Stage 7: Keeping your customers happy and revenue flowing
Congratulations! You’ve produced something wonderful, gotten it into the market, and you’re making money. You’ve out-paced a large majority of startups by this point, and you should feel very proud.
Now the journey and its challenges change a bit because you have the toughest critics: your customers. Until you’re charging money, people will be understanding and patient. Once do-re-mi is involved, the story will change quite a bit. Let’s talk about how to keep your customers happy and have an eye toward growth.
Learn from failures… and successes
It’s easy to look at failures and find ways to learn from them. Whether you develop a process that prevents an issue from arising in the future, or you redesign elements that aren’t quite hitting the mark in your product, failures are typically easy to see, even if they aren’t easy or simple to fix.
However, people often forget to learn from their successes, too. When you do something well or you get praise or good feedback from a client, make sure you’re looking into that to figure out what you did right. Create processes and systems that allow you (and your employees, future employees, and even someone who might acquire you in the future) to continue to delight in the ways that you already are. Sometimes you’ll be surprised by what makes a customer happy, and those are the best source of new processes and systems you may not have thought of before.
You’ve likely put in place some customer support processes and options before launching, including phone, email and chat support, as well as potential in-person help for storefronts and physical products. During this time, you need to keep a close eye on how each of those channels for support is being used, what kinds of results are getting produced, and watch your customer attrition rates relative to how (and if) your customers reach out for help before deactivating or closing their account.
Are there support channels that result in higher retention rates? Are there options that your customers are asking for that you don’t currently provide? Dig in to every aspect of how you deliver on supporting your customers that you possibly can to understand how, when and why your customers are asking for help.
Communicate – EARLY and OFTEN
Don’t wait until something has gone wrong to communicate with your users. Be communicating on a regular basis about new products and services, upgrades and any improvements or new features before and after they are launched. If you foresee an issue or uncover something that will impact a majority of users, get out in front of it and let your entire user base know what’s happened, how you’re planning to resolve it and when to expect a resolution.
The converse of this is to not be a nag! It’s a fine line you walk with communicating enough and in the right ways without annoying your users. The biggest reason reported by users for uninstalling apps? Too many push notifications! So find the right balance of communicating with intent without over-communicating, and you’ll have happy customers who continue to buy from you.
Tweak, adjust, optimize, and tend to your road map
You should be keeping an eye on your product at all times, and that means making small, incremental changes that improve it and add value on a regular basis. This goes hand-in-hand with the road map you developed in the previous phase of your journey. In addition to fixing bugs and issues that arise, be working on road map items and be willing to reprioritize those items based on what your users are telling you they want. You might have pet features that you really, REALLY wish existed in your product. Beware falling into the trap of creating what YOU want at the expense of what your CUSTOMERS want and need. If you keep your eye on the ball according to your customers, you’ll keep the ones you have and continue to acquire more of your target market.
New pricing and upsell opportunities
As we’ve said many times, those things that ended up on your road map are opportunities for greater incremental revenue. If you’re listening to user feedback, you’ll know what to build and you can determine what things you’re adding are making your product more valuable for existing price points versus what you can charge more to provide. We’ve said it at least ten times in this article already, but LISTEN TO THE CUSTOMER FEEDBACK you’re getting. If you’re successfully bringing in your ideal customers, then let them guide your path to new revenue streams.
Grow smart and slow
There’s a phrase I’ve heard used by personal trainers and exercise coaches: Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. It applies in your startup journey too. In this context it means that you need to be slow to change your core business model. Said another way, don’t try to pivot or add products or services, or to jump into new markets, until you fully understand your existing market, existing product, existing limitations, and you have a good handle on the growth of the existing business. Grow slowly at first, refine your processes, system, products and services, and your support model. Then, when the time is right, your expansion into new areas will be much smoother and you won’t risk your existing business.