Talk To Your Customers to Stay In Touch With Your Product


Talking to your customers is the best way to improve your product. You already do it — but not often enough. The problem is that it’s a pain to reach out all the time and gather that feedback.

It doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, you already talk to your customers all the time and probably aren’t taking full advantage of it.

My very first job was at Gateway Computer. Though well past its prime when I started, in its heyday, Gateway took a unique approach to its customer support that helped them gather plenty of user feedback.

The stories I heard back then helped shape our own approach toward support at my current company, Onepager. Here’s one that stood out in particular:

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The Other Half of Your Job

Corralling brilliant and creative individuals to work together as a team is incredibly difficult.  That’s why every successful company where people are both productive and happy feels a little magical.  The harried, stressful environment or the disengaged, sullen office are both far more common sights.

You might think that creative and productive individuals easily combine to form creative and productive teams, but I’ve noticed that the opposite happens more often than not.  An individual’s creativity and productivity are extremely fragile things that are liable to fall apart when individuals are put in a room to work on problems that are complex, time-constrained, and flat-out hard.

A well-intentioned response that I often see out of productive people is to get frustrated when not enough is getting done and go 100% into heads-down mode, but that just exacerbates the problem.  What ends up happening is embitterment, disengagement, and finally, attrition.  Preventing all that from happening is the other half of everyone’s job.

Tom Sachs, on the importance of communicating at work

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The Slow Web Movement

The Slow Web Movement

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.  – Carl SaganCosmos (1980).

(Source:  https://www.youtube.com/)

The slow web started as a vague idea framed as a joke.

When we put our site out into the world on January 2, 2011, we only processed incoming emails once per day.  At the bottom of every email, we wrote:

iDoneThis is a part of the slow web movement. After you email us, your calendar is not updated instantaneously. But rest up, and you’ll find an updated calendar when you wake.

The Slow Web Movement

Part of the idea was to put a positive frame on one of our most glaring shortcomings.  But the reason why we believed that an MVP didn’t have to include real-time processing is that we wanted to build a site whose value-added was independent from the number of times that a user interacted with the site.  With something as quick and simple as one email a day, a person could build up a whole record of her accomplishments.

As we’ve worked on iDoneThis, that vague idea of the slow web and unfunny joke has coalesced into a mantra.  At iDoneThis, we believe in taking it slow.

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How to Build the Machine that Builds the Product

“The hard part is building the machine that builds the product.”

Dennis Crowley

Successful entrepreneurs like Dennis Crowley and Mike Karnjanaprakorn at SkillShare have pointed that building a great product is only step one.  The next, harder step is building the machine that builds the product which turns improvement into a repeatable process.

Mark Pincus, discussing his experience of growing Zynga, observed that products can be built “through the strength of your personality and lack of sleep,” but that doesn’t scale — and soon “you’ve got to find some way to keep everybody going in productive directions when you’re not in the room.”

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New Year’s Habits

We probably didn’t need scientists to actually come up with a figure (80% failure rate!) to know that New Year’s resolutions don’t stick around. The key to change is not making some grand declaration of an ideal, that this is the year you’re going to lose x number of pounds, stop procrastinating, find Princess Charming, or any of these popular resolutions. Resolutions are often too abstract or unrealistic that they’re almost easy to ignore.

Instead, build a habit! Forming habits slowly can be much more effective. You can start with baby steps, like drinking water instead of soda, attaining small successes and rewards that will build up until voila, habit! The conscious creation of a habit also allows you to experiment to see what works best for you without feeling like you’ve failed the overall intention of, say, daily exercise if you find that running that extra quarter mile just isn’t for you.

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Search Your Dones

iDoneThis: You do not yet realize your importance. You’ve only begun to discover your power! Join me, and I will complete your training! With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict, and bring order to the galaxy. You: I’ll never join you! iDoneThis: If only you knew the power of the Daily Done. … Read more

Crowdsourcing Product Positioning

We have a broad-based, loosely constrained web application.  Our users engage with the site in a variety of different ways for a number of reasons.  That makes it difficult to take a bunch of usage information and turn it into actionable data about how to position our product.

In searching for data to form the basis for a concise statement on our site’s value proposition, we ended up in an unexpected place.  We had built an invite system which was super simplistic.  A user could type in an email address and include an optional message.  We would email that person with an invitation to sign up to use iDoneThis (no special referral URL, just a link to http://iDoneThis.com).

It turns out that when a user invited her friend to use iDoneThis, she used the optional message, not merely to say hello, but as an opportunity to pitch her friend on using iDoneThis.  Our invite system ended up containing concise statements of how users use iDoneThis, how it works for that use case, and the value they derive from it — and gives us the language to express all of that.

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