It came as an absolute shock to my system, and challenged everything I thought I knew about startups and online business in general. It was the height of summer in Tel Aviv, I had just stepped off a plane at the end of a 27-hour journey from Sydney. Buzzing from a sleepless night and bad coffee, I made my way to the foreshore where I met with a team of technical and operational badasses. We had everything in place, our team was elite, and the pitch deck refined to the level of a Hollywood blockbuster. We were ready to pitch to one of the world’s biggest venture capital firms, and we were excited.
The next day, we sat in a light-filled cafe, watching the morning unfurl, bright sky against the Mediterranean Sea, white sand and eager beach-goers making use of the serenity. Our contact arrived, and after the niceties, we started our pitch. After 20 minutes, our pitch was over and spirits were high. Our VC contact then uttered six words that would forever change our trajectory: “But what do your customers want?”
We then realised, we had spent way too much time working on what we want, and didn’t factor in the most important people as part of the equation. That moment helped us refine our product in the most meaningful way of all.
Whether it’s one sale, or 10,000 of them, it takes effort for a sale to happen. Wouldn’t it be great if you could leverage your customers to make your conversion funnel even better?
From the time a customer lands on our website, to the point of an actual sale, and throughout the post-sale process, customers take a varied approach to how they interact with you.
Some might breeze through the process in a quick and painless sale, while others may ask multiple questions and perform their own research before committing. Paying close attention and segmenting your customer types can assist in turning your customers onto a business growth opportunity.
We often think we ‘know’ exactly what our target audience wants, but its not until you have real users, flowing through your conversion funnel and using your product, that you can get a clear picture of what works and what doesnt. Customers are the key to your success, and they can reward you in so many ways without any conscious effort on their behalf.
Here’s 5 ways customers can elevate your growth opportunties, starting now:
1. The questons they ask you
When you’re running a startup or a small business, customers are your lifeblood. It makes sense that a communication channel is established to assist users through the process and ease them through a sale or continued use of the product. This can take place over email, a support ticketing system, or a live chat tool.
Identifying where in the conversion cycle the users are can go a long way in being able to respond to them (in the case of canned responses for example) or being able to add the question to a database with best responses.
The power in this process, is the ability to learn as well as educate, simultaneously.
- General: General questions will come to you unpredictably, and will be varied in nature (sometimes even random and strange). Most questions in the general pool will focus around your product or service itself, and its features and benefits.
- Pre-conversion: Questions of this kind will generally involve more tightly-bound questions around product functions/features and delivery/fulfilment, as well as billing, discount or onboarding process questions.
- Post-conversion: After a successful conversion, you’re likely receive questions about the onboarding process, or useage questions of the product itself.
- After-care: Once a customer is retained and prolifically using your product or service, you’ll only ever hear from them when there’s actually a problem with the product, reordering, or billing.
How can I use this?
- Target Market Keywords and Vernacular: It’s critical to be able to understand how your target market communicates within their circles, their industry, and when discussing the nature of your product or service. By making a list of common and not-so common keywords your customers are using, you can generate an extremely relevant keyword list, which you can use to generate content ideas and opportunities. This can also help you with modifying site content if a specific string of vernacular is being used commonly, as it will allow you to relate to the majority of your end users.
- FAQ and Knowledgebase: The most powerful thing customer questions can do is to help other customers. Compile a list of commonly asked questions, and add any new ones to the list as you along. Score the frequency of the questions being asked, and publish an FAQ or Knowledgebase on your website to handle the most frequently asked questions, saving you time and money with unneccesary customer service queries.
2. The feedback they give you
Dealing with customers or users is never a constant. Sometimes they’re raving reviews, outlining how seamless and brilliant the service is. Other times, a scathing comment designed to cut you deep. Regardless of where customer feedback sits on the scale of severity, there are plenty of takeaways beyond a silent high-five to yourself or a personalised apology.
- Positive Feedback: These can be found anywhere your customers frequent. Sometimes they’re silently emailed directly do you, other times they’re much more public. Facebook Pages, Twitter, review sites and public forums would be a good place to start looking for how your brand sentiment is performing and collecting real customer positivity towards your brand and product.
- Complaints: As with the positive, some people like to silently complain via your customer service channels, while others like making sure many more poeple will see their negative review. Apart from apologising and acknowledging constructive negative feedback, there’s a lot of power in knowing what isn’t working to its best capacity.
- Requests/Suggestions: Sometimes, feedback is neutral in nature. In fact, there’s no one better to make judgement calls on your product or service than the people immersed in the use of it themselves. Although it’s critical to business longevity that not all requests to change your product or service are initiated, it is nice to know how your product can potentially be used within other verticals.
How can I use this?
- Testimonials: Nothing instils confidence in your prospective buyers like happy reviews of your product or service. Displaying a prominent testimonial reel or page on your website could mean the difference of a sale from someone who is sitting on the fence about converting.
- Keywords for Content/Advertising: Both positive and negative feedback serve as great opportunities to understand the language of your customer demography. If enough of the same words are being used by repeat customer, it would be a wise move to try and include these keywords as part of your content or advertising strategy (even your landing page approach).
- Product/Service Improvements: Sometimes a complaint explicitly outlines an issue with your product or service. Other times, you need to read between the lines. Regardless of how you get them, if a problem with your product or service is being communicated consistently, it’s time for a review.
- Future Features: Finally, feedback can also create value in your product or service. Pay close attention to whether the ‘nice to have’ requests by your customers are currently valid, or whether they can be used to bolster your product usage ad retention at a later build.
3. The data they contribute
The one great thing about an online business, is that data unpacks a lot of transparency about your business, how it’s being found and how efficiently greased your conversion funnel is. With data segmentation and cohorting, you’re able to clearly define what works and what doesn’t, and take control of your business’ destiny instead of leaving it to chance.
- Google Analytics: The old faithful of site metrics still packs a powerful punch in terms of traffic transparency. There’s not much Google Analytics can’t do, and can yield a tremendous amount of insight as to where your traffic is coming from, site activities that are working in terms of bringing users aboard, your website’s most valuable/frequented pages, and commercial activity origins.
- Kissmetrics: If individualising the data to derive specific usership insights is important, this tool is a goldmine. Kissmetrics separates out individual usership to show you exactly where the roadblocks are on your site.
- CrazyEgg: If a picture tells 1000 words, nothing could be more powerful than visualising user activity as a heatmap. This tool pains a clear picture of how your site is actually being interacted with and if your pivotal elements aren’t converting as best they should.
How can I use this?
- Improve Acquisition: If you can isolate your most prolific customers and determine what compels them to arrive and convert from your site, you’re armed with one of the most powerful insights you can possibly have. You can also determine what isn’t working, where you’re wasting time and money attracting users who aren’t contributing to your bottom line.
- Improve Onboarding: If the objective of your website is to drive people through a signup process, then it pays to carefully evaluate where the speedbumps in the onboarding process exist. This is easy to do. Measure the number of people who could potentially onboard when arriving on your site, how many people actually do, and how many people complete the process. The disparity between successful onboards vs unsuccessful ones will show you exactly what needs improving to increase the success rate.
- Improve Sales Process: The most important element of success in any eCommerce/SaaS model is the payment confirmation page. That is, a successfully converted customer. If your abandoned cart rate is high, or you find the majority of visitors simply ‘window shopping’, it’s time to grease the pipeline. Are your prices too high? Are you communicating value? Is there enough pressure to buy? Is the checkout process convoluted?
- Improve Retention: If it pays to have people sticking around and coming back to use the product or service, finding out what keeps them happy, or what makes them leave, is hugely important.
4. The way they interact with you
You can even take advantage of customer activity beyond the scope of your website. Your blog, social networks and email campaigns yield a great deal of insight as to how customers perceive you and how you should be communicating with them in every capacity. Most of the time, they’ll tell you exactly how you should be talking with them, whether you’re doing a good job, and if you’re providing enough value.
- Social Media and Reviews: There’s always a specific way your target audience is talking about you or to you. Pay attention to the finer details and tonalities they’re using when communicating publicly. Are they more casual? Formal? Positive? Negative? This is a great starting spot to uncover your buyer persona.
- Blog Comments: On a non-committal level, blog commentary offers deeper insight as to how internet users perceive you. If you can associate the level of blog comment interaction with the message you’re putting out there, you know you’ve aligned well with your target audience.
- Email Interactions: If you want a direct correlation between engagement and conversion effetiveness, look no further than emails. Users in your database are the best people to define for you whether you’re communicating your value and provide enough incentive for them to click through and buy.
How can I use this?
- Improve Sentiment: Improving the general positivity about your brand can yield tremendous numbers of new business. If you notice someone discussing your product or service in a neutral or negative light, it’s a great opportunity to respond and make it right.
- Modify Personality: Matching the personality of your majority customers can go a long way in relateability. It’s a good way to align with potential and existing customers on a more interpersonal level, and shows them there’s someone just like them on the other side.
- Deliver Value: If you’re delivering great value, you’ll know about it. If you’re not, you’ll definitely learn pretty quickly. That’s the beauty of empowered conversations online. Make sure you look out for the signs and where possible, add or improve the value in the product or service you’re delivering.
5. The things they can do for you
Wading through all the data points of your site, you’ll have a very clear idea of what is working, what isn’t, who your customers are, and how they’re interacting with you. The final frontier is working out which of your customers love you enough to help you spread the word. This will in turn drive down the cost per lead and acquisition (CPL and CPA), as well as increase the lifetime value of your customers (LTV).
- Net Promoter Score (NPS): It’s the one simple question that determines who is on your side, who is on the fence, and who isn’t really into helping you: “How likely is it you would recommend us to a friend?”. If you can work out who your promoters, passives and detractors are, you have a clearer view of who can help you grow.
- Social Likes: When you post something on social networks, pay close attention to those that repeat Like, ReTweet or +1 you. These are the people that love what you do.
- Customer Retention Rate (CRR): Often times, happy customers are the ones that stick with your product or service for the long run. By measuring the length of time your customers have been with you, you know exactly who believes in your business.
How can I use this?
- Brand evangelism: Your happiest customers are the ones most likely to be talking about you to their friends. Make it worth their while and reward them for their enthusiasm and loyalty.
- Referrals: Perhaps the most valuable source of business, you can incentivise your best customers to invite their friends to your site.
- Content sharing: Sometimes, it’s the little things that can have the biggest difference. When posting a new blog or update, encourage your prolific followers to help spread the word.
- Self-sustaining community: Most times, your best customers are empowered enough to help you with customer service. By creating a community or forum where your customers can help each other, you relieve your business of the strain of simple customer service queries.
Have you successfully modified your offering based on customer feedback? What strategic insights do you look for? Tell us below!