Step out and understand the user problems first hand
Understand your users. Speak to them. Don’t rely on your intuition to build the product. Learn from your users and build what they want. Users will never be able to answer what they want, one has to understand their problems and keep iterating on features with a set of users.
We traveled once or twice a week to colleges in North Delhi to meet and understand our early adopters. We found that people were discussing to pool money on WhatsApp and that was an indication to not only go mobile but also, introduce it with the chat feature. We understood we need to be more engaging.
“It is important to know what works for your users and automate it in your app.” — Rohit Taneja
While talking to our users, we spent 100% of our focus on one set of users. This was to ensure we understood the problem better. Focusing on the same set of people, helped us know 80% of the problems faced by masses. We understood we would never get 100% of problems in first few iterations of the product.
“Speaking to focused 6–8 people in detail is better than speaking to 100 people. Around 80% of problems will be highlighted by them.” —Ankit Singh
If your target customers are both B2B corporates and students then don’t give equal focus to corporate and students at the same time. It won’t be effective. Rather focus on one because once you have hit the problem on the head, word of mouth has a wider reach within the same community.
We very carefully chose features to introduce in all the iterations. However, feedback from users (who are not friends) are the most reliable to work upon. Ask them for feedback periodically, after releasing the next version of your product.
In a world heading towards mobile-first economy, we still have our web app after releasing our Android app. We have noticed that people are hesitant in making payments through mobile phones when the transaction is worth more than INR 5,000. They prefer web app. The reason could be better internet infrastructure on the web than a mobile app. I believe this psychology of payments is shifting faster from the web to mobile. We have just begun.
“Most interesting part isn’t coding and building the product. But most interesting part is speaking to the users and iterating the product”- Rohit Taneja
The idea of meeting users offline is to understand how and what they are doing offline and how we can improve their lives through our product.
“To get a good idea of how people perceive your product, a good exercise is asking how would they would describe the product in a sentence to their friends” — Ankit Singh
Measuring user data
Measuring and understanding data is very important. But, start measuring when you have a user base of almost 3,000 users.
One can be guided by intuition in the early stages of the product, but as soon your product hits a significant active user base, all your decisions should be data driven.
Measuring is important as you need to figure out a number of metrics: What’s the cost of acquiring a user? What’s the cost of acquiring a user from a specific channel? What is the time taken for users to turn into customers? and many more.
At any phase of your product, there’s one channel which will work the most for you and you need to figure out that. This one best channel will also keep changing with growing user base.
We used to send a newsletter to our users once a week and monitor who is using what tools and track their recommendations. That’s how we landed to build a recommendation button in our application.
We created 10 different email accounts to send mailers. So initially we spammed a lot. Email campaigns have worked on really well for us.
“We created newsletters with list of ways of pooling & gifting to a targeted set of users. It was the easiest way to validate. Try and figure out uncovered channels to acquire users. We also used to chat with the users on platforms such as Quora. Emails have worked the most economical way of acquiring users for us.”— Ankit Singh
Measuring repeat engagement of users is very important. But, it depends on the user case. For example: On a site like MakeMyTrip we will go very less, only when I have to travel. So companies like these will have lesser repeat engagement.
On the other hand in applications like WhatsApp, each day there’s repeat engagement from each and every user thousands of times. No. of users will differ from B2B and from that of B2C.
“If you are able to retain 25–30% of the users then you can go for paid marketing. But before that there’s no point.” — Rohit Taneja
Once you see 30% retention of your users then you can allot a budget for marketing, before that, it is better to focus on organic channels of growth and optimize them.
There’s no point of spending on marketing until you don’t know about your initial users. Your spend on marketing has to be data driven for experiential learning.
Learn from competitors and Books
“We are really shameless in stealing. If we like a competitor’s thing, we appreciate and steal it” — Ankit Singh
We have read books on psychology. The idea was to read the books while building the products and while we read books like Hooked and Switch we jot down points and see where we could apply that in MyPoolin.
Some of the best books on consumer behavior and psychology are:
- The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell
- Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers by Gabriel Weinberg & Justin Mares
- Made to Stick: Why some idea take hold and others come unstuck
- Hooked: How to build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal
- The Small Big by Steve Martin & Noah Goldstein
- Art of Persuasion by Robert Caldiani
- Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger
- Switch: How to change things when change is hard by Chip Heath & Dan Heath
- Lean Analytics by Alistair Croll
The worst startup myths in India
Firstly most of the people think funding is everything. Funding is not always important, once your customer starts showing interest the investors will follow you.
And secondly, people think IITians get a preference for funding. VCs don’t say it on the face that they prefer IITians, it is an unspoken thing, but it’s right statistically. And that’s because they are good with discipline and focus. Otherwise, others can definitely be better at execution.
It’s very easy to reach out to VCs if you’re executing well but, it’s better to go to angel investors.
“Don’t spend VC’s money for the sake of it. Don’t act like their employee.” — Rohit Taneja
Go with an investor who sees your product not PPT.
“We just showed our product to investors. No presentations. We closed our round faster than we believed.” — Ankit Singh
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