Little things can make a big difference—especially if you’re in the SaaS business. But, it appears many customer success and growth leads have forgotten about this basic truth.
More often than not, when I speak to whoever is running growth at a startup, I tend to notice one massive mistake: ignoring background noise.
Ok so what’s that? Well, that’s just a fancy name I once heard someone use to refer to those little details that can signal whether something is going well or really poorly.
If you’re into numbers, think about background noise as the standard deviation of the standard deviation. Or, if you like sports, perhaps for you it makes more sense as a player’s attitude and how it can almost always predict how things will end up.
Anyhow, the point here is that there are always key details that are shouting as hard as they can to get noticed before things escalate to reach the point of no return. Yet all I see out there is growth leads measuring churn, conversion rates, and basic usage metrics!
Sorry to break it to you, but churn and conversion rates, or any other general KPI, are simply the results of the combination of little things. In other words, they are the consequence of a cause.
Now, let me ask you this: if you’re tracking the consequence, what are the odds of you taking action before that consequence occurs?
If you want to assess the health of your growth efforts or business overall you need to do so by looking at the causes of those consequences, not the other way around (particularly if you are a startup on a budget!).
Ok so by now, you might be asking yourself “what exactly is background noise in my business?” Good question. I’m glad you asked.
The answer is: it depends. Sorry.
It depends because, as cliche as it is, every business is different and, furthermore, every client of every business is different. This said, I’m happy to give you some pointers as to where to start looking for your business’ background noise.
Look at your user’s users.
If you’re an email autoresponder like Mailchimp or Aweber, a good place to start looking for background noise could be your user’s open and click through rates.
Sure, a lot of these numbers depend on the timing and copy of the emails that users send. But, if you’re able to find trends that can tell you if a user isn’t getting the results they desire, and it looks like they’re about to churn, you’ll be able to send them content to help them.
In this specific case, something as easy as a list of the best performing headlines of 2018 (this of course, requires your users to agree to this type of data sharing) could make a big difference. Remember, in a lot of cases, users will stick with you if they get the results they want—and sometimes this result might have nothing to do with your software, so you’ll have to go the extra mile.
Look at your magic number
Don’t know what that is? Well if you’re in the SaaS business you should read The Lean StartUp by Eric Ries. Ok. Let’s keep going.
Your magic number is that crucial interaction or number of interactions that, if one of your users performs it, make you 95-99% certain that you will retain that user (yes, this requires defining what retaining a user means… of course. If you haven’t done that yet, there are some bigger problems to resolve).
If you’re seeing an improvement in your magic number, things are going well—I promise. Your goal should be to optimize your magic number. But to do so in a natural way. And, by this I mean that your incentives must be relevant to your product or offering.
Giving away an Amazon gift card in exchange for logging in 12 times in a month is only going to skew your data—don’t do it. I forbid you. Seriously.
Always be asking
Asking what? Glad you asked! Asking your customers for advice. Yes, everybody hates surveys. But hey! Don’t we all think our opinion matters more than it actually does?! Well there you go.
Ok so this is not just going to Survey Monkey and creating a bunch of random multiple choice questions to see if your users are X or Y; nor is it asking about your net promoter score (seriously, this is almost useless).
What you need to do is ask questions that enable you to dive deep into your user’s pain points, obstacles and frustrations. With this information, you will not only be able to improve your product, but you’ll also get key insights that can help you decide which features to prioritize and what type of content to create to attract new leads and nurture existing ones.
Ok so I said that asking the Net Promoter Score question is almost useless (for those of you who don’t know, this is the question that goes something like “how likely are you to recommend our service or product?” With numbers from 1 through 10. More details here). That’s only partially true. It does have some value. When, you ask?
Well, once you figure out what you want to get out of your survey, you can’t ask just anyone! Not all opinions are worth the same to you! If you’re trying to prioritize a new feature that will improve your overall product, would you rather base your decision on feedback from those who use your product passionately or from those who don’t really care about you? I’ll leave that there for you to decide—the point has been made. The Net Promoter Score question is only a means to an end.
All in all, the single biggest mistake that you’re probably making right now when it comes to growth is ignoring background noise.
You’re probably basing your growth decisions on consequences of very specific and tiny causes that have been screaming their lungs out for you to notice them and ask them out.
Stop ignoring them! Figure out the little details that make your product great and make sure to monitor them like your life depends on it (because your company certainly does).
Always remember, little things make a big difference. And those big differences are vital to the success of your business.