I recently tweeted out “Building products that solve the user problem is no longer enough. Build products that make the user successful” – this article explains what I mean.
Building a product is becoming easier especially with no code and low code options. Which IMO is a good thing, gone are the days of needing large teams, months of lead time and large budgets. It’s now possible to launch a product in one afternoon (mind blown). However, I am advocating for building products that make the user successful.
However, with this newfound skill, there is a risk of falling into a constant cycle of building for the sake of building and launching for the sake of launching. Don’t get me wrong here, building and launching products is a skill that needs to be developed and maintained.
Why do users use and buy products?
My point here is potential users look for, use and buy software products because they are looking to solve a challenge that exists in their lives. Think about it, *nobody* searches for software without purpose (an end outcome).
Over the years switching costs have also dropped (practically zero in some cases), it’s easier than ever to move from one software product to another. This means:
1. Products are at risk to a higher churn rate and,
2. Product teams need to focus on user retention (many teams are focused on growth and getting more users into the platform. Retention is a missed opportunity – but that’s a story for another day).
Where am I going with this? The likelihood of churn increases if the user is unable to see immediate value and cannot successfully use the product to solve their challenge.
Here is the actual tweet I tweeted out a few weeks ago:
Building products that solve the user problem is no longer enough. Build products that make the user successful.
— Pradip Khakhar (@pradipcloud) August 10, 2019
What does make users successful mean?
The first question that *usually* comes to mind is “what does successful mean”? How do we measure success? is it by Revenue, sales, NPS score, Churn, CAC, etc? (just throwing a bunch of metrics on the wall here won’t help). Plus you know you have your favorite metric that you tend to obsess over.
As with everything in life, there are no short cuts and there is no magic bullet answer here. My answer is it depends. Probably not the answer you were hoping for. Here’s what I mean.
Users use software products because they are looking to solve a challenge that exists in their lives. What is the impact your product makes in solving the user’s challenge?User success is dependent on the impact your product has on empowering the user to achieve their desired outcome(s). Click To Tweet
Get users to the “aha” moment quickly
In today’s economy, everyone is working to get more eyeballs on their product. This makes getting users to the “aha” moment quickly more important than ever before.
Please note: quickly does not mean taking short cuts, but rather designing your product’s user journey to strategically connect, communicate and empower users.
How? consider the following three steps:
1. Connecting with your potential user by understanding their challenge
2. Communicating you understand the challenge and how your product is solving the challenge.
3. Empower users to the challenge solved state.
1. Connect with your potential user
In order to connect with your user, you must first know who your users are and what the challenge they are looking to solve is. Be very clear about this, at a minimum create user personas to identify and dig deeper into the needs, goals, motivations, fears and messaging that resonates with the user. For each persona created map out the user journey.
As Katelyn Bourgoin says “Companies that invest in ongoing customer research grow 2-3X faster”. So remember to spend time understanding your user and if you are not sure about what makes your users successful just ask them. Understand some of their pain points around the outcome they are trying to achieve.
Please note: this is not about asking the user what features they want but rather what success looks like to them.
2. Communicate with your user
Odds are your product is not the *only* product that solves this challenge. So why should the user use your product? – what unique value does your product have that *other* products do not in solving the same challenge?
A user needs to understand why your product is the best fit for them in helping solve their challenge. Users need a clear and compelling value proposition. If the user has to think how or why they should use your product, it’s likely too late and the user is already looking elsewhere.
Take a look at the 2 below products. Can you tell me what they do in 5 seconds or less?
Leave Me Alone
Looking at the homepage of Leave me alone it’s pretty clear that the target user is someone who wants to “easily unsubscribe from unwanted emails”. The homepage even shows you how easy it is to unsubscribe, you can even try it on the homepage. (mind was blown).
I’m not a superhuman subscriber, however, they have a waitlist of 180K people waiting to pay $30 per month for “the fastest email experience ever made”.
By connecting and communicating with your users, this effectively takes the user from zero knowledge of your product to “some” knowledge of your product. Think about it as a warm intro, its an opportunity to get potential users curious.
Remember – communication does not stop once a user agrees to try your product. While it is a huge deal for a user to try your product, that’s when a new set of skills need to be implemented.
3. Getting users to the challenge solved state [Close]
After all, we said above that users use software to solve a challenge? Typically, at this stage, you have a user who knows about your product (maybe not everything) and is willing to give it a try (very important). A good well thought out onboarding process can make or break your products relationship with the user.
Onboarding is more than just a few screens “popping up” the first time you log in, its about empowering the user and guiding them through specific steps to facilitate the user to achieve their desired outcome(s). According to Samuel Hulick of user onboard “User onboarding is the process of increasing the likelihood that new users become successful when adopting your product”.
Potential User’s generally speaking are likely to choose the path of least resistance. So if in order to try your product a potential user needs to complete for example; 3 forms, verify email/ phone and then add a credit card number, you have likely lost a few potential users at some point before the potential user has even seen/ tried your product. Why does any product need more than the email to get started? (reduce friction). And you probably don’t need to provide a 30-day trial, a 14-day trial is sufficient.
Do things that don’t scale
We are all accustomed to bots helping us. Next time you try a new piece of software chances are you are being guided through several well thought out strategic screens. This helps to an extent. While I am not an onboarding expert I do plan to explore more onboarding strategies in the future.
Recently companies like TruStory, Superhuman, and Notion have started a trend where they provide a 15-20 min onboarding call (this is genius IMO). Not only does the company get access to its users they can observe the non-verbal clues (in a video chat/ screen share obviously). Having a chat allows:
1. A deeper understanding of the specifics of the user and allows the product team to build empathy in what and how users do things.
2. You the ability to create a personal connection with your user (I recently tried new software and I booked a demo from the product website and I was on a phone call with the founder).
3. You to teach your users how to use the product to achieve maximum success.
I’m a fan of sending one personal email after the onboarding call, thanking the user for their time and to ask if the user has any follow up questions. To me, if I were to receive an email like that I would feel more connected to the company.
I understand as the product grows sending a personal email becomes more difficult and use of automated emails may be necessary.
During a 14 day trial or the first 14 days of becoming a paid user, I would be ok with receiving a number of emails providing value (what that number is I don’t know, but it is important to strike that balance between providing value and not becoming a spam sender). Potential reasons to send an email and what to send include:
1. If the user has not logged into the product for of period of X days. Before they lose interest to remind them to take a specific action that brings them closer to the solved state.
2. If the user has not yet completed a basic task remind them. For example:
- Social media users are shown other people to follow/ connect with.
- New CRM users are encouraged to upload contacts
- Email marketing providers encourage new users to send their first email.
- Website site-building software encourage new users to build their first website and go live
- Task management software encourages new users to create and complete tasks.
3. Show users something awesome your product can do and how they can get to that level of awesomeness (relating to the original reason why the user signed up).
When is it enough?
Don’t try to upsell especially during a 14 day trial or the first 14 days of becoming a paid user. I once used SaaS software and I think I paid around $20 to $30 a month (don’t remember exactly). After a 15-20 min onboarding call, I was provided useful documentation on how to use the product and the customer success team was amazing.
Problem was that I was a small customer with hardly any traffic to my website and therefore while this software was very good it wasn’t giving me the success I needed. Again, to re-iterate this was no fault of the software product but rather I needed a new strategy for lead generation and getting eyeballs on my site.
I decided to cancel after six months but I think it was before the year was up. The process to cancel included needing to contact support to cancel. This became my first red flag, I did and they were extremely helpful and asked why and what they could do to keep my business. Respectfully I indicated that I have no issues with the product, my issue is that I don’t have enough eyeballs to justify the price.
Having mentioned this the customer support team offered me to use the product for $5 a month. While I am forever grateful as that answered my price objection, I felt I wasn’t ready for the product at this time.
My issue with this was that customer support started to show a very slight sign of being passive-aggressive which I did not appreciate. It left a sour taste in my mouth.
In this situation, it is important to note that you cannot make every user successful and it doesn’t mean that your product is lacking. In this situation, the timing was wrong for me.
However, if I am on a 14-day trial and I don’t convert into a paying user I think it is completely ok for someone from the product team to send me an email asking how my experience was and the reason for not becoming a paid user. This type of dialogue is invaluable, however, please balance this type of feedback with demands for roadmap changes very carefully. If you start tailoring your product to any particular user (or customer) there is an inherent chance your product may start to lose its core USP and become everything to everyone (no one in reality).
The success of the user depends on the products ability to make an impact in the lives of its users solving their challenge.
A quick look at Superhuman’s wall of love shows users clearly love superhuman because it helps them save time when checking/ responding to emails. Gmail and Outlook are two of the major email providers (and email clients) that have the market covered for over 15 plus year. The equation has become are users willing to pay $30 a month for a faster email client?
In this case, paying $30 per month saves (or gives back) time to users where users believe the time they are saving (or getting back) is worth more than $30. The answer from users and venture capitalists seems to be a resounding yes (at least for now).
Superhuman users are successful because they spend less time in emails compared to say Gmail or Outlook. Therefore, saving (or getting back) time for other activities. For someone who has a lot of time already Superhuman may not be a good fit. However, for busy professionals for example, who are doing a lot in a short period of time and use email as a primary form of communication-saving time daily in emails can add up and be valuable.
When we discuss building products that make users successful we need to include Product/ Market fit.
Marc Andreessen defines it as;
“Product/market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market.
You can always feel when product/market fit isn’t happening. The customers aren’t quite getting value out of the product, word of mouth isn’t spreading, usage isn’t growing that fast, press reviews are kind of “blah”, the sales cycle takes too long, and lots of deals never close.
And you can always feel product/market fit when it’s happening. The customers are buying the product just as fast as you can make it — or usage is growing just as fast as you can add more servers. Money from customers is piling up in your company checking account. You’re hiring sales and customer support staff as fast as you can. Reporters are calling because they’ve heard about your hot new thing and they want to talk to you about it. You start getting entrepreneur of the year awards from Harvard Business School. Investment bankers are staking out your house. You could eat free for a year at Buck’s.?”
Sam Altman defines it as;
“Do any users love our product so much they spontaneously tell other people to use it?”
Picking a metric
I truly believe building products that solve the user problem is no longer enough. The mindset needs to shift to building products that make the user successful.
I know several of you are thinking:
- Ok, but how do we measure success?
- If you can’t track it how can you measure it
- How do we differentiate between products that solve the user problem and products that make users successful?
If we are to pick a metric, I would advocate for using the question Sean Ellis advocates for;
“I ask existing users of a product how they would feel if they could no longer use the product”.
While comparing nearly 100 startups Sean goes on to state that if 40% of users state they would be very disappointed is a *good* number to indicate “strong traction”
The process of building and launching products is a fun and iterative process. It’s also easy to get caught up in launches, press and social. Hence, this is your bi-weekly reminder to build products that make users successful.Users become successful when the product empowers the user to solve their challenge and makes an impact in their lives. Click To Tweet
I’ve been digging the Connect, Communicate and Close process. I’ve used it in Product and Sales.
This is the first article in my newsletter, actually my first article in a while. Let me know what you think HMU on twitter
Hi, I’m Pradip Khakhar. A dad & Product Manager w/ a sales background – We help companies build and sell digital experiences that make users successful.