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How to Keep Customers Excited About Your Product
To keep our customers excited, we need to keep innovating and keep the communication flowing
Most customer relationships start with a lot of excitement. You find a shiny new toy and are excited to tell others about it. You will tell everyone you know if it can save you time and make you more money. Who doesn’t like to talk about cool new tools?
Eventually, the newness wears off. All the problems of our software become apparent. The bugs, unkept promises, and half-baked features. We all have some.
To keep our customers happy, we have to keep improving our product. We must continue being experts in their problems and providing value for them.
Over time, we all tend to take the relationship a little for granted. We often stop putting out new features and don’t talk as much.
To keep our customers excited, we need to keep innovating and keep the communication flowing.
In this article, we will discuss those problems and how to avoid the stagnation.
Start with listening
One of the most essential things for any company is to spend a lot of time talking to your customers. Your job is to be an expert on their problems and how your company can solve them. That requires a lot of time to understand their day-to-day jobs.
Your team also needs to know if you are winning or losing with your customers. A lot of upset customers will never even tell you they are upset. They will just quietly disappear. It’s essential to use various mechanisms to get customer feedback.
Sometimes that means being a therapist for your clients. Someone has the unfortunate job of talking to upset customers to let them vent about their problems. Nobody likes to eat a shit sandwich, but sometimes that is the job.
Here is the good news: customers upset about your problems are likely some of your biggest fans. If they weren’t, they would have just left already. They are your biggest fans and your biggest critics. They see the potential in you and just want you to do better.
Listen to your customers, especially those who provide critical feedback.
Monthly customers make us earn it
If you bill your customers every month, you have no contract with them. They can leave at any time. In reality, 5-10% (or more) of your customers will probably churn yearly. That means we have to keep earning their business.
The needs of our customers continually change. I wrote in another post how my company, VinSolutions, was successful because my competitors don’t keep up with the dominance of internet shopping and email marketing. We won because the competition didn’t innovate.
What are you doing every month to improve the product and keep earning their business?
The innovation can’t stop. You have to keep up with industry and technology changes. You also have to keep delighting your customers with new features. If you don’t, your churn will be very high.
Innovation can’t stop
Brand new startups rapidly build their product. You are adding new features every week to get the product to market and sell it. You are trying to get to product market fit. Then it becomes more about scaling the business. Eventually, companies tend to go into maintenance mode and optimize all phases of the company.
I sold my first company, VinSolutions, more than 10 years ago. If you saw the product today, it barely looks any different. Even my last startup, Stackify, hasn’t changed much in two years since its exit.
Companies slowly stop innovating for a few reasons:
Less appetite to take risks
Costs are too high for significant changes
Management by committee can’t agree on anything
The product visionary left
Major technical platform issues
“The way we have always done it” blinds everyone
There are a lot of reasons that innovation slows down. The larger a corporation gets, the harder it is to steer the ship. Nobody wants to change anything or take on any risk.
Regardless, your company has to keep innovating. Your competition doesn’t stop, and your customer’s needs will evolve.
If you stop, your product will stagnate, and competition will eat your lunch.
Prioritize your customers
Software development is always a little bit like controlled chaos. It is a constant balancing act of things you want to do, things you need to do, and things you must do. Like all things in life, it requires everything in moderation and balance.
You mustn’t fall into the trap of spending 100% of your effort on technical debt because you think it will help you build new features faster later. That leads to stagnation.
Your customers are always your top priority.
You must prioritize something they can see and feel. Something that will make their life easier. That may include giving them things you keep promising or fixing everything you released that doesn’t work right.
Sometimes you need to focus on fixing their negative experiences first.
Finishing the last 90%
As much as you want to keep cranking out new features, you must fix all the little bugs and half-baked features that make your product weird or buggy. Those are major annoyances to your customers.
We know by the ninety-ninety rule that the first half of the project takes 90% of the time, and the last 10% also takes 90% of the time. Projects effectively take twice as much time, but we often neglect those final tasks. That leads to lower-quality software.
Constantly shipping software with half-baked features, poor user experience (UX), bugs, and performance problems creates a terrible customer experience. That isn’t the type of communication you want with your customers.
Sometimes, fixing your “broken windows” is the best thing you can do to keep your customers happy. They get tired of working around your weird UX and performance problems.
You must also fix major problems and focus on quality with every release.
Like all things, it takes a balance.
We need something to talk about!
The solution to keeping your customers excited is simple. Sales, marketing, account managers, executives, investors, literally everyone, need something to talk about. They need a story to tell the customers.
Every quarter, you need to release at least one thing that everyone in your company will be excited to tell your customers about. It doesn't have to be earth-shattering.
It may sound silly, but it is critical to your success. Your entire company needs something to get customers excited about.
Marketing has something to work with for product marketing, email campaigns, social media, ads, tradeshows, etc.
The sales team has a reason to reach out to leads and tell them what’s new and why they should sign up.
Account managers have a reason to get current customers on the phone to tell them what’s new and ask for upgrades and referrals.
If your product and engineering team can’t produce one thing a quarter that would give everyone something to talk about, I’d wonder what they are doing.
Change the perspective
Part of this is simply controlling the narrative. You want to build a strong relationship with your customers. You want to turn all of them into raging fans.
You must listen to them, act on their feedback, satisfy their needs, and delight them with new enhancements.
Regular product marketing is a critical part of your success. You must always celebrate the new features you release quarterly (or more often). Also, remind them of the recent things you have done and the key values of your system. Some of those they may not be taking advantage of or need ongoing training for.
You can control the narrative by constantly marketing to your customers and the entire market about all the cool new stuff you are doing.
Remember, being the best known for what you do is way more important than being the best at what you do.
You want your customers to think you continually invest in and improve the platform. Give them a reason to deal with the bugs and BS that they also have to deal with from your company.
Remind your customers that they made the right choice when they selected you as a vendor and keep earning their business.