Customer Development interviews are no longer worth the effort

UPDATE 10/30: This post prompted some good discussions below and I encourage you to read them. My only point (which I should have made clearer) is that 1 tactic of Customer Development - doing problem/solution interviews to validate product ideas - I no longer find an effective way to engage customers. We get more insight faster by doing training or quickly building products and trying to sell them. If you disagree, I'd really like to hear about your recent experience rather than theory. Also ... my comments about landing pages are a non-sequitur ... not really worth your consideration.

A... read more

Get more SaaS subscribers with personalized onboarding videos

More and more SaaS founders and Customer Success teams use personalized welcome videos for their trial customers.

Done correctly, videos are easy to make and a great addition to your Concierge Onboarding strategy. In this post I'll share best practices you can use to turn more trial customers into paying subscribers.

Why create personalized welcome videos?

Because selling SaaS subscriptions is HARD. The number of SaaS solutions is growing exponentially and your customers are faced with a bewildering number of choices. Few SaaS products can convert trial customers to paying subscribers with marketing automation alone.

Creating a video is one... read more

Lead TO your product - not WITH your product

Whew! What a month it has been.

More than 500 SaaS founders & customer success teams have taken our concierge onboarding course. After reviewing hundreds of emails, landing pages, and data I'm starting to see patterns between SaaS products that are growing that those that are not.

In this post I'll explain why your product positioning strategy is the first step in customer onboarding.

Great onboarding starts with great positioning

Do a Google search on "onboarding" and you'll find thousands of articles about marketing automation, product optimization, and metrics. This stuff will help optimize your onboarding by nudging customers... read more

Hack your customer development with a drip email course

I recently described a more effective technique for getting high-quality customer insight in Customer Development for SaaS: Do training, not interviews.

However, you still have to find customers and offer them training. Here is a hack we used to meet more customers and validate demand for All Aboard! using drip email courses.

Why use email courses for customer development

Customer Development is a sales process - you're asking someone to trade their time and knowledge in exchange for some (yet unknown) future benefit. That's why it is hard to find them.

In sales we ask customers to take steps,... read more

How to build a customer community on Slack

I've tried building customer communities on Facebook, Google+, Google Groups, and Yahoo! They were pretty much duds - just too hard to get customers engaged.

From day 1 we created a customer community on Slack for All Aboard!. So far it has been a huge win.

3 Slack strategies product teams are using

I've asked founders how they are using Slack for external communications. There a 3 general strategies:

For Beta Customer Feedback

This is the most common scenario. A product company invites beta customers to Slack for quick support and feedback. Matt Goldman is using this strategy with... read more

Just not as fast as we want

"Angry Birds was Rovio's 52nd game. Startups are hard, but they can also go from difficult to great incredibly quickly. You just need to survive long enough and keep going so you can create your 52nd game."
--Chris Dixon, The myth of the overnight success

One of the great joys of working with startups is the opportunity to meet so many amazing people. I don't mean running into people at Meetups - but seeing the arc of people's lives in the entrepreneurial journey. The soaring highs - the days when we feel like we're on top of the world. And the... read more

Customer Development for SaaS: Do training, not interviews

18 months ago I wrote a free book called Beginning Customer Development based on 6 years of Lean Startup experiences. Although it is a good general guide, I’m now developing specific strategies for validating, building, and selling SaaS products.

Here is a more effective way to validate customer problems than traditional interviews.

Why SaaS founders can't find customers to interview

If you’ve read anything about Lean Startup or Customer Development you’ve learned about customer interviews. Since the biggest risk for startups is building something nobody wants, it makes sense to first validate your ideas by talking to customers.

Theoretically... read more

Making your product a part of your customer's life with Keith Perhac

I've always marveled at Ramit Sethi's automated sales machine over at I Will Teach You To Be Rich. How does he sell infoproducts at such a personal level, at scale? Well, I just discovered the brains behind his marketing technology, Keith Perhac.

I first heard about Keith in an interview with Patrick McKenzie about using concierge onboarding to increase conversions and decrease churn of SaaS businesses, among other topics.

Who's this guy?? I had to find out more. That's why I'm so happy to share with you my interview with Keith Perhac. You'll learn about:

Why product demos are costing you sales

Why is there a "get a demo" offer on your landing page?

Serious question - why?

Because you see other companies doing it?

Because you're looking for any possible way to get someone to engage with your landing page?

Oh, I've got it: It's because YOU always use demos before trialing a SaaS product, right? Yeah ... sure. I bet you can't remember the last time you signed up for a demo.

3 reasons why demos are lousy way to engage SaaS customers

1. Demos start the conversation about your product - not the customer

I've got some bad news... read more

Want to get a customer on the phone? Don’t ask when he’s free.

When I found out the key to converting them is to get free trial subscribers on the phone... I started asking every sign up when they’re free to get on a call with me.

In my mind, by asking when they’re free, I’m saying,

I respect your time. I’m willing to get on the phone anytime it's convenient for you.

It didn't work. Few people took me up on it :(

I thought it was because they didn’t want to to get on a call with me. Maybe they hate me or something.

But recently, I signed... read more

How to tell if concierge onboarding is right for your business

Nope. Hot dog stands shouldn't do concierge onboarding.


We’ve written a lot about the benefits of concierge onboarding - but it isn't for every business and may not be for you.

Concierge onboarding gets your customers engaged in a dialog

That's the main benefit concierge onboarding can deliver - and it is what lifecycle emails, tool tips, and UI changes cannot do.

Dialogue gets you customer insight, which is why concierge onboarding is continuous customer development. This insight is also the foundation for getting him to think - and therefore behave - differently.

But for three types... read more

How to know when your customer is onboarded

tl;dr - A SaaS customer who pays twice (monthly plan) or pays once and use a product for more than 60 days (quarterly and longer plan) is “onboarded”.


Yes, yes ... I know ... I am a bit obsessive. Only the truly obsessed would bother to write a blog post about definitions. I guess it just comes with being an entrepreneur, but having a common language is important. So I obsess about things like the actual definition of "onboarding".

I spent the past 6 months talking to other SaaS product founders about onboarding. How they do it. What works.... read more

How to scale concierge onboarding by identifying your most qualified prospects

SaaS founders are discovering huge benefits to doing concierge onboarding.

Aside from gaining customer development insights, which lead to more effective marketing campaigns and a better product… It can almost guarantee an increased conversion rate and consequently, MRR.

You're almost sure to get a paying customer.

Stop and think about that.

What's a year’s subscription worth to you? $600? $960? $1200?

If you spend just one hour doing concierge onboarding for 2 people a day, and you convert half of them? You’d be converting 30 more people per month and increasing your ARR by $18,000.

No other activity... read more

"Learn everything there is to learn, and then automate” with Nick Francis from Help Scout

Nick Francis is a co-founder and CEO of Help Scout, help desk software for support teams that insist on a great customer experience.

What’s interesting about Nick is that he understands the tremendous impact of single digit percentage improvements in churn and conversion. He’s done a terrific interview on reducing churn by 1.5% and increasing MRR by $20,000. He’s also done one on improving trial to conversion from 8% to 11%, and increasing revenue by $300,000 as a result.

In both interviews, he emphasizes getting these results by focusing on learning. In this interview, I dig deeper... read more

Hire coaches to do SaaS onboarding

More and more SaaS companies consider "onboarding" to be a distinct sales function and not a product issue. Many - like Customer.io - are even hiring specialists to do onboarding.

In this post I’ll offer fellow SaaS founders some advice on hiring for onboarding.

Successful onboarding starts with the founder

Successful SaaS founders invest a lot of time onboarding customers in the first year or two of operations.

The founder is usually a domain expert in subjects like marketing, sales, product development, etc and uses that expertise to build close relationships with early customers.

The founder “does things that... read more