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Turning User Feedback Into Growth

Being responsive to the feedback of customers is the key to unlocking the growth of a business. But not all feedback is created equal. Some feedback is important at a certain stage, while other feedback is important at another stage.

Sean Ellis spoke at the 500 Distro conference and gave some tips for receiving feedback in each stage of a company. Below are the notes from his talk.

There are three stages of growth within a business. First is product/market fit, where a large amount of people want or need your product.

After you have the “must have” experience with product/market fit, you move to the growth transition phase, where you’re focused on delivering the must have experience.

Once you have product/market fit and a way to get people to that product/market fit experience, you can then move to the scale growth stage. This is where you acquire the right people, in the right way.

Below is an outline of the feedback you’ll want to look for in each stage.

Feedback During Product/Market Fit

Product/Market fit is the single most important factor for sustainable growth. Without it, most growth fizzles out.

The early feedback you get when starting out is critical. You’ll need to make sure that you’re actually solving a problem for people. Don’t build a solution around a problem that doesn’t exist.

You’ll also need to know what solutions people are currently using to solve the problem. You can get this feedback through talking to customers (and prospective customers) everyday.

Knowing When You Have Product/Market Fit

Ask customers how they’d feel if they could no longer use your product. Make it multiple choice:

a) Very disappointed
b) Somewhat disappointed
c) Not disappointed
d) N/A – I no longer use your product

You’ve hit product/market fit if more than 40% say very disappointed. Ignore somewhat disappointed – these are your “nice to have” people. You can’t build a business with a “nice to have” product. You need customers to view your product as a “must have”.

You don’t need to shut your business down if it’s less than 40%. Just talk to the very disappointed people and iterate from there – you’ll want more of these people using your product.

Ask them how they’re using your product, what key benefit they’re getting, why did they seek your solution, and what other alternatives did they consider. Understand this feedback, iterate, and you’ll have a better chance of reaching product/market fit.

Talking to the “very disappointed” folks, you may find that they use your product different from everyone else. When you know how they use it, you can update your messaging and onboarding to highlight the “must have” use cases. This will help you get more successful customers.

Feedback During the Growth Transition Stage

You can move to this stage after you’ve reached product/market fit and have over 40% of respondents saying they’d be “very disappointed” if they could no longer use your product. In this stage, you focus on delivering the “must have” experience to all users.

Talk to your customers and ask for feedback on how to describe and position the product. Really pay attention to the feedback from the “very disappointed” group. The questions Ellis asks:

  • Ask customers if they’ve recommended the product. If they have, he asks how they described it.
  • Next question to ask is the primary benefit they receive. Highlight the benefit, set the right expectations, and drive people to what the product is going to do for them.
  • Someone telling you what benefit they receive is great, but you’ll get a lot more context when you ask why the benefit is important to them. Understand the problem they’ve having and how they’re using your product to solve it, and adjust your messaging around that problem/solution.

If you want a tool to help you with these questions, check out Survey.io. Ellis created it, and it has all the questions and reporting built right in.

Intent is another important part of feedback. Understanding why people came to your site and the intent they have will give you insight in how to get the benefit message to them. The best way to learn intent is just by asking visitors what they hope your product can do for them.

Lastly, understand the friction people have. A great way to do this is through user testing. You don’t even have test people in your target market. Just give someone a task to do on your website, ask them to do that task, and hear their feedback. Ellis recommends User Testing and Peak, which provides a free 5 minute test.

You can also ask users what almost stopped them from completing an action. So if you’re in SaaS and someone signs up, you can ask them what almost stopped them from signing up. It’s important to ask the people who have reached some “success” page, whether it be signing up, purchasing, etc. These people are qualified to answer because they did the action that you wanted them to do. You can put the question on the success page.

You can also try exit intent surveys. Have a landing page asking people to download something? Ask them what’s preventing them from downloading it. Ask them before they abandon a page, and keep the question short. Something like “Before you go, if you decided not to purchase today, what was it that stopped you?” Leave it open ended. Collect the feedback, iterate, and watch conversions skyrocket.

Now take what you learned here and apply it:

The strong authentic promise is the statement that describes the must have experience. This is built off the feedback people give you when they answer what benefit they’re getting from your product. Make sure you set the right expectations in your promise statement. Tell them what your product is going to do for them.

Feedback During the Scale Growth Stage

After you have product/market fit and a process for delivering the value, you then focus on acquiring the right people, in the right way.

In this phase, you do some prospect outreach. Ask them how they discovered the product. You can also find this in your analytics.

The best signal for what’s going to work is what’s already working. Look at your acquisition channels and see what’s working, then optimize.

Then ask them how they generally discover (whatever your product category is). Airbnb did this when they plugged into the Craigslist ecosystem. Go where your users are, just don’t violate any terms of service like Airbnb may have done.

Word of mouth should dominate your growth. It’s the commonality among nearly every fast growing company. The more you can get product/market fit, the more you’ll unlock word of mouth growth.

Video & Slides

Ellis includes lots more in his talk, including some case studies.

About the Author: Zach Bulygo (Twitter) is a Content Writer for Kissmetrics.

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