Growth & Marketing

On The Path To Product Market Fit, Don’t Wait For Statistical Significance

Mar 15, 2016

By Dave Gerhardt

Data is powerful because it’s black and white. It’s concrete. Data takes the guesswork and gut calls out of decisions. And data has helped transform marketing’s perception from fluffy and “arts and crafts” to a role that is crucial to driving growth and predictable revenue.

But when it comes to startups, sometimes we can go too far in the other direction. We have a tendency to focus so much on being data-driven that we forget about being customer-driven.

As Segment CEO Peter Reinhardt said, “20 hours of great interviews probably would’ve saved us an accrued 18 months of building useless stuff.”

Data is crucial, but data is a look in the rear view mirror.

In the early days of a startup, you can’t lead with just data. Plus, for most early stage companies, it would take months to get results back that are statistically significant – and on the path to finding product market fit, who can afford to pull over and wait to see what the data says?

Quantitative data is most powerful when it’s paired with customer feedback – and the only true way to get customer feedback is to put in the time and effort to talk to your customers. But you don’t need to spend weeks on weeks talking to thousands of people. Henry Devries and Chris Stiehl taught us that just 12-15 one-on-one customer interviews reveal about 80 percent of all possible pain points for your segment.

Here are three simple ways to talk to your customers more often without ever having to leave your standup desk.

Three Ways To Talk To Your Customers More Often

1) Send a welcome email with a purpose

Too many people treat their welcome email as a throw away, or something that gets written at the last minute as a finishing touch to onboarding.

But here’s what you need to know about your welcome email: it is the single most important email that you will send.

At Drift, our welcome email blows all of our other emails out of the water when it comes to engagement, with a 76% open rate and a 25% click rate – compared the industry average of 21% and 2% respectively (thanks to MailChimp’s benchmarks).


It’s rare that you’re going to get this level of attention again without putting in a ton of effort, so make sure to write your welcome email with a purpose.

Yes, it should be smart, funny, and welcoming – but it should also be designed to get a response. Ask new users why they signed up, what they are looking to accomplish, what they’re struggling with, or what brought them to use your product or service.

Put yourself in the shoes of the reader – what’s the one question you could put in your welcome email that would get a response?

2) Start measuring Net Promoter Score

Net Promoter Score (NPS) was introduced to the world by Bain & Company in 2003, and since then has become the standard for measuring customer satisfaction in SaaS.

Slack CMO Bill Macaitis has said he’s not satisfied when someone signs up and becomes a paying customer. He cares about whether or not new users will recommend Slack to their friends and colleagues.

Atlassian President Jay Simons has said that NPS is the most important leading indicator of future growth – and as a result, every employee at Atlassian gets a digest of customer feedback each month that includes the latest NPS scores and any of the comments that came with it.

Start by asking all of your customers the NPS question daily so you can begin benchmarking the score and, most importantly, track the qualitative feedback.

This is where the real gold is – not the actual score. Take the time to read each response and bucket the feedback appropriately.

Daily NPS works well for early stage startups who might not have a dedicated customer success team. This way, you can manage a few responses a day, vs. trying to deal with thousands of responses at once. Use this as an opportunity to reply to each customer personally and start a conversation. At Drift, for example, we ask promoters for referrals, and reach out to passives and detractors directly to figure out where we need to improve.


3) Sometimes, you just have to ask

One of the best ways to start talking to more customers is also the most obvious: you just have to ask.

In late 2014, Groove CEO Alex Turnbull noticed a spike in churn and wanted to go beyond the metrics and the dashboards to figure out why – so he sent an email to every single customer asking for a few minutes of their time to talk. He spent more than 100 hours talking to 500 Groove customers and ended up with feedback that helped him right the ship.

In Alex’s case, he reached out to everyone via email at once which produced hundreds of responses But just like we talked about with NPS, you can also create on-going campaigns designed to get customer feedback one by one.

Sending an email blast to every customer is certainly one way to get feedback, but you can also use your customer data to create relevant segments.

In-app messages have become the most valuable tool for us to get feedback from our customers when we need it at Drift, since we can show the message to a particular set of customers when they are actually doing something right inside of our product – and in some cases, you can get feedback in seconds. And more often than not, people are reading email on the go, or at a time when the last thing they’re thinking about is Drift.

How Often Will You Talk To Your Customers?

Whether you work on product or in sales and marketing, talking to a customer is the single most impactful thing you can do everyday.

It’s the only that you’ll truly experience the real things they care about, the frustrations they feel every day, and the exact language they use to describe your product and their challenges every day.

So, how often do you talk to your customers?

P.S. Start talking to customers today, live on your site for free. Learn more about Drift.

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