Want current customers to fuel your growth? Be agile, not aimless.

Agile software development and project management methodologies have been developed in the last decade as a response to the miserable project success rates of the 1980s and 1990s.

They encourage the input of the market — customers and stakeholders — during development to ensure the product solves real problems.

Old school thinking suggested one should “gather” all the requirements up front. We’ve learned that frequently isn’t possible in software — that requirements are emergent.

Product companies now build for what’s known, examine the impact, and figure out how to improve.

Lean startup.

Build, measure, learn.

The Impact of Focus.

Build, measure, learn works when you're addressing the problems of a single market segment. A like group of people. You understand their needs more as you go along, and continue to improve that solution.

Product companies often tackle segments in sequence, starting with a core segment and extending out to solve the needs of additional segments. More products are offered in order to fuel growth around solving additional problems for those segments.

If you're doing persona research, you know you've found that like group when you can describe their characteristics and predict their answers to your questions.

When you add features, most of your customers benefit.

But I see a different pattern emerging.

Product managers and founders can’t decide what features to build next. Clients are asking for wildly different enhancements, to achieve wildly different outcomes.

They have to stop and ask, “what are we trying to achieve?”

Sometimes it’s too late.

Who are we trying to serve?

You find yourself pulling off one feature to work on a different one. For a different kind of customer.

Every team has to jump off to work on an emergency bug fix from time to time. What I’m talking about is different.

This is better described as reactionary behavior.

You shift gears because of a whale. You throw something into the market because it’s minimal, not because it’s viable.

Marketing is all over it. Opportunities are coming in.

You're leaving half-finished features and old versions of features in the product because you do not have the time to remove them. It slows development of everything else down below the surface, where it’s hard to quantify the cost.

Yet it’s hard to carve out time to fix the problem when the cost is on the table, when those opportunities coming in demand critical features.

Meet Frankenproduct.

The endgame is a bewildering mess of features that doesn't solve the core problem for any particular market segment terribly well.

Customer avatar A tells you it’s hard to put data in. Customer avatar B tells you it’s hard to work with data that is in the system. And customer avatar C tells you it’s hard to get data out.

You are building the Homer.

Which group’s problems do you need to solve, in which order? Should you build one feature to address avatar A, another one for avatar B, and a third one for avatar C? How much is each cohort worth?

You usually won’t have the bandwidth to solve all the problems at once.

If you’re getting traction, the dysfunction might accelerate. You have to figure out what your message is to the market, but your market isn’t homogenous. It’s hard to find language that resonates.

You also have a hard time knowing where to find your targets. Because of the variety of segments you’re serving, you find them in any number of channels. Which message should you deploy where?

Quit.

Have an opinion.

Actively choose the slice(s) of the market you wish to serve, and the ones you don’t. Give them a simple, compelling way to solve their problems.

Your customers — albeit perhaps fewer of them at first — will love you for it. They will be more avid fans. They will tell other people.

As you grow, thoughtfully add new segments. Solve their problems just as well.

This is how Product can support your initiative to use customer satisfaction as marketing.

Don’t flip flop. Flip your funnel.

You have already acquired your current customers. It’s much more expensive to acquire new ones.

Keep the customers you already have satisfied. So satisfied that they will refer others just like them.

Yes, you need to invest in maintaining the customer relationship. You need to invest in incentives for them to share the message with others just like them.

But that’s irrelevant if you attracted the wrong customer in the first place. Or if your product doesn’t solve the customer’s problem to the level they expect.

To build a market using existing customers requires you to solve those customers’ problems well. It requires saying no to customers that don’t match your ideal customer avatar, even if that means saying “no” to revenue.

That’s how you establish a beachhead.

That’s how you cross the chasm.

That’s how you flip the funnel.

The Flip My Funnel Conference

The folks at Terminus, representing the Atlanta B2B Marketing and Sales community, are putting on a conference called “Flip My Funnel.”

It’s inspired by Joseph Jaffe’s book Flip The Funnel, which effectively argues that because of the comparatively high cost of gaining new customers, revenue growth should be driven primarily by exceeding customer expectations.

Written another way, the concept is to grow a company by satisfying customers, not by getting your message in front of more new ones.

For this to work, there is a heavy dependency on product management that seems to be underrepresented.

The right customers have to be acquired in the first place for this to work, and the offering needs to meet their level of expectations —to use Lincoln Murphy’s words, both required outcome and appropriate experience.

If you don’t, no matter how hard you work the relationship, you’ll be hard pressed to get your customers to refer others.

If Customer Success is the new Acquisition, you need a Product team that’s more old-school “Whole Product” than modern “Minimum Viable.”

A “Meets Min” approach to Product won’t flip the funnel.

Check out the conference here. If you’re in Atlanta and want to attend, use my 50% discount code: JP50.