Some Words Of Wisdom
I saw this tweetstorm today from Suhail Doshi, founder of Mixpanel.
1/ Getting my first 100 customers always felt like a puzzle. The next 1000 seemed unreachable. Besides, how can you get feedback to make the product better w/o users? After many years, we ended up w/ 6,000+ paying customers. It was a grind to get there.😩 Here’s what I Iearned…
— Suhail (@Suhail) June 20, 2018
If you click on this link you will be taken to the entire thing. I wish I knew how to embed the entire tweetstorm. I would have done that here.
There are some real pearls of wisdom in here, like this:
2/ This 1st lesson comes hard learned for most engineers: get up — away from your monitor—and talk to your users! I know it’s safer & comfortable to just email people but it’s also easier to ignore you. Your first 100 customers are usually acquired as a result of YOU selling.
— Suhail (@Suhail) June 20, 2018
4/ You should put as much energy into the first 3 steps of your product (including your landing page) as you do your entire product after those steps. If people don’t get past step 3, your whole product didn’t matter anyway. It’s easy to get caught up in building the other stuff.
— Suhail (@Suhail) June 20, 2018
7/ Find a niche of customers instead of trying to be something for everyone. FB started w/ elite colleges. SoundCloud started w/ bedroom producers collabing. Airbnb w/ spare bedrooms. It’ll be easier to explain your product making it easier to convince the right early users.
— Suhail (@Suhail) June 20, 2018
My partner Brad calls that last one “finding the narrow point of the wedge.”
Getting your product right is critical. But getting your “go to market” right is just as important. They are two sides of the same coin and influence each other greatly.
Suhail’s tweetstorm makes that point so well.
What is super important is to encourage feedback and to make it easy for customers to give you feedback. But you have to do it in the right way not the easy and typical way. So this does not mean bothering them with surveys that are anonymous (why should I waste my time helping your business in that way??) but actually encouraging comments and interactions with a real human being. It doesn’t mean just putting a link next to ‘tell us what you think!’. And then replying with some non personal ‘thanks for your comments’.What is not as obvious to most companies is that they should allow people to contact an actual person by whatever method they prefer. An email or a phone number. With a person. Not [email protected] or [email protected] or [email protected] you get the idea. A person with a name and and an identity that they can communicate with. And make sure that anyone on your front lines that is not the right person takes the appropriate information when someone offers to give feedback. Not ‘oh write to Jim Feldman here is his email address’ but ‘Let me take your info and I will give it to Jim Feldman who will contact you’. Little things like this matter and make it easy for the person. It is not their job to help your business and you should be thankful if they want to take the time to do so.
Good point. And the opposite of that, practiced by some companies, is the ant letter.
But if you have a great team, time, and $$ and a moat, too much user input will destroy your company. Steve Jobs knew this. If you would have contacted Steve Jobs, he probably would have told you F off.
too much user input will destroy your companyYou said ‘to much’. Obviously the devil is in the details. The Jobs story (or the Henry Ford ‘they would tell me faster horse’) is not typically how it works with many businesses. Usually you find a niche and you fill it. You recognize or uncover something that people could use or need. Not find something that is so special they don’t know they even need it.If you would have contacted Steve Jobs, he probably would have told you F offAlmost nobody is Steve Jobs. How Jobs operated and what he does is of no relevance to a small company starting out. Also who cares if you did contact Steve Jobs and he told you to fuck off? So you tell him ‘fuck you’ in return and keep on making contact.Remember my story here about how I cold called and went the whole day and ran into Jim Cramer’s father (or uncle not sure to this day). They both worked together in their small box company.  They were the only people that were down right nasty to me. Like as in ‘get the fuck out of here’ So what? By the way those people that didn’t tell me to fuck off told me what they needed and I built a business around it. Had a big name though “International Packaging”.https://www.chamberofcommer…https://www.cnbc.com/2014/1…
Steve Jobs is known to have answered the occasional email too.
Let me give everyone here a hint. You are not Steve Jobs.And frankly don’t kid yourself. Steve Jobs was very lucky. Yup. You are not Steve Jobs.
Take as much user input as possible on understanding the problem, the “job to be done” and what “success” means.It is your – not the user’s – job to design a solution that solves the problem and satisfies the conditions for success and delight.
Incentive, incentive, incentive.
.Strong insight from the field where the action happens.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…
Besides, how can you get feedback to make the product better w/o users?That entirely depends on the product. If the product is software you would search out people that would be target customers, tell them the regular cost, and then offer to allow them to use it for free in return for their feedback on the product. (I am not saying freemium or entry level I mean the actual full fare product with all bells and whistles).That said if you don’t know enough to make a basic product that has value to a group of users you probably don’t know enough about your potential customer base to even be able to offer a product to them. You probably just woke up in the morning and decided you wanted to be in business but don’t know enough to know if their is even a need for what you are offering.Vaporwear: The other thing you can do is simply talk to potential customers as if the product actually is working and available but instead simply use what they say as your feedback to actually come up with the final version of the product. In this case it probably pays to not bother people that you eventually want to sell to (go for the 2nd or 3rd tier colleges for practice interviews) but people you don’t care if you get as customers. Practice and experiment on them.
In my experience, giving away something free doesn’t get you the feedback you need. To Suhail’s point about landing pages, you need to see if the dog will eat the dog food. Once she’s tried it, then you can find out if she’d prefer Venison over Salmon. Figuring out if a customer will buy what you have at a price you can live with is the most critical part of Customer Development.
Well as always it’s about being clever in the way you do things and thinking. It’s an art. An idea or concept (what people learn by reading) is not ever enough. It is the way you do it down to the exact words that you use and presentation and timing.  This is from my experience of what has worked. For me. I’ll give you an example of ‘clever’ that is entirely unrelated to the topic. I had some local company come out to power wash my roof. I was concerned about what I couldn’t see. After all I am not going to climb up and inspect, right? So I didn’t say to them lamely ‘oh, uh, make sure you do a good job, ok??’. I said to them ‘I am going to fly a drone over the roof … maybe I will let you use the video for your marketing’. That got their attention. As a result I had less to worry about with what I couldn’t see. I don’t even own a drone. It was merely to motivate them and give them an incentive to do a good job. They even threw in, at no extra charge, powerwashing the sidewalks. I never promised anything either. It was presented in a way (with the right words) to imply what I wanted to imply. Was this manipulative? Yes. Should you manipulate your customers? Well in marketing that is done all the time, isn’t it? That isn’t my point though. I am just illustrating that the idea is not enough you have to have the right twist.
Do you like exclusive invitations?I recall when Google launched gmail one could only get access by means of an invitation from someone you knew. Then, when you received one you could invite 5 people or so.I think this is a good way to ramp up gracefully, build a people network around the service from the start and give initial value to the product through scarcity, even for free services as gmail.
They key to that was:a) Google was doing it <– Known entityb) You can invite 5 people. <– Not 20.With ‘b’ the number is super important. For example saying 100 people or even 20 people (better example) creates less exclusivity and less reason for someone to forward to someone they know. I am sure they tested that. But even w/o testing (most startups won’t be able to test like google) you have to have a seat of pants feel for human nature and what other businesses do in order to create something that works on a shoestring. If you don’t pay attention and think about why other people do what they do and if you just woke up yesterday you will have a hard time with this.There will never be an exact roadmap for what ‘you’ are doing specifically. So you more or less have to understand and make something up on the fly targeted that works in your situation and not just to mimic what others have done (that worked for them). Knowledge of what others have done can help. But on the other hand reading to much also (and this is important) exposes you to things people do that doesn’t work w/o knowing why it didn’t work or the mistakes they made in the execution of the idea.
isn’t it about being your own customer, and if you do not see yourself as being entirely unique and precious then there might just be others out there with the same need. they might not know that they have the need, which is potentially both the reason for failure and the reason for success. failure because no one actually needs it, and success because it could be the opening up of a completely new market (and therefore with no competition), starting as a niche and then scaling to be significant and perhaps eventually huge. yeah, be your own demanding customer. build for yourself….and i do not like the word ‘user’. it is too close to being ‘used’, which is what the web giants are doing to people, using them, abusing them, taking from them (their data), et.c.i prefer ‘participant’, where people choose to do exactly that, participate, and freely, without being unwittingly trapped by network effects. buy a token and participate. give feedback and get the next one for free.
Niche customers point always reminds me of the “Flat Roof Doctor”… An expert at, duh, flat roofs. But, standing on my flat roof, he said “I can reshingle your gabled roof too”. “Really? But you’re the flat roof doctor”, I said with astonishment. “Of course, I’m an expert at flat roofs, but regular roofs? No problem”.You might be a Jack of All Trades, just don’t market yourself as one.
Converse – We Specialize in (list of every major brand and 4 types of products) at repair shops.
Yes, the user/customer needs to have a specific problem of their own that the product/service is good for.So, I’ve long suspected that a huge fraction of the cleaning products, detergents, sold in retail stores are the same or nearly so but with labels indicating different uses. So, for the same batch of detergent, bottle it maybe separately asgentle to the hands dish detergentstrong laundry detergentkitchen floor cleanertoilet bowl cleanercar tire cleanerback porch floor cleanergarage floor cleanerdog bath detergentOr, if put all these uses on one label, then the user might wonder if they should wash their dishes or bath the family dog in toilet bowl cleaner or garage floor cleaner!Of course, might try to sell the same sliced bread separately forcheese sandwichesham sandwicheschicken salad sandwichesFrench toast breaddried out and run the a blender, breading for fried chickenNaw, customers likely don’t know much about the details of detergent chemistry, but they know that mostly sliced bread is just a general purpose product!
So true.Its about customers / users.Its about customer / user experience.Its the product version of the sales call mantra: you have 30 seconds to get 30 minutes, you have 1 meeting to get the next, you have to succeed at this step in the process to the move to the next.Build the process, trust the process.
I hope all blockchain startups read this one. I will re-tweet.
if your marketing plan is to throw everything at the wall to see what will stick, nothing will stick
I agree with getting out from behind the monitor to an extent.Random emails and Inmails on LinkedIn may not get a response but that does not mean you were ignored or not noticed.I sent out a bunch of Inmails to commercial property folks for Package Bunker. No contracts came of it but it sure did bring out the local competitor.Some comments were valid, others snarky and in their haste to be condescending they offered information and requirements I needed to be successful.Always be learning.
Smart stuff.This stuff is my life for my entire career.Forever fulfilling, challenging and always an inspiration.The market is never wrong.
It’s always so reassuring to see someone who’s earned success talk about the days of struggle. Early on (and even not-so-early-on) it’s easy to feel like you’re supposed to have a tidal wave of users and the perfect product on Day 1. Scant few people in the founder’s universe understand that gradual adoption in the beginning isn’t a tragedy.
A ton of what the press does is “startup porn”. Let me be very clear, that in no way is a male/female thing. But they portray an altered reality, that literally nobody acheives. Even the runaway successes went through the struggle.I can tell you personally, when you talk to them they only care about the valuation, the win. Unless you are a huge flame-out, that is a different narrative.But you and I know it does not portray reality.
>But they portray an altered reality, that literally nobody acheives. Even the runaway successes went through the struggle.Right. I’ve also seen that said in some places (ironically) as “I was an overnight success in 10 years”.
Better to be something specific to someone specific than be generic.it is such an important lesson yet something so hard to grok.Why?Because it needs painstaking, humbling work to get the product to work for someone specific to get a specific job done. No amount of marketing, spin, or “disruptive” buzzwords can cut it. It gets goddamn real.
>2/ This 1st lesson comes hard learned for most engineers: get up — away from your monitor—and talk to your users! I know it’s safer & comfortable to just email people but it’s also easier to ignore you.Steve Blank talks about this a lot, and calls it “getting out of the building” (where your office is, to talk to customers).Google ‘steve blank get out of the building’ .https://en.wikipedia.org/wi…”Blank is recognized for developing the Customer Development method that launched the Lean Startup movement, a methodology which recognized that startups are not smaller versions of large companies, but require their own set of processes and tools to be successful.”https://steveblank.com/https://steveblank.com/about/I’ve read some of the articles on his site, they are interesting. His “Secret History of Silicon Valley” video and (probably) article series is also interesting.
This is a solid one:https://steveblank.com/2009…He has guts to write that about himself, even later.
Some parts, corners, areas of the Internet are awash in advice for startups and their founders.Here Part I has some rare advice I’m following and would give. Part II remarks on some of the advice in the thread today. Part III is on some advice from Paul Graham. Part IV qualifies the relevance of such advice.Part I My core idea is nearly never part of such advice and has:(A) Find a problem where the first good or a much better solution will be a “must have” for enough people and revenue per person to make a very successful business.(B) For the criteria of the first good or much better, have some technological advantage difficult to duplicate or equal. Protect that advantage as a trade secret and have it be a “Buffett moat” as a barrier to competition.(C) E.g., the problem I’ve selected is pressing for nearly everyone on the Internet around the world. My technological advantage is some original applied math I derived based on some advanced pure/applied math prerequisites I got in my Ph.D. program and both before and since. In part, the “business model” and the applied math connect to provide some especially good proprietary data for the math to use. The core of the business model is an ad supported Web site that hopefully gets on average 30 minutes of eyeball time per week for a major fraction of Internet users in the US and later also Europe. In principle the site could also please Internet users everywhere else.So, with all the oceans of advice, apparently I had to dream up (A)-(C). From my education and work in US national security and contact with business, (A)-(C) seemed obvious enough to me.Part II For the advice today:4/ You should put as much energy into the first 3 steps of your product (including your landing page) as you do your entire product after those steps. If people don’t get past step 3, your whole product didn’t matter anyway. It’s easy to get caught up in building theother stuff. For some projects, that advice seems like a box of breakfast cereal with a fancy package but poor quality contents.Sure, the outside of the box the candidate customer sees first is usually important to crucial, but usually so are the contents.The advice recommends putting less effort on the contents than on the package; might be appropriate in some cases but seems not very good for general advice.I’m reminded of an old remark that goes maybe “On any subject it is possible to explain in ways that are short, simple, easy to understand, and wrong.”.For the advice:7/ Find a niche of customers instead of trying to be something foreveryone. Then forMy partner Brad calls that last one “finding the narrow point of thewedge.” On both, right away I thought, for all startups, maybe not, but for my startup, “sure”.I’ve thought that or something similar for a long time. Indeed, my old use of a “wedge” was an “entering wedge”, e.g., tostart word of mouth advertising, virality, etc.Moreover, to this idea I am adding, pick a good collection of initial users and focus on them. So, here is some of the what I have in mind for the users in that collection:(1) Have some interests in common — the site focuses on those common interests and, thus, reduces the effort to get the first users and the users are more likely to help the viral growth by telling their friends with those interests about the site.(2) Care a lot about those interests.(3) The interests are somewhat more specialized than in pop culture and poorly served by pop culture.(4) The users have excellent demographics. (5) Relatively accurate and effective ad targeting for those users should be relatively easy.So, that’s part of my “entering wedge” thinking.Part III Some related advice has long been in the Paul Graham essay Startups in 13 Sentences , February 2009athttp://www.paulgraham.com/1…with in part1. Pick good cofounders.2. Launch fast.3. Let your idea evolve.4. Understand your users.5. Better to make a few users love you than a lot ambivalent.6. Offer surprisingly good customer service.7. You make what you measure.8. Spend little.9. Get ramen profitable.10. Avoid distractions.11. Don’t get demoralized.12. Don’t give up.13. Deals fall through.Then, sure, sentences 4 and 5 are especially relevant to the advice today:4. Understand your users.You can envision the wealth created by a startup as a rectangle, where one side is the number of users and the other is how much you improve their lives.  The second dimension is the one you have most control over. And indeed, the growth in the first will be driven by how well you do in the second. As in science, the hard part is not answering questions but asking them: the hard part is seeing something new that users lack. The better you understand them the better the odds of doing that. That’s why so many successful startups make something the founders needed.5. Better to make a few users love you than a lot ambivalent.Ideally you want to make large numbers of users love you, but you can’t expect to hit that right away. Initially you have to choose between satisfying all the needs of a subset of potential users, or satisfying a subset of the needs of all potential users. Take the first. It’s easier to expand userwise than satisfactionwise. And perhaps more importantly, it’s harder to lie to yourself. If you think you’re 85% of the way to a great product, how do you know it’s not 70%? Or 10%? Whereas it’s easy to know how many users you have. So, that advice in 4. is close to what I’ve had in mind for my collection of initial users.I’ve long been trying to take seriously the advice — “love” — in 5.:Why?(A) For my entering wedge, I’m going for some good user demographics, e.g., good on education and incomes where they will recognize good work and good results from the rest. I want the users (i) right away exclaiming “WOW! That’s AMAZING! I can USE that! I’ve long wanted something but didn’t dream of a solution that good. How the heck did they DO that?”, (ii) rushing to tell their friends, (iii) returning for about 30 minutes each of several times a week, and (iv) using the site’s feedback means to urge, even scream, for a larger “wedge”.(B) Yes, in conflict with Graham’s2. Launch fast. I still take seriously the old observationYou only get one chance to make a good first impression. For the part1/ Getting my first 100 customers always felt like a puzzle. For the first customers, my plans are(A) Alpha and beta tests announced at AVC.com, Hacker News, etc.(B) An e-mail address for feedback.(C) For modifications of the site during the tests, announcements in the Web site’s pages with links “Late News” and “About”.(D) Analysis of the Web site’s log file to get some information on how the growth is going.(E) Maybe as an early extension, a feature to aid virality with some social aspects.Part IV Of course, as usual, IMHO, apparently for information technology VCs, for writing a check, all they will pay attention is the traction, say, a few hundred thousand happy, regular users.Just how the site got that traction is, of course, of high interest to a founding entrepreneur; for getting a VC check, given the traction, how that traction was achieved is essentially irrelevant.Revenue and earnings are terrific; for those, traction is an early indicator; an entrepreneur needs good thinking (or a lot of luck) to get the traction, revenue, and earnings, but thinking and advice on traction alone, or even with a dime, won’t cover a 10 cent cup of coffee.
Great post, thanks! The only way I found to embed a tweetstorm was by creating a moment with all these tweets and embedding the moment (ex. https://www.frankmireault.c…. I’m sure you could nudge the team at Twitter to help us do that 😉
How to sell something you are convinced can be used by everyone > what small segment of the market gets the most value from your revolutionary new product? Read ‘Selling The Wheel’ awesome book for people creating never seen before products.https://www.amazon.com/Sell…