Getting Really Excited

Colleen shares the findings from her customer interviews, and Michele talks about how behavioral economics influences how they think about free tier abuse.

Colleen Schnettler  0:00 
Welcome to Software Social. I'm Colleen. This week, Michele and I discuss my progress getting my first product, a file uploading widget to 100 users. Why 100 because I'm going to sell it in the Heroku add on store, and I need 100 users before I can start charging. We also do a deep dive into what makes a good customer interview. And Michelle gets really excited about something called Prospect Theory. Enjoy the show. So I'm excited to share my numbers with you this week. For the past couple weeks for those that are new. I have been sharing with Michelle the numbers of signup, the number of signups I have for my new widget simple file upload. And as of this morning, I have 47 active signups.

Michele Hansen  0:45 
Oh, it was like 31. Last time, right?

Colleen Schnettler  0:50 
Yeah. So I really think using this marketing channel of the Heroku add on store has been tremendous for me. That's awesome. Yeah, I'm super pumped. So it's interesting, though, because when I first looked on, when I first signed on to my admin dashboard, it said 75 teams, but then I have to cross reference that with the people who have deprovisioned or kind of like, ditched it. So I'm still seeing a lot of people click the button to sign up. And then deprovision the add on but still 47 isn't bad. I'm pretty pumped about that. That's almost halfway to my 100. I need to get to actually make it a viable product.

Michele Hansen

Colleen Schnettler
Yeah! So that's good news. I and I also spoke with someone who has a really successful add on in the marketplace. And he showed me this somewhat convoluted way where I can get the user's email address, even if they haven't gone through the single sign on process that I've mentioned in the past. So something I want to set up this week as I want to set up a wrapper so I can get the person's email address as soon as they provision the app and send them an email right away to see you know, if they're having any trouble setting it up, I think. I think that's where I'm losing people, but not that many people are communicating with me. So that's my best guess right now.

Michele Hansen  2:10 
So you said 47 current signups?

Colleen Schnettler

Michele Hansen
Or current current user, so and then. So that's 16 new people since last time we talked. Do you have a sense for like, how many of those have have gotten to that, that crucial single sign on step and like, have actually added it to?

Colleen Schnettler  2:30 
Yes, so of those 47,34 have actually gone through the single sign on. So 34 might actually want to use it for real is how I look at that. Only 16 have actually started uploading images or not, I shouldn't say images files. So there's a pretty big gap between showing intent and actually using it. So I really want to work on closing that gap.

Michele Hansen  2:57 
Yeah, and it kind of makes sense to me that there would be a gap for that, when, in order to see how it works, people have to install it first versus services that you can see whether it works first, and then sign up for it, would have a lower drop off in that conversion.

Colleen Schnettler  3:19 
Exactly. One of the things I want to do -- I have a long list of things I want to do, but they're all small, but they are there is quite a long list. I want to put because the Heroku documentation has to be formatted in this really specific way to comply with the Heroku requirements. Once you single sign on, I have the documentation and what I consider to be a much more user friendly format. So one of the things I want to do is on my normal marketing site, I want to add the user friendly documentation. So someone can see the documentation before they install the add on to see if it's a good fit because I know I'm someone -- if I want to install like a piece of software. I want to see your docs first because I want to see how good they are. And I want to see how hard it really is and how it actually works.

Michele Hansen  4:06 
Yeah, that makes sense to me.

Colleen Schnettler  4:08 
I also -- in very like I haven't taken Amy Hoy's course but like in very I had, you know I subscribed to her email is in very Amy Hoy fashion. As we've discussed, I launched this with a lot without a lot of boilerplate things. And one of the boilerplate things I didn't have is I don't have transactional email setup. Which means what I've been doing is, every night I've been signing onto my admin dashboard, copying the email addresses of people who signed up to an Excel sheet, literally emailing each person, one by one from my support account in Gmail. So in the beginning, that was not too cumbersome. It enabled me to see exactly where they were in the process like have they added files have they not have added a lot of files and kind of customize the email but now that's getting way too cumbersome and time consuming. So one of the things I really need to get up this week is transactional email. Yeah, it doesn't even take that long. It's, I'm somewhat like I do it all the time. It's just, I find it very mundane, because it's a very boilerplate thing. But it's such a, it's not such a pain, but it's kind of a pain, right? And so I tend to procrastinate the boring things like, like maybe most people, I'm like, Oh, I want to work on this, this this other feature, that's going to be so great. Instead of set up transactional email, but I'm losing people, right? Because if I don't email if you sign up, and I don't email you for 24 hours, like your path, you're over it, you have already made that decision, like your motive when you think of like a human motivation, at least for me, if I want something I want right now. So if I sign up for your software, it's because I want to use it right now. So if I can't figure...

Michele Hansen  5:50 
So is this the welcome email?

Colleen Schnettler
Yeah, there's no welcome...

Michele Hansen
Here like this as like, here's the documentation. And here's what you've signed up for. Like, gotcha, okay. Yeah, I think I could help like, I know, our URL. Like, I don't think we had welcome emails to start. And we also, I think we manually emailed everybody who signed up. But it was so good for feedback like that early feedback was really critical for us. And it was part like, Hey, here's your documentation. But also, like, let us know if you have any questions about getting set up. Or if there was, you know, if there's anything else you're hoping that we do that we don't like, let us know. And we can see if we can add it.

Colleen Schnettler  6:27 
Yeah, that's exactly where I am. So basically, not even well, I mean, it would be a welcome email. But I want to get that as soon as they sign up. I want to fire off that email. Like, here's how you contact me, here's how I can help you. Let me know what you need. Let's let's do this. And yeah, hopefully I'll get I'll get more engagement, if I catch people early in the process of provisioning the add on.

Michele Hansen  6:52 
Yeah, that I think that sounds like a plan.

Colleen Schnettler  6:55 
Yeah. Okay. Good plan. So let's talk a little bit about the people I've talked with, I mentioned that I've been doing customer interviews, which has been super fun, I'm really enjoying it. So I did a walkthrough with a friend who's a UI/UX designer, like a very senior designer. And he gave me some tips that I really took to heart. And I thought they were great. And so actually, this week, was mostly all technical stuff. This week, when I worked on Simple File Upload, I was, I was kind of heads down trying to implement some new features that I really think are going to be great for the product. I believe I mentioned last week that I'm implementing the ability for the user to change the color, and the text color, the background color, the border color, I also am going to allow the user to add their own custom icon. So they can completely customize the look of this. And I'm going to allow them to add their own custom classes right in the dashboard. So I think that's going to be a really nice feature change. I'm actually done with that. But I haven't pushed it to production yet. And also, I'm really kind of excited about this next one, it's going to auto populate the drop zone preview box with whatever image you have saved in your database. So I'm excited about that one. Because I really wanted that I think I mentioned that I was doing this thing where I used it where it's like, you show the image, then you click a button to open the drop zone. And I really didn't like that it felt kind of clunky. So I'm really happy to have this preview feature, which I just got that one done. Again, I haven't pushed it out to production yet. But I'm pumped that that that's working. And I'm excited about that.

Michele Hansen  8:33 
Yeah, that's pretty exciting.

Colleen Schnettler  8:35 
Yeah, so so lots of like technical work, just trying to make the product a little bit better before I really do a big marketing push. I do want like I am still doing the marketing study. But I have not spent any time on my marketing site. Because I've just been trying to get these features out. I also spoke with -- another interview I did was with a front-end developer and he was pretty jazzed about it because you don't have to do any background configuration. So as a front end developer, he can completely allow his users to upload files and access those files, and he doesn't have to do anything on the back end. So it made me think if I'm going to niche this down further, which I might, I might do, like the front-end developer community, might be where I want to be.

Michele Hansen  9:19 
I'm really excited to hear that you are enjoying these conversations. I think a lot of people have fear around talking to customers, whether that's a fear that they're going to say something negative about your product, or simply fear that you're not going to know what to say to them and it's going to be awkward and so it's it's really encouraging to hear that you're enjoying it and I'm curious if you can like talk more about how you have approached those conversations.

Colleen Schnettler  9:49 
Okay, so the first thing I have to say is of all the people I've talked to only one person has been excited about it. Everyone else is kind of like pointing out stuff but it hasn't been all positive feedback. But the people who are pointing up stuff are trying to help. They're not you know, they're not being jerks.

Michele Hansen  10:06 
It's helpful. Like, I mean, if you talk to someone, and they're like, they say everything is amazing and perfect, and then they don't actually give you anything to work on. It's kind of like, well, that made me feel good, but didn't really help me do anything. But I mean, it sounds like you're getting a lot of productive feedback out of these conversations.

Colleen Schnettler  10:25 
I totally am, I totally AM. And yeah, but it has been like, not exactly affirming. And to your point, I think we talked about this weeks ago, you don't want your customers to just tell you everything's perfect unless it really is. And where I am, it's definitely not perfect. So I have really appreciated everyone giving me like really honest feedback, I've tried to approach these conversations, kind of, like I think I talked about last week, it's nice to have a starting point, like I've been able to reach a lot more people, because now I have something very specific, I'm trying to share with them. Whereas in the idea generation phase, you don't even have, when you're just trying to come up with ideas, the customer interviews are really hard at that point. Because you don't even have a process identified that you're trying to solve. So you're trying to walk these people through their day, and, and hone in on a process that they might not even know they're struggling with. And that's, that's nearly impossible is what I found. Whereas now that I actually have a product, and I'm looking at this very specific thing, people have been much more generous with their time, and much more generous with their feedback, telling me about what they do, what they have done what they want. And so I really think that's, that's helping my customer interview skills. That being said, I get really excited, like, you know that maybe listeners of the podcast have noticed that sometimes I'm literally like sitting on my hands, so I don't interrupt someone with my excitement. So I don't know why that works. But I'm like, Colleen, just be quiet, let them talk, let them talk, let them talk. So sometimes that's what's going on in my head. So for me, tempering my excitement, and my desire to agree with them, has been a little challenging.

Michele Hansen  12:19 
That totally makes sense. And, you know, when I'm coaching people, and I'm doing interviews, that's always one of the things that comes up so common is that if somebody says something, whether you agree with it or disagree with it, you can't jump in and share your own perspective, because in order to get someone to be as open with you as possible, you need to hold back all of your thoughts about what they're saying, both enthusiastic ones and disagreement. And I find that one of the hardest things for founders, when they're doing interviews, is when somebody says something is broken, or that it doesn't work, right, or that they expected it to work a different way, to be able to say, "Oh, that's interesting. Can you tell me how you expected it to work?" Rather than saying, "Well, the reason why is I built it like this, and I did that, and then I couldn't do it this way. And then, and then eventually, that's how we got around to this way." But really avoiding doing that second part. And so I'm curious if you have found yourself falling into that when people people are pointing things out.

Colleen Schnettler  13:27 
So I tend to agree, but I think I agree a little too enthusiastically. For example, if you said to me, wow, Colleen, this is cool. But I really need it to have this styling. I'm someone who's gonna be like, yes, that's a great idea. Like, literally, that's how excited I will be on the call with you. Like I'm like, Yes, that's a great idea. And then you have the you know, these people have never met me in real life. They have like, no context for me, I probably terrified them. They're probably like, Okay, calm down. So I think that I tend to get really excited. And I tend to agree. So far, everything people have said to me is really good. And they're right. And it was actually affirming something I had already kind of knew was a thing. But in the in the effort to actually ship as we've discussed, I didn't implement all these other features. So So my challenge, so yes, I'm falling into that trap of like being overly agreeing. And so my challenge and what I'm trying to work on in future customer interviews is to listen and take in their feedback, but go one step more. So let's say for example, someone said to me, "Hey, this is great. I am a designer, I need to upload these huge super huge files, because we need these files to be you know, five gigs. They weren't five, they were like two gigs. They're huge files." And so I my recent That was like, Yes, you That's exactly what I was thinking of when I built this. It's for people like you who need these huge files. And what maybe I could have done better would have been to get some more context, I could have been like, okay, I forgot to ask him what he's doing now. Like, that's kind of critical. So I didn't ask him what he's doing. Now, I didn't ask him what, you know, impediments he has for what he's doing now. But contrast that with another person I have talked to, and this other person wants something totally different. He is like, I'm using these for images. So I want to be able to resize and crop and use all the image magic stuff on these images. And when he was saying that, I thought, Yeah, that would be great if I if I did that. But these two things are directly in conflict, right? I can't pre pre optimize your images and give you full image sizes. I mean, you wouldn't if you don't, you know, these two people wanted different things. And so, but I loved both of their ideas. So I don't know if I made any progress there.

Michele Hansen  16:05 
I think you did, because you identified some things that you might do differently in future interviews. And it stuck out to me that you said that when you're responding to what someone said, and you responded with all this enthusiasm for them. You did not dig deeper into their process. And until you just told me about those two different types of feedback, what what I didn't hear was, Why do they need that in the first place? What is their broader goal they're trying to accomplish? What is the process? What kind of context is this in? are they building client websites? Or they're building somebody else's websites? Like what kind of websites are they like, like, really, really digging more into what it is they are doing? And it strikes me there's a, I have a favorite book about interviewing one I've several books about here. But one in particular, I don't know if I've ever recommended to you is called Practical Empathy by Indi Young, I've ever recommended that to you.

Colleen Schnettler  17:05 
I don't think so.

Michele Hansen  17:05 
It's as much as a book about how to interview people and how to pull these things out of them. But it's also very useful for being in meetings or talking to friends or family in general of really trying to understand what someone is saying what they're experiencing and putting yourself in your shoes. To understand how the world looks from their perspective. It's such a good book, I just reread it last summer. And I found myself just constantly underlining and and nodding as I was reading it, and just, you know, one of those books you read? And you're like, yes, yes. Like, I agree with everything she's saying. Such a good book. It's, I think it would be amazing if you know, every founder read that, read that book, read Practical Empathy. It just gives you tools to conduct interviews, and meetings and everything else sort of in general, in a way that really helps you understand why people are asking for things and how to figure out what that context is that drives them to have these feature requests. So then you can understand how those things fit together and how to prioritize them.

Colleen Schnettler  18:14 
Well, that sounds like a wonderful book. And I think I'm getting to the end of StoryBrand. So I think maybe that will be my next book that I read and share about on the podcast.

Michele Hansen  18:24 
Do we want to do a little bit of story brand, then?

Colleen Schnettler  18:27 
Sure. Let's let's jump into this week. So I am on the chapter after calls to action. And this chapter is that helps them avoid failure. And the principal, each chapter has this principle that the StoryBrand author's trying to get across is that every human being is trying to avoid a tragic ending. The kind of the the way this is framed in a marketing context is he talks about, you need to identify what the customer will lose if they don't buy your product. If there are no stakes, there is no story. People are motivated to loss aversion. Emphasizing potential loss is more than just good storytelling. It's good behavioral economics. So then he talks about this study that identified this thing called Prospect Theory. Have you ever heard of this?

Michele Hansen  19:18 
Yes, I'm, I'm like, I'm sitting here trying not to bubble over with excitement. I'm just like you were talking about with your interviews because I'm a like, I'm a huge fan of behavioral economics and like, and I'm like, Oh my god, Is he good? Is Is he gonna talk talk about Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Like, yeah,

Colleen Schnettler  19:36 
Yes! That's exactly. That's exactly what he talks about.

Michele Hansen  19:39 
Is it the study where it's like, would you rather have a 50% chance of losing $100 or a 50% chance of winning $1,000 or no, not losing? $100? Right. And then we'll pick not losing $100 doesn't exactly what he talks about. Behavioal Economics. Amazing. Okay. Yes. Okay. So how does it talk about what does it mean in a Storybrand context?

Colleen Schnettler  19:58 
Okay, so this is all new to me. Unlike Michele, I don't study behavioral economics in my free time. But that's cool that you do. So this theory exactly, by the author Michelle was just talking about, it's called Prospect Theory. And it argues that people are more likely to be dissatisfied with a loss than they are satisfied with a game. So people hate losing $100 more than they like winning $100. So loss aversion is a that's so wild, by the way, I've just never thought about it before. It's not something I've ever considered.

Michele Hansen  20:33 
You know, actually, this came up for us this week, because and actually, so I wrote a little like, a blog post about this a couple of years ago, on this on this topic, so we have people like signing up for our site, and we have a free tier.

Colleen Schnettler  20:49  
Yeah, and

Michele Hansen  20:50  
and we will occasionally see like people creating multiple accounts and abusing the free tier. And so for a period of time to prevent this, we had everybody had to verify their email before they could process a file. But then that, first of all, it can credibly, like decrease conversions and made things more complicated for for legitimate users. Actually, I think what it did was like there was like a maximum of like five accounts per IP address, and then it had to be manually overwritten. So how it worked with a signup a couple of years ago was that in order to to prevent all of these sort of abusive signups, we would have a limit of five accounts per IP address. And then if they needed more than that, then there was a manual override we had to do. But the problem was is like people would be like in a class, for example, like so the Red Cross uses us in their disaster relief trainings, or a lot of professors use us in their GIS classes. And so then they would be like, oh, we're getting blocked from signing up. And so we would have to go in and like try to do this. And like it was actually hurting these legitimate users or people we wanted signing up. And so we realized we were spending more time thinking about how to prevent these abusive signups then we were on like, growth and like new customer acquisition, and but really like, because it hurts, like what people are abusing a free tier in this very visceral way. And we just saw this again, in the past week to where last week we had someone create, like 75 accounts all within the same day. But then we looked at like, okay, where are they doing it automated, like, I like, how is it happening? And this person was like, literally, like manually going in and creating these accounts every five minutes. And I was like, well, they spent like, a solid 15 hours doing this, and their time is not valuable enough to pay us the $25, it would have been like, should we really go in right now and spend hours of work on trying to prevent this from happening when this person wouldn't even have paid us in the first place. Though, actually, then a day later, it turns out, we do have to prioritize this work, because this person was using fake email accounts, and they were doing it over several days. And we're sending a welcome email, we're going well, in this episode, we're sending a welcome email to all of those fake email accounts, and it caused our bounce rate to go way up. So then we got a warning from intercom saying, you know, your bounce rate is really high, and you need to get it down. Otherwise, you might get shut off from email. So now we actually have to prioritize this work. But like, that's something that that loss aversion principle is something that we talk about, often, when it comes to free tier users, and like, how aggressive do we want to be in preventing someone from getting $5 $25 worth of free usage, versus spending those, you know, five, six hours of time it would take to work on that for something that could get us 1000s of dollars in new customers? It's an easy trap to fall into. And, and I think knowing about that study is so helpful because I can see that pattern of because it's a natural pattern of thinking, you know, you're perfectly normal for for thinking that way. And so, so recognizing that pattern, and then not falling into it. It's it's hard, but it's necessary.

Colleen Schnettler  24:18  
Yeah, I was fascinated because I have like I said, I had not been introduced to this idea before. So I thought it was really interesting. 

So the author of the book talks about creating a four step process which he calls a fear appeal. Now, to his credit, he does talk earlier in the chapter about how you don't want to fear monger, you're not trying to terrify or create a false sense of fear. You're just trying to show your potential customer what they're going to lose if they choose not to go with you. So the four step process is one make the reader know they are vulnerable to a threat. Two, since they are vulnerable, they should take action to reduce their vulnerability. Three, let them know about a specific call to action that protects them from risk. And four challenge them to take this specific action. And he doesn't I mean, he says, again, not a lot of fear, just a quote, pinch of salt was the way he described it. So you need to look at what are you helping your customers avoid? So my list that I made, what am I helping my customers avoid? So what is the opportunity cost of not working with me? For what I have built, I think it's a tremendous amount of time wasted. You won't lose your files because I have backup storage, when most people create their AWS accounts in their s3 buckets, they don't create a backup service, you won't lose users because of your crappy interface. And that's all I got.

Michele Hansen  25:52  
I think that time one is a big one.

Colleen Schnettler  25:54  
I still think the time when is a big one, I should add something about the direct uploads because my files don't touch your server. Because you know, sometimes, if you don't use direct uploads, you go from the the browser to your server, your server to your cloud storage provider, and I go right to your cloud storage provider. So not having to write that architecture is again, though, really, that's a time thing. Really, that's just going back to ease of use. 

Michele Hansen  26:19  
Yeah, I think time saving is your big loss that people might experience if they don't use your service.

Colleen Schnettler  26:26  
Yeah, I agree. I think I think time saving as well. So that was that chapter. That's what I read this week.

Michele Hansen  26:32  
Well, I guess that's a good time for us to end this week. Thanks so much for listening. We'll talk to you again next week.

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