Wading Through Feature Requests

Once you get your customers to talk to you, how do you sort through that and make sense of it? Colleen and Michele talk about how Jobs to Be Done thinking and tactics can be used at the very beginning to guide the roadmap and later on to guide overall strategy.

Michele Hansen  0:00 
So Colleen, you launched your new SaaS -- actually your first SaaS -- about a month ago, Simple File Upload. And you launched it first on the Heroku marketplace. But you also launched it off of the Heroku marketplace so that people who are not on Heroku can use it as well. And I was thinking about this. And I'm really curious if anyone has signed up off of Heroku, and how that's gone?

Colleen Schnettler  0:30  
Yes. So I got the most wonderful surprise yesterday, when I actually checked my subscriptions and saw that there were three people who have actually put their credit card. 

Michele Hansen 
Oh, my gosh!
Colleen Schnettler 
I know, super exciting. The funny thing is, as I think I've mentioned before, Heroku requires you to get 100 users before you can charge. So I have been so focused on getting that 100 user number. I hadn't even been checking my Stripe subscriptions. So I logged on the other day. And I have it in my admin dashboard. But I literally never check it. And I saw like three subscriptions. And I was like, That can't be right. 

Michele Hansen  1:09  
So are these people paying you or they just added their credit cards to Stripe?

Colleen Schnettler  1:14  
They've added their credit cards to Stripe, I am currently offering a free 30 day trial. And so they may cancel one of the people has already reached out to me, and we've had a pretty in depth email conversation about her needs. So I anticipate she'll stick around. But I have not actually heard from the other two people yet. So we'll see. I don't know.

Michele Hansen  1:34  
Tell me more about this email exchange you had.

Colleen Schnettler  1:37  
Yeah. So based on our conversation last week, I significantly changed the email, I changed, I got rid of all the graphics, I tried to be more concise and what I was asking and give a little more context. And you were right people like when you have more context, I think. And so I've been hearing back from people. So I've actually been spending a good part of this week, like handling email stuff and talking to people and listening to their feature requests. But there's one person who actually put her credit card in, you know, she actually shared with me her application, and there was an error. It was like a really subtle bug in the React component. And it actually worked with the bug, like it still worked most of the time. But she was running into an issue where it was not working consistently. So I was able to troubleshoot that and get that fixed. And so you know, we've kind of had had a dialogue going, it's been very exciting. 

Michele Hansen  2:34  
It sounds like you've been able to build a rapport and a little bit of a relationship with her.

Colleen Schnettler  2:40  
I'd like to think so. I'd like to think so every time someone gets beat, every time someone emails me, I get super excited. So I'm still at that phase where I'm like, tell me about your thing. Like what's going on? What are you working on?

Michele Hansen  2:54  
I'm still in that phase. Like, honestly, I mean, anytime someone replies back to one of my feedback emails, so I have them going out with after a couple of days, the first time we charge someone, and I have different emails that go out based on, you know, different plans, they're on and whatnot. But every time somebody replies to one of those, I'm always like, Oh my god, somebody replied, like, this is so exciting. And then they're giving me this feedback. And I always learn things about industries that I had just, I never even realized existed like, and they're doing things I didn't even realize was happening. And then, like, somehow we're part of that process. And it feels so magical and exciting. And I feel so you know, like privileged that they've let me into their little world and told me all about how they're, for example, need to get timezone stamped reports back from tractors and how we make that easier for them. And I'm just like, yes, this is so cool. Like I'm, I think I'm just a huge business nerd. But and and i love i think that's

Colleen Schnettler  3:59  
awesome learning about business.

Michele Hansen  4:01  
So you know that that phase has, you know, been going for? Oh, wow, seven years now. For me.

Colleen Schnettler  4:10  
Wow. Yeah.

Michele Hansen  4:11  
Oh, wow. Geocodio turns seven this month. So, so tell me tell me more about about what you talk to.

Colleen Schnettler  4:17  
Ya. So it's been great. Like I said, I changed an email copy. And some people like reached out to me on Twitter. I love I love hearing from people. Thank you. I love ideas and shared with me the email copy they use. And like I said, so people started engaging. And I got a lot of good feedback. I got one person who was like really excited, who was like, Oh my gosh, Heroku has a file system, you know, was really troublesome. And so this is just what I needed. I got a lot of feature requests, which is something we'll talk about in a minute. I got one guy who was like, Oh my gosh, thank you so much for emailing me. Okay. So it was really fun. It's still just a handful of people, right? But I love it. Like I love hearing from people. And some of them, like I said, are comfortable sharing what they're working on, which has been cool, too. And there have been a lot of suggestions for utilizing the uploader in a way I did not anticipate. Ooh, so yeah, so this is like, the next thing. And I know I remember months ago, you said something about every new feature request should sit out in the rain on the porch for three days.

Michele Hansen  5:27  
Yes, I think that is taken from one of the early Basecamp books getting real, badly adjusted adjacent free, yeah, that new features should have to stand on the porch in the rain for three days before you let them in.

Colleen Schnettler  5:44  
And so I appreciate that. But at the same time, I feel like that's more appropriate for mature products. This is just a little baby product. And I'm trying to turn it into something amazing. And I think so. So I mean, when you're only talking to eight to 10 people, I think that every feature request, you know, I should really consider now I understand, like I was preparing for this podcast, I tried to look back at what I did this week, because I had, I didn't really do many things on the list of things I wanted to do. And it's because I spent so much time like doing these emails and talking to people and looking into their feature requests. And so I don't want to just throw them out there as quickly as possible. But I do think the product really has space to grow. And I love hearing what people are asking, and some of them are not too hard, like I can do, but I don't know, it's just it's just a struggle of like balancing all that, like do I impure, I have active people. And again, it's like a people who are talking to me. And so when they request something, if it's within my ability, and I think it's going to make the product better, because then other people might want that same feature. I want to do it. But of course, I'm balancing that with trying to do marketing and trying to do documentation, which I really need to do more documentation. So it's just like the challenge of balancing Oh, and you know, my paid work, balancing all of that.

Michele Hansen  7:13  
So it sounds like you're balancing a lot right now. And I'm curious with all of those feature requests coming in? are you saving them like, like, how are you sort of digesting those feature requests? And, you know, potentially saving that information for later or categorizing order? Or are you not doing

Colleen Schnettler  7:36  
sure I am I you know, this is something else that's that's challenging is just how to keep track of all this. So like, you launch your product. And then there's all of this tooling you need around the product, which is like a whole nother thing. It's just, there's so much stuff, like, I just want to focus on my product. Yeah, I just have a spreadsheet, and I'm just putting the person's name, email feature request. And like, if I think it's a good idea what my timeline for considering it is, I mean, they're all really good requests, like all things I would like to do eventually. Some of them are like bigger chunks than others. But for example, one thing I don't support that I want to support in the future is multiple file uploading. So one of the people, one of the customers is doing that with the sim with the single uploader. And just kind of basically what happens is you drop a file into the uploader, and then he's got, like a grid view of all the files you've dropped. So he has found a creative way to take my single file uploader and make it a multi file uploader. But I default show you the preview of the file after you upload it. So he would like me to not default show you the preview, he just wants it to go away. So that seems like a really good idea. Because then you can kind of use it as a multi file uploader, even though it's a single file uploader, because every time you drop a new file, I still upload the file, I just don't have like the UI for multiple file upload errors. So that's one. Another one is smaller sized images, which I bring up every week, because my thing, right, but that's a lot more work because I'm gonna have to write an external API that they can, they can hit, and I'm gonna have to figure out how to authenticate them. And I'm gonna have to figure out how to charge them for that. So that one's kind of like, definitely something I want to do eventually, but I think that's a big one. So an another person didn't even want an upload, or he just wants to storage, which I thought was the first request to address that. Yes. They're all over the place. So right like I'm like, these are all great ideas. I would like to be able to help all these people achieve their goals, but they're all different.

Michele Hansen  9:44  
So when they bring these feature requests to you, are you able to get to the level of asking about what their processes and like what the broader context they're in that you know, helps you understand where this feature request comes from and, and how that fits in with what they're trying to do. So then you can make parallels to what other people are trying to do, like see if they're in similar process patterns?

Colleen Schnettler  10:14  
Yes. So I have a little bit I haven't gotten anyone on a call yet, but I have like, kind of ask those leading questions. And, yeah, so I don't know, they're not all. So I did ask like anyone who is comfortable to actually share the application with me, a lot of them are in the beginning stages, which makes sense because it makes more sense to me. And in the in the beginning, as opposed to when you already have something set up. So a lot of them are in the beginning stages. And of this group of people, there were two that are working that are like doing this at work. And one person who's doing it as a hobbyist. And like, the smaller file sizes is because the one person is having is allowing the users to download files, which I hadn't even really thought I don't you know, if I don't do it like that I hadn't really thought about like allowing your users to download files, which is not something I hadn't really thought about. So that's like, a good point. And then the multiple file uploader. Like I knew that was an issue, because I have a event site that I want to I want to allow multiple file uploading. So I don't know, am I answering your question? I feel like I'm rambling a little bit.

Michele Hansen  11:28  
It sounds like you're figuring things out. You know, last week, we were talking about how you had some hunches about different things that might be going on, about, you know, hobbyists, or whatever. You just told me, okay, you know, this person was a hobbyist and these people were doing it at work. And I, what I think is really interesting is you said people are bringing you on at the very beginning of a project. And that sounds like a critical insight to me.

Colleen Schnettler  11:57  
Yeah, and that's really good. And you know why that's such a great insight, Michele, that is such a great insight. Because when I first launched this, one of the things I was really concerned about was moving people from their existing storage solution to my storage solution. And I was like, Oh, I'm gonna have to write, like, all these scripts to help people move and, and, as I see right now, at least for the people who are talking to me, that's not really something I need to spend time on right now. I need to focus, I think I need to focus on these people in the beginning stages of their product. One person, you know, wasn't a developer. Well, he was kind of a developer, but like, he wasn't, you know, he was, and, and I thought that was relevant. Cuz he was like, this is great, because I have been asked to implement this thing at work. This system, it's like a database system where they store stuff. And I'm not really a developer. So this was, you know, really easy, because I didn't have to figure out all the AWS stuff, those are the people I'm targeting, like, in my head, that's always what who This product has been designed for. You love the no code crowd. I do I love and I really, okay, so I really want to build something with no code, excuse me, I really want to build something with no code. I just feel like, oh, man, like, I love everybody. Like, don't get me wrong, but I just feel like the opportunities going forward are in no code. I feel like it's such, like, everyone is going to be starting a website and starting a business, I think in the next 10 years, like, I expect my personal trainer to be selling stuff online in like, a couple years. And so I feel like getting a now is is the time to get in. And so I still on my list of things to do is still like build something with no code to get involved in the community to learn more about it. I just think their options are so limited, as far as I can tell, like, the they're the main players in that space charge, like 100 bucks a month. And so, yeah, I feel like there's a lot of opportunity in the no code space.

Michele Hansen  13:57  
I think it's worth, you know, you noticing how much enthusiasm and sort of natural empathy you have for this group. You know, I mean, even in your own looking at your own work, you've done a lot on you know, helping people learn to code and and some previous businesses we had talked about that didn't really work out were around, you know, like teaching stay at home mothers how to code or, or like other sorts of things that help people build things. And I see that thread running through your interest here. And your product will probably have many different audiences. But I think it's okay to, you know, love one a little bit more than others, especially if it really motivates you, right, because there's going to be times when you're, you feel mired and bugs and knowing that you can reach out to one of those customers or somebody in that group and and Just get that motivation and get that reminder of Oh, I'm helping them do something that they literally could not do before, period. That's really rewarding. And and, you know, the, you know, I think the secret of staying motivated is to talk to people and hear how you're helping them. And it sounds like you get a lot of that from the no code crowd.

Colleen Schnettler  15:26  
Yeah, I haven't thought about it like that before. But I think maybe that is one of the reasons I'm so interested in this particular space is because, yeah, like a personal passion of mine is helping people get into flexible remote work. And if they can start a business, you know, if they can start a business with web flow, and they can use my thing, then that's extra motivating for me. So tell me what has been going on with you this week.

Michele Hansen  15:59  
So despite, you know, Denmark going into lockdown, again, in schools closing and the coup, I somehow managed to read in the jobs to be done book. 

Colleen Schnettler  16:10  
Oh, nice. 

Michele Hansen  16:13  
I'm feeling proud of myself considering everything else going on. So so there's this one story from it that that I thought something's up so well. So for anyone who's reading along, I'm in chapter two this week in the jobs to be done playbook. And the story goes this, a traveler came upon three stone workers arranging bricks and asked them what they were doing. The first replied, I'm laying bricks. The second answered, I'm building a room. When the traveler got to the third man, he heard a different response. I'm building a cathedral, the stone worker replied, of course, all three answered correctly, it's just a matter of perspective. I love that story. And as I was, so I was reading this while helping my daughter with her homeschool, work. And I read that to her. And what I love about that is, you all of them are correct, right? Like, you could be laying bricks, or building a room or building a cathedral. All of those are true at the same time. And it's just a matter of perspective. And, and I think what that says to us from a business perspective, is that there are different levels of doing things. And when we talk about customer needs, and processes and situations, and all the kinds of things that you've been talking to your customers about, you might get a different level of perspective. And you might ask someone how they're using your product. And they might give you an answer, that's the equivalent of I'm laying bricks, or they might give you the equivalent of, I'm building a cathedral. And then it's about sort of building out that whole picture and figuring out, okay, there's a cathedral being built, that's the broader job that's being done. And then there are specific people who are doing that. Within this. There are specific tasks down to mixing mortar to planning out a specific room, like those are all at different levels. And but they're all happening, too, and where does my product fit in? And but what are they trying to do more broadly? Yeah, I just loved that story.

Colleen Schnettler  18:36  
So you're basically saying when we think about our product in like, a development lifecycle of a business, someone else's business, right, because both of our products are inserted into someone else's business, we should kind of see how they fit in to the bigger goal.

Michele Hansen  18:54  
Right? So for example, nobody's job is to geocode a spreadsheet, like that's not a broader goal that they have, the job is something that is, you know, much larger than any one particular step or one particular process. But it'll have many different sub steps to it. And so the book defines this, as you know, there's an aspiration, an ideal change of state, something the individual desires to become. So in this example, with the bricks and the cathedral, it might be to, you know, bring religion or community to a specific area. That's a very broad goal. Right, right. And then the big job is to build the cathedral. The little job is to build the rooms in the cathedral, and then the micro job is to lay the actual bricks. So I think my product is sometimes it's it's a micro job, but sometimes it's also playing into a larger one. For example, if someone's goal is to To create a map to show a congressperson, all of the supporters, their nonprofit has in their district, for example, that may be, you know, much closer to their goal of getting a an elected representative to take them seriously. But on the other hand, if they're doing a huge data analysis process, like we are just one step in that process, and pretty far removed from whatever their end goal of creating AI based simulations that help real estate executives make better commercial real estate decisions, like we're really far removed from that end step. Does that make sense?

Colleen Schnettler  20:43  
Yeah, but I'm trying to figure out how that like, I'm trying to take what you said, which felt kind of general and figure out how to directly apply that to business to actually my business specifically, like, does that help you with pricing? Does that help you? I mean, so let's say it because I also am probably a micro step. Does that mean I should charge less? Does that mean? How do you kind of take that information and work it into your workflow?

Michele Hansen  21:10  
So that's only one step have jobs to be done. There's a whole bunch of other pieces to this. And, and what I find helpful, so with this, this chapter is like a very broad view of things. It dissects the different pieces of this. I mean, so you're a developer. So you've probably worked with user stories before, right? Like, yes, as an administrator, I would like to be able to update billing information like like things, it sounds like that are pretty common, especially in the Agile world. And what this chapter is doing is, is laying the framework, not only for that, that hierarchy of tasks and activities, which is very important, but also for the different types of jobs that are going on at the same time. So you have that big goal of, for example, making more sales, right? Or for you, if you're you might be working with a developer who's building a website for a client like that is their end goal here. And there are many different things. So they're going through a process, right to build that website, they have different needs as they go through that process. For example, one might be making the steps of that process, or accomplishing the steps in that process as quickly as possibly, right. There might be different circumstances they're under, they might have six months to build this website, or they might have a week. There may also be emotional and social jobs going on too, like they want to feel competent as a developer, or they want to show their client that they can get quality work done. So there are all these different things going on. And where this helps specifically, it does talk about you know, in marketing, for example, if you speak to the overall job too broadly, it's just too vague. And I think that's when we get to websites, or a product and you're like, what do they even do? Like, it's not even clear, like, Yes, I want to retire comfortably. But it's very unclear to me how your app remotely gets me close to that. And so thinking about needs differently than the broader goal that someone is trying to do. And But mostly, where I find that this applies to my own work, is really understanding the process. And and this is something that the author talks about, in the beginning of the of the chapter, he talks about Copernicus, and how that revolutionize things going from the earth being the center of the universe, to the sun being the center. And his framing is that jobs be done forces companies to go from my product is the center of the universe. And that the customer's job is the customer's goal is to interact with my product and interact with my company, to instead that, you know, our company's job is to help people get things done better. And he actually framed it in a way that I had never heard anyone say before, which is that companies can buy customers, which makes so much sense and he doesn't just mean that literally in the terms of you know, you can go on Facebook and buy ads and buy customers that way. But he, you are you are the one who is going out and, you know, solving their needs and and buying them as a customer, which I thought was very interesting. Now I feel like I'm the one who's rambling. I don't know. Have you gotten anything useful out of this?

Colleen Schnettler  24:39  
I Not really. I know I'm excited about this book. Let me just say I mean, I know you're excited about this book, and I know this is your, your strength lies in this customer empathy stuff. And I feel but I feel like the words that You're saying are very hard to translate into actionable actions that can help me grow my business. Like I just there's a to me what you're saying makes sense like I understand you, I feel like it's kind of the same thing they say in story brand, which is your your cost, you are not the center of the universe, your customer is the center of the universe and but outside of being like nice and answering people's questions. I, you know, having a background in engineering, so no background in this stuff, and really struggling to turn that kind of like pros into actionable stuff.

Michele Hansen  25:42  
So I think you can actually see that you're turning it into actionable things. In fact, you have too many actions based on it. Yeah, we were, we were working on your email copy. And you weren't really getting enough useful information, actually, people weren't replying to you at all. And now you're not only getting feature requests, you're also getting understanding about the context that they're in, and the process they're going through to do that. And I think in this case, you know, your, your product may be the equivalent of laying the bricks. And while it's great to know that people want to lay bricks, they don't want to just lay bricks forever, right? The the famous phrase about this is that people don't want to drill, they want a quarter inch hole. And I would like to add to it, well, they don't actually want a quarter inch hole, they want to hang up a picture of their family on the wall so that they have something nice to look at when they walk by and they feel a warm feeling inside. Right? Like, it's not just about your product. And so what you're getting out of this is understanding of that broader process that they're in. And that information, helps you make decisions about what you should build next, it helps you understand, yeah, who might be a customer for me, who might have a higher propensity to pay me versus based on how often they need something like this, or how urgent their need for it is. All of those things can be dropped from using this kind of thinking. But I can definitely see how this sort of thinking. It takes a leap. And I admit, you know, when I when I was first exposed to it, I was like, we don't have time for this like with like, with like, I have deadlines. Like, right, like you want to add another, you know, like, I mean, I was, I remember when someone came to me about first even doing, you know, usability testing on you know, and we were, we were on pretty tight launch schedules that we didn't have control over. And, and I was like, you want to add another week until we can launch this? Like, did you go negotiate with the people who give us our deadlines that we're gonna do that? And they're like, No, and I was like, so what do you want me to do with this information, like, this sounds great. But like, I don't see how I can do anything with it. And, and I admitted, it took me a while, like maybe, you know, probably like six months or a year until I really started to get it. And after I had some launches that were you know, I wouldn't call them failures. But you know, we spent a lot of time doing things and it didn't have the effect we wanted and getting getting frustrated with that and feeling like we're spending all this time building stuff, and not having the kinds of effects that we had expected to have based on, you know, reading the tea leaves and spreadsheets, about what we should do. And, you know, it took me a very long time to come around from there to having interviews and and this kind of jobs to be done driven customer empathy, be the be the core of what I do. But it's it's it's just been so revelatory for me. But yeah, I absolutely empathize with the situation that you're like, what the hell is this? And why do I care? And I have stuff to do, like, just tell me something. Tell me how to raise my prices and get more customers? Like I don't I don't you know, that makes sense to me.

Colleen Schnettler  29:07  
Yeah, I am. I think we talked about this a lot. Like, I feel like this comes up a lot. Because I think what we're learning from you is that's really the secret to a successful business. I mean, you guys have like a geocoding API, no offense, but it's not really sexy. It's not like,

Michele Hansen  29:24  
yeah, it's really boring. Like, actually, I say, what I'm talking about this job's done stuff. I I'm like, you know what, like, coordinates are not stamps. Nobody collects them for the fun of it. They're trying to do something else with it. Like it's so boring that it's abundantly clear that it's not the end goal. I think that's almost a gift in and of itself.

Colleen Schnettler  29:49  
But I guess my point is, we talk about this a lot because somehow, despite I don't want to say despite it it's a great product, but it's a boring product, but you have great customer loyalty. And that is because of you. And it's because of this way of communicating and empathizing with your customers. But those of us who are kind of not kind of who are totally new to sales, and our engineers, you know, I'm not really known for my patience or my empathetic nature, right? I'm like, let's just write it down and get it done. And so it's, it's a fundamental mind shift, I think, to be like, okay, slow down. Like, let's try to dive into these, you know, these castles, these people are building and really understand these people. And I feel like it's slowly sinking in. But I feel like it's gonna take a while like, and I'm learning as I'm doing right. So I told you last week, I sent that email that I thought was brilliant that everyone hated, because no one responded. So you know, we changed the language and thought about it a little more. But I do think it's a process. Like, I feel like I'm learning it, but it does feel like it's a process.

Michele Hansen  30:51  
I feel like if we can build a business, in a commodity industry, where we are competing with billion dollar companies, then anybody can do this. And the secret to how we do that is using jobs to be done. Understanding what people are trying to do, understanding their whole process, and then making it faster and cheaper for them to get through that process and eating off other steps of the process to help them get done. What ever it is they want done.

Colleen Schnettler  31:29  
Yeah, it's just a completely different mindset. I mean, there's so many developers trying to start SaaSes. And I think this is like the piece we are missing. Because I think it is a fundamental mindset shift. And I think you have to practice it. And we're not used to practicing that.

Michele Hansen  31:47  
And I think that starting with your own need is a really helpful springboard into this. Because you naturally have some amount of empathy for yourself, maybe we don't all have 100% empathy for ourselves all the time. But you have some empathy for your own problems, you're able to understand how long it took you to do this and how annoying it was to have to build a file uploader every single time. You had that empathy built in, and you could see that need and what process that fit into and what the end goal was. And you were able to use that as a springboard to launch something. And now you're you're learning about what other people are trying to do. And I'm just so excited for you that people are bringing suggestions and problems and situations to you that you had never even thought of before. Like that's the most exciting thing for me when I sit down to interview someone. And I think we're going to talk about one thing and then we end up talking about something else that I never even realized would come up and it's so fun because it shows me how many more opportunities there are even in a super boring, commodity highly competitive industry.

Colleen Schnettler  33:03  
Well, that's going to wrap up this week's episode of the software social podcast. please reach out to us on Twitter at @softwaresocpod for your questions or comments. We'd love to hear from you. Hope you enjoyed the show.

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