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February 7, 2012

You don’t want press

You want evangelists.

There was a post in hacker news on us in in December when we weren’t ready for attention.  The Link is not necessary to read it is just to represent we saw a spike in downloads and usage from new users that day.

This is a picture of the spike from usage on that day and what zero retention looks like. 

We’re grateful that someone posted about how much they liked our blog on Hacker News but it was too early for us to expect users from any traffic at that time.  We knew our product still was a little sucky.

We posted our strategy for customer acquisition back in November of how we planned to get evangelists and more users and it turns out that it actually works.  Here’s that post in case you’re interested:  3 Concentric Circles

3 Months of iterating, looking at data and listening to feedback (We like to ask people using Ecquire, “Tell me what you hate about Ecquire”) we started to get Evangelists. Steve’s been one of our favorites so far.  You can see in our twitter stream an example of what Evangelism looks like. Notice him basically selling Ecquire for us to one of his contacts thereby putting his name on the line for a product he just started using.

By no means are we in the clear or claim that we have figured out how to successfully execute a product launch.  All that we are saying is that two months ago it was easy to feel like we were not going to get any traction or growth when we were focusing on a bunch of small items instead of marketing or adding a major new feature.  But for us, it seems like testimonials come from customers as they experience the attention to detail within your product.  In other words, if you create a solution to a problem and it works, you’ve met expectations that were advertised and those customers will remain.  Testimonials and referrals happen when expectations are exceeded.

Evangelists also tell you when something is wrong and not the rest of the World.  And when you can fix things right away or even get a quick response back that you’re working on it, you’re 20% more likely to get a positive referral than if nothing went wrong in the first place.   In a cynical way, I have come to initially feeling excited at an opportunity when something goes wrong or when a customer complains about something because I know our team will go crazy until it’s resolved and exceed that customer’s expectations compared to what they are used to seeing with support for other services.  So why not put yourself in a position to respond to comments and feedback immediately at such an early and critical stage of the product?  If a press blast is going to get you 1,000 downloads too early, you won’t be able to keep up with expectations that are critical to managing at an early stage of your company.  Customer support is cheaper, more valuable and more beneficial to your company than advertising so invest in jumping on every customer support opportunity that presents itself when you don’t have alot of customers yet.

We’d rather have 1 Evangelist than 100 customers.  That’s not bullshit.  It’s statistically been proven that 1 Evangelist will increase your growth more than 100 customers where you’ve only met their expectations.  They may like and use your product but are not evangelists.

And when you start getting evangelists your growth isn’t a rapid spike then no retention, it starts to look like this:

 

There’s also another side of this equation.

I spoke with Rob Lewis who is the Editor for TechVibes and asked him what the best way to get press was and about our theory.  He had a bit of a different viewpoint in what he’s seen as editor:

I’m a strong believer that any press is good press. And you can’t guarantee timing of any coverage, so you need to take it when you get it.

Basing when you seek press coverage on internal retention metrics for the first time is a tough call and really depends on what you’re happy with. In today’s world, media are pretty understanding of Minimal Viable Product, so as long as the service is unique, solves a recognizable problem, and works they’ll consider coverage. Combine that with some impressive numbers (customers, revenue, capital raised) and you’ll definitely get coverage.

 

Our conclusion:  Build your product and company as if the only way you will get new customers is if your customers tell their friends.  What does that mean?  It means a culture shock for some and when people ask you when the product be finished, you emphatically say, “Never”.  Attention to detail equates to testimonials and referrals.

Press also seems to be perfectly correlated with the growth of more evangelists.  In other words the more evangelists you have, the more likely you are to get press or have a compelling enough story to write about so just focus on what it takes to get more evangelists and the press will come at a time  you can retain the spike of visitors because your product is good enough.

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