to come up your key benefits and use cases for your product, right? “For sure” you say? But really, the only way to know for sure is to *test your assumptions*. As Patrick Vlaskovits said in his book, The Entrepreneurs Guide to Customer Development, “Dont mistake guesses for facts.”
At about.me, we practice customer development. So, we decided to run a couple surveys. The first one, we ran through KISSinsights, which asked a very simple question “What do you use your about.me profile for?”
This was only served after the user logged in twice, and had been on the ‘edit profile’ page for 20 seconds. We put these relatively strict requirements on the survey to get responses from our engaged users. These requirements are key to filter out the noise.
The results were staggering. The survey had a 10% conversion rate, generating 2,500 responses over 2 days. As we compiled the results, the key benefits and use cases we needed to highlight in the screencast became abundantly clear. Here are the top results from the survey:
- To promote your business / self online
- As a hub for your social activity
- To let people know who you are and what you do
- As an online business card
- To put in email signature / twitter bio
- As a place to send anyone who wants to know more about me
- Stats on visitors
To validate these results, we ran the product/market fit survey (aka the Customer Development survey). It asks a couple very important questions, one being, “What is the primary benefit that you received from about.me?” The results from this survey mirrored the results from the KISSinsights survey, so we knew, at that point what to base our screencast on.
Another benefit of asking open-ended questions is the responder can express what the product is to them in their own words. You can use this method to discover a tagline or value prop statement instead of paying an expensive branding firm. Here were some of the gems that came straight from our users’ mouths:
- “As a one stop page that lets the user find out who I am what I do and how to reach me.” Ardail Smith
- “As a quick and easy place to provide links to my online footprint.” Lisa Proctor
- “Simplistic way to tell people who I am and what I stand for… :)” Deanna Obenauf
- “As a starting place to find more about me on the web.” Jay Bernard
- “Personal online brand management” Jonathan Baritugo
After we analyzed all of the data and agreed on the key benefits and use cases, the script for the screencast fell into place. We went through the rest of the process with the confidence that the benefits we were highlighting were both real, and important to our users. If you watch our video closely, you can see where we mentioned each of the benefits and use cases:
(UPDATE: As of 10/7/2014 this video is no longer being hosted on Vimeo)
It turned out, that if we would have built the video on our assumptions rather than data, we would have totally missed 2 important use cases (including one that most users said was the reason they use our product). This came as a shock to us, and opened our eyes to the importance of customer research and qualitative data.
If you build your screencast off your assumptions rather than data, you run the risk of missing some of your key benefits or use cases. Or even worse, you may introduce an idea that is flat out not a benefit, thoroughly confusing your potential users. The information you gather here is critical for any business to know. So, the moral of this story is: test your business assumptions.
If you want to read more about this and other tenets of customer development, get “The Entrepreneurs Guide to Customer Development” by Patrick Vlaskovitis.