5 Ways To Learn About the Customers of a New Product

Where to start as a PM with a bunch of customers you don’t really know.

Twilert (Twitter search alerts via email) has been steadily growing for the last 12 months. With little-to-no marketing and absolutely no marketing spend, we’ve reached over 300 steady subscribers across our Basic, Pro and Agency plans.

What this first tells us, is that there’s a need for the product. Secondly, that the product is pretty good. Having reached the 300+ customer mark our goal is now to see what we can improve for our current customers and how we can attract new ones. More on that here.

Where to begin?

Having personally been away from Twilert from just over a year, my first job was to get back on board with the product and more importantly, its customers. If you’re a new product manager or product marketer the process is usually the same. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Do you start with the project-management process, or the UI? The features, or the feature requests? The customer personas or the SEO? Navigating those first few weeks are key after all.

I looked exactly like this cat. Source

Before diving in to any of that, there’s one thing I’d recommend. Talk to your customers.

A product’s customer base will be able to tell you more about where you’re going wrong and what the product needs, than the product team itself.

The challenge? A balancing act.

Getting into a deep-dive with your product’s customers takes a series of tasks and activities that are both arduous and simple. Some that take five minutes and others that take five days.

Put both together, and you gain a rock-solid foundation of who your customers are, what they want and what they need from the product.

Here’s what I’ve spent the past month doing:

1. Learn the numbers

Unfortunately, you can’t be an ace product marketer without doing a little math. At the very least, a few of the numbers you need to be getting your head around include:

  • Number of trialists per month (if you have a trial)
  • Conversion rate of said trialists
  • Number of paying users
  • Churn rate of paying users
  • Monthly recurring revenue
  • Average number of sessions per sign up
  • Life time value

Luckily, once you’ve done the initial setup and formula for each then it’s a simple case of exporting the data or entering new numbers each month for you to get a great feel for where you are. You may also work within a great CRM which does all the math for you. Either way, learn the numbers.

They help you to see at which points in the customer lifecycle your users fall off. From there, you can work out why.

High trialists but low conversion? Speak to your potential customers and find out why they aren’t signing up — perhaps it’s cost, or the copy miscommunicates what they thought the product could do?

Low churn but static customer number? Perhaps your marketing isn’t set up to bring enough new customers into the funnel.

Nailing the numbers is the first step to getting behind the minds of your customers without having to bother them. If in doubt, this post by David Arnoux and the company Baremetrics give really great guides on how to do the tricky bits.

2. Talk to your customers

From having four or five Skype calls with customers this week I learned:

  • Many believe that Twitter is the only channel worth monitoring through a social listening tool — Facebook’s API just doesn’t seem to have the same search capabilities
  • Twilert does the same Twitter monitoring as Radian 6, just cheaper
  • Many customers know how to use Boolean search operators — they just aren’t sure where they are in the Twilert interface
  • Twilert is liked because of its simplicity — it’s easier to set up and use than the higher-tier tools currently out there

Talking to your customers will unearth plenty of information about how they use the product, what they find beneficial and what they want to see in future iterations. Perhaps your USP won’t be as you thought, or you’ll just get some really nice testimonials to use across your site.

Get on the phone to them, send a personal email or provide a monthly discount in exchange for some info.

You’ll be suprised at how many are willing to talk.

3. Persona your customers

Here’s where it gets time consuming. Unfortunately, you cannot build personas of your customers from your own ideas or from a brainstorming session. You just can’t.

The only true way to build personas? Pooling each and every single customer you have and then putting the results into one serious excel spreadsheet where you can tally up their interests, use cases, industries and customer history. (NB: I’d say 500 if the perfect sample-size for this task. Any more and it just gets silly.)

This is something I’ve been working on for the past two weeks and while I’m only part way in, the results are seriously interesting.

For example, while much of the Twilert customer base is centered around those working within marketing, PR and social media as you’d expect, there are also plenty of government organisations, schools and police stations who use the tool. This shows that we have an entire pool of customers just waiting to be tapped into.

Another interesting fact is that many of our customers are happy to only have one account manager, who sets up the alerts that then go out to various colleagues. This is contrary to the pricing structure we’d worked out based on the assumption that multiple users would want access to the same account at once.

Dipping into the current customers of your products is worth its weight in gold. You just need the motivation to get through the droll before you can uncover the exciting.

4. Ask for feedback

If you haven’t already, setup a ‘why didn’t you sign up’ form and track the answers of lost users.

One key point for this is to keep it simple — the less form filling your customers have to do, the more likely they are to do it. But of course, you know this. If you use Google forms you can pre-fill info for your customers which will help.

From this, you can learn exactly where you’re going wrong at that last crucial step. Because the type of customer who’s willing to answer one or two questions about why they didn’t sign up is often the type of customer who was one step away from giving you their money.

5. Analyse the process

What does a customer see when they log in the second time? What’s the renewal lifecycle like? How does feedback get managed? How long does it take you to respond to an in-app message?

Have a day where you play around with your product as if you’ve never seen it before. Often we launch a product, have a few beers to celebrate and then focus on the marketing/development/design and forget to log in to the basic interface. When you do, you’ll be surprised at how many typos, illogical sequences and odd call to actions you find!

If that fails and your eyes are already in too deep to see the wood from the trees, do the Mum test and find someone unfamiliar with your product to run it through its paces.

So while some of these tasks are simple and cheap, others are time-consuming and time-expensive. But put both together and you’ll never look back.

What are your key tips for getting under the skin of a new customer base? Do they match the above? Comment below — I’d love to know!

Cover image sourced from Flickr.com

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