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How to contact your app users when you want to interview and listen to them?

We know that we should always listen to our customers, their demands, what they dislike, etc. And in mobile apps, we often even have their contact information through their sign up process.

So my question is - what in your experience is best way to contact them? I want to them to not feel it is SPAM and I don't want them to freak out that suddenly their information is visible to the founders.

Any tips?

Or do you not proactively engage them at all and only make it easier for them to contact you?

Thanks a bunch in advance for your thoughts!

8 Replies

Alex Gourley
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Alex Gourley Entrepreneur
Founder at Active Theory Inc
I highly suggest you try and get in touch via some non-spammy channel. You'll learn a lot and you'll build relationships with users who will continue to champion you and write good reviews.

We do it for www.bitgym.com in a bunch of ways:

1. We ran a kickstarter - we asked these backers for a 15 minute skype call and used timecenter.com to have them pick the slots to call/skype.
2. We send a welcome email asking them a couple questions on signup and if they reply it goes to me. Often we ask these users if they can talk on the phone so we can learn more about how and why they use our product.
3. We try to get people onto facebook where we can solicit opinions.
4. We follow up with users who reach out for support issues via our uservoice page.
5. We have olark live chat on our homepage.

In general we're very transparent and try to keep communications in a tone we'd use with friends, and I've never seen anyone imply or act as if it's annoying or off putting.

On the contrary it often jiujitsus people with serious bugs or issues into our biggest fans!
Lawrence I Lerner
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Lawrence I Lerner Entrepreneur • Advisor
Digitalization and Transformation Coach
Ive used a double opt-in survey and email list. The users were thrilled to be asked. You can also put a link on your home page asking for feedback. Lawrence I Lerner \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ Direct: +[removed to protect privacy] Blog: RevolutionaryInnovator Twitter: @RevInnovator
Mark Neild
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Mark Neild Advisor
Empowering quietly creative people to prosper through innovative yet authentic and engaging business models
Stefan There are quite a few things you can do: 1. Depending on your App you can use analytics to monitor which bits of the app get the most interest or analyse key strokes to get insight on popularity or UX. 2. You can use an auto responder in the sign up process that encourages users to opt in to a review call a week or so after they start using the product - get them to agree a time for a call / chat 3. You can keep an eye on your support pages and provide live chat for users who need support 4. you can encourage users to suggest new features via email / social media and offer other users support via community pages 5. You can invite users to opt in to a regular survey 6. You can feature the most interesting uses of your app in a weekly blog 7. People like newsletters etc so long as they contain valuable content and have the option to opt out. Plus you can track which articles get the most attention if you structure the blog. / newsletter as headlines with click through to main content. I am sure there are more ideas out there. Mark
Bill Korbecki
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Bill Korbecki Advisor
Lead Mobile Architect at HighGround, Inc.
To be honest, I think it all depends on the situation. Over the past year or so I've seen a couple services I've used which have contacted me directly with personal (non-chain email) responses (i.e. Parse.com, etc.)... I found myself being impressed and drawn to the service more than I otherwise would. That being said, their contact was more of a "if you need anything, let us know" response, rather than something trying to get me to help immediately. It's quite possible that made all the difference in my impression. But if they were to contact me again later to ask for help, I feel I'd be more inclined to do so due to their attempts to create a personal connection with me. The personal connection seems to be a lost art... and some companies seem to be doing a great job of recreating it without being pushy with their own agendas. In my opinion, their long play towards a relationship will probably help them out to great lengths when they truly need the assistance down the line.

Not sure that helps, but figured I'd give my 2 cents.
Carolyn Branco
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Carolyn Branco Entrepreneur
Head of Marketing at Snupps
We contacted them directly. The sign up process led to a mailchimp subscription and then we reached out to customers (in our case beta sign ups) in batches.

The email was conversational and communicated that we were building the product around them, and thus wanted their feedback. We had great success with an incentive of a 10 dollar amazon gift card for 10 minutes of time (and do course the early access to our product). We set up Skype chats, got permission to record and took copious notes. We also did very little talking and more active listening and probing them for questions about their problems that our app could address.

Surveys and analytics get you pretty far in understanding that you have problems to solve, but the real insights come from customers. Now that we aren't just discovering our customers problems and in private beta, and now trying to improve metrics (and customer experience) we are now going through the same experience with our best and worst customers. Our best users get this approach, and whenever anyone wants to delete their account we also offer a gift card for a call with them.

The email that worked best with us was a very conversational subject line ( have time for a quick chat?)
And a formatted well designed email template.

I actually a/b tested a personal email (non formatted direct to customer) vs a formatted mailchimp template (similar content) with a big cta button and we found that the latter was the winner by a mile. And by.a mile I mean, 60 percent open rate and 12 percent response rate (actually scheduling a call). I guess these templates exist for a pretty good reason.

We also do some of the other stuff mentioned (very high touch customer support, even though we are a free app) but reaching out to customers, and asking customer development (open ended non leading) questions have gotten us the most feedback. Fundamental rule of marketing applies - people don't care about your business, they only care about themselves. Get them to talk about themselves and their problems (that relate to areas you can help) and you'll strike gold.





Mark Neild
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Mark Neild Advisor
Empowering quietly creative people to prosper through innovative yet authentic and engaging business models
Carolyn I think this is brilliant. Tell me, did you use a CRM tool to capture the insights? And did you find the feedback counter-intuitive? This discussion has inspired me to research for an article on what the Business Model Canvas calls CRM and really like practical examples of what people do that works rather than the version of CRM that many tool vendors pedal.
Stefan Broda
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Stefan Broda Entrepreneur
Partner Program Manager at Atlassian
Wow, thank you Mark, Carolyn and Alex, Bill and Lawrence or your great input!
Carolyn Branco
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Carolyn Branco Entrepreneur
Head of Marketing at Snupps
Hi Mark -

Nope, no CRM. We thought about it. Just Excel and Google Forms was good enough.

We actually made a really long survey (that we filled out and used to drive the discussion). Customer development Steve Blank/Giff Constable style isn't usually that structured. We have really complicated use cases/problems, so we needed a system to make sure we're talking to everyone about everything.

Let me stop talking in vague generalities here. So the product we're working on is a digital organizer for your stuff (physical items). There are an infinite number of use cases.

Originally, when we talked to customers, we talked to a segment about their problems with that segment. So I talked to mothers about keeping track of their kids stuff. And I talked to designers about tracking their inspiration and creations. And scifi geeks about their comic book collections. These were all in person and out of the building. We found problems in those areas, but some were weak. And some were things we couldn't solve.

But with this system, where we reached out to customers (via beta list signup), we talked to targeted people who are already interested in our product, about everything. We made sure to ask everyone about creations, collections, kids, and other use cases (inventory etc).

And what was surprising is the crossover and overlapp. People are complicated. We found that one collector cared about estate planning, rather than another system for organizing his collection, and vice versa.

We allowed the conversations to go where they needed to go, but made sure to hit the key points about each problem, and of course, how we would end up acquiring them in the future (what blogs do they read, where do they get their information about apps etc). Questions were VERY open ended, and not about the app and each section would have a filter question. (Like do you accumulate anything or collect anything at all?)

We recorded the conversations, and then (and this is insane), I transcribed the best ones and highlighted stuff they said in common. What were the motivations and problems the talked about? All this took a lot of time, but it really helped me get into the customers head.

From there we came up with the major problems people talked about and then come up with our messaging and four main use cases.

In terms of referring to this in the future, I do go back to them when one of those very early customers email me, so I can remember the ages of their daughters etc. But most of the insight came from just active listening and transcribing.

Message me if you'd like more info. I can share a bit more too.








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