How to Create a Kickass Product Without Touching the Dev Cycle

Building a world class product doesn't need constant development work. It requires paying attention to your users and giving a damn.

This guy is winning the customer service race

So, you built a working product. People use it, they love it, and they tell their friends to use it.

You grow your footprint. Awesome!

Naturally, people who like you want you to get better. They email you bug reports. They email you suggestions. They email you because they want you to succeed.

So why would you be so goddamn stupid to ignore that?

There’s a product I blogged about before. I won’t identify them by name, but if you follow me on Facebook, you’ll see that I recently called them out on their Facebook wall using almost the same words as my post subject.

Often, people are surprised that I migrated away from marketing to customer experience.

Here’s the truth of why that happened: so many people enlist in marketing to acquire new users, but don’t give a rat’s ass about customer retention.

Customer retention comes primarily from one thing: customer experience.

As a customer, I have been so heavily inconvenienced by so many companies in the service realm, indicating a void that so desperately needs to be filled. I mean, don’t you feel great when a company does right by you? Do you feel the same way when a company markets something well to millions of people?

For the last 3 years, I have been aggressively creating evangelists of people who have tried products and services I represent. (Many of you know one of those products.) Outside an amazing marketing initiative I spearheaded twice (all of which had to do with one on one touchpoints and customer experience anyhow), I have grown paid customer communities more in the last 2.5 years than in the previous 5 years combined.

And why? Because I rely on creating superior customer experiences. And yes, that means one on one relationships.

What do you trust more: some commercial you see on TV or some Facebook ad you stumbled upon — or word of mouth from a trusted friend about the same product?

All things being equal, you flock to the friend. Hell, there’s no contest. Sure, if the company has a boatload of money and is able to pay for so much visibility all over my Facebook feed, I may notice and that brand awareness will be there.

But that brand awareness isn’t trust.

I will take an endorsement from 1 friend over 300 ads I get to exposed to about your product any day. If that ad makes much of an impression, I may eventually ask my friend about the product, but I probably won’t buy unless I get some sort of endorsement from people I know — especially if the product or service is costly.

I consider myself a former marketer. Marketers study psychology, thinking about creative ideas and execution. But for a true marketer, the execution is one to many. For me, one to many never converts enough for it to be useful for me.

“Oh, I can broadcast to 100 people. Maybe two or three people will buy.”

Lame. Sorry.

Let’s look at the numbers. Thinking display media, there is some concrete data that we can work with. With an industry wide click-through rate (CTR) of 0.06% (down from 0.09% just a few years ago), if your landing page is not bad, you may convert 10%. Then, when buying 130k of impressions (something that could be thousands of dollars) you are converting somewhere close to 8 users. Let’s say the cost of your product is just a few bucks. You paid THAT much for THAT return? Lousy.

Funny I say that when I’ve sold media for almost a decade. It works for some, and I’m happy to sell it to people who want awareness and not conversions (I’ll actually tell you not to advertise if you are very lead focused, since I’m not in it for the money even if I profit financially if you advertise with me and you’re naive enough to think it will do more — many people do! You know, superior customer experience, after all.)

Let’s back up for a moment: for most people, the issue is closer to home. Throw marketing out the window. That’s not what matters. What matters is getting people to market for you. And that starts with a great product experience. No, I didn’t say a great product. The key word here is experience.

Experience comes from outreach and communication.

You could have an amazing product. If your customer experience is horrible, all things being equal, people will find a better product. And if they don’t, they’ll just create one.

But if you have a crappy-ish product that works, and you show your customers that they are everything in the world to you and you roll out the red carpet, and more importantly, innovate for them, specifically responding to feedback and enhancing the offering so that the word “crappy-ish” no longer identifies you, guess what?

You are better at what you do. Much better.

And if you instead represent a working product that isn’t crappy, yet you take your customers seriously to the tune of responding to every email that warrants a response, you’re doing great! You’re probably doing what your competitors aren’t and you will continue growing. Be prepared to innovate, sure, but your can get better by doing something simple and today: HIT THE REPLY BUTTON and type a few words.

If I have such a great customer experience, something that is unparalleled by anyone offering customer service right now, do you think I would NOT talk about it? (They consider me an early adopter and I’ve been spitting this information at you for years now. Are any of you fools listening?!)

It all starts with responsiveness. This means spending some time responding to emails. This means if email isn’t your thing, finding someone who will gladly take that responsibility from you (this is what I do, people!)

If you don’t care about the future of your business, stay the course. But if you have taken money from investors, even if you don’t have your own families to support and don’t care about that money you “borrowed”, you owe it to everyone else to give your users and customers a decent experience. Why is it fair to crash and burn when you have other people riding on your successes?

We are in year 2015 now. With the accessibility of tech and the ease of communication, you cannot ignore it. Shockingly, some of the worst offenders run tech companies (and they’re not even that big!) Why are you squandering this opportunity?

Don’t be that brand. Don’t be that company that doesn’t care (you do care, do you? Then show it). Because if you don’t do it, your competitor has an obligation to do it themselves. That’s a competitive edge that will have you sitting on the sidewalk while your competitor is zooming ahead and winning.

This is something that is SO INCREDIBLY EASY TO FIX!

So why aren’t you?

Photo credit: Jose Juan Figueroa. Also, this article originally appeared on Real Time Email.

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