One of the founding pillars of SaaS is to create a product that sells itself. From gathering product knowledge to account creation and even onboarding… the ideal SaaS product will handle everything without the user ever having to talk to a human.
That’s great for users, but what about marketers? We almost never get to interact with the people we are marketing to. The few times we do, users are often annoyed or want an incentive.
We are running into this problem here at Constellix. We are a fledgling startup entering our second year on the market. We have a big enough user base where it should be easy to get a few users to talk to us… or so it would seem.
Previous attempts via social media and email campaigns garnered little success. So instead, we decided to bend to their will and give them an incentive to talk to us.
About a year ago, we launched our new product Constellix. It doesn’t have a free trial, so instead, we created a survey that rewards participants with a $25 credit.
It’s a win-win, users get to try our services for free(-ish) and we get the communication we’ve been craving.
The survey questions aimed to pinpoint how users found our product. As well as what specific services interested them and what other providers they had used in the past.
Some of the questions we asked them were:
How did you hear about us?
- Our legacy product
- Word of mouth (AKA: legacy product advocates)
What other providers have you used?
- Big name brands
- Up and coming startups, like us
- Legacy product
What we were really looking for were answers to the questions we have been asking ourselves for two years:
- Where do we stand in the market?
- Are we on the map?
- Are we a successful alternative to big name brands?
You can’t ask these questions outright, though. All we can do is make note of where our users came from and wait to see if they stick around. If they do, then we may feel assured that we were a viable alternative to that provider.
Personally, I was looking to validate my SEO and content marketing efforts. Every week when I review the survey results, I highlight in green the users that found our product from content I created or ads I designed.
But what we should have been doing this whole time… is listening rather than looking for validation.
Predispositions = Poison
The problem is we went into the experiment with a lot of biased opinions of who our users are.
Our questions were tailored towards those predispositions and didn’t leave much room for what we assumed were outliers.
Who we thought our clients are:
- Small business or home users that wanted something cheaper than everyone else
- Interested in basic services
- Vast majority are coming from our legacy product, DNS Made Easy
Most of the questions were multiple choice or checkboxes that were looking to validate our notions.
But, thankfully, for two of the questions, we let users fill in the blank with an “other” option. That’s where we learned everything.
Over a year of data and 400+ survey takers and 734 rows of data later…
How They Found Us
Only a little more than half of them came from our legacy product through emails, adverts, or talking with our sales team. I thought that number would be much, much higher… like in the 80’s.
The next big chunk was “other” and, thankfully, we let them fill in the blank.
Almost a third of our users are coming from Google searches, alone. Some quick Google Analytics digging reveals that most organic traffic is hitting just two landing pages, both targeting the same keyword.
40% going to an educational page. A “what is __” that uses diagrams to explain a tech concept and its many applications. The second being the product page for the same service.
Bad news, the educational page has a higher than comfortable bounce rate and low session duration, despite its length. That tells me maybe this content is too advanced for the average searcher. On the plus side, it’s still brand awareness.
Good news, the product page averages a super low bounce rate and a three-minute session duration! And is also responsible for bringing in a big chunk of converting users!
What all this tells me is the people that ultimately sign up for our services are people that already have an idea of what they’re looking for.
They know the name of the service they want, they just need a little more knowledge about it and the confidence to try it for themselves.
Research > Opinion
If you go back to that word cloud, you’ll see two websites show up a lot in results: “dnsperf” and “solvedns.com”. These are comparison sites that pit the top DNS providers against each other and compare their speeds, uptime, and regional response times.
This tells me that a lot of these people are doing their research and value pure unbiased data.
You’ll notice that forums and referrals are very small in the word cloud, which is a huge shift from what we were seeing just a few years ago.
We also asked them what providers they currently use or have used in the past. We gave them options for seven of the top providers we saw ourselves competing against.
The operative word there is “saw ourselves”… we were so off from the truth it wasn’t even funny.
Less than a third have used our legacy product, which surprised me. But not nearly enough as the “other” responses.
Over a fifth of the answers fell in the “other” category and most respondents were gracious enough to give us a list of providers.
I converted the answers to a word cloud and… well, you can see for yourself.
The top providers are popular freemium services. Since they are looking at our product, which charges for everything, does this mean they are realizing they need a premium service?
The other big names in the cloud are domain registrars that also offer free (but very basic) DNS hosting.
We didn’t even consider these providers as “competitors” since they aren’t specialty providers, like us. This right here proves where predispositions can cost you.
Our biases and personal views had caused us to ignore a valuable market.
After all the number crunching and a few word clouds later, we found that our clients were really:
- Educated, Tech-savvy, and know what they were looking for.
- Curious and open-minded to new, upcoming brands.
- Many were coming from free plans that want more advanced functionality and are willing to pay for it
Bottom line… Leave your predispositions at the door and let your clients speak for themselves. You’ll learn a great deal more when you stop putting words in their mouths.