Talk to your users. Such a simple phrase. Such a seemingly easy task.
So why don’t we do it all the time?
Because we either convince ourselves that we don’t need to “right now” or that we don’t have the time – we will once we just build this feature or this product.
Oh how wrong that is.
I feel like know better and even I convinced myself that I was still talking to my users because I still manned certain shifts on our incoming customer text line and was literally “talking to users”. How easy it is to convince yourself of something you want to believe.
It’s no wonder then that the path in front of me started to get foggy. Not as clear. Full of divergent paths.
I started to feel unfocused. Stagnated. Without direction. I did everything to try to course correct. I sat down and made nice 2×2 matrices to summarize what I knew about our business. I did “whiteboard sessions” with our team to brainstorm. I talked to mentors and advisors.
Exactly all the wrong things.
I was facing the wrong way.
I needed to turn outwards, back to the only answer there has ever been – our users.
Last week I ask my CTO to create a randomizer that listed 10 random customers in a Slack channel called # talktoyourusers at exactly 8:30am every day.
It was hard on the first day – reaching out cold to these 10 people – some of whom were regulars and from early days that I “knew” and others that had just joined or even had signed up and then paused their accounts. I started to talk to them about why they used Poppy, how it fit into their lives, what we could be doing better.
Immediately I started to see the results. It’s been electrifying and has provided a clarity I haven’t had since the earliest days and during YC.
Not all 10 respond. Some end up as hour long phone calls while others are a quick back and forth by text. But by individually looking at their accounts, their usage patterns, their family structures and neighborhoods I’m invigorating my instincts about my own business from the ground up. It’s rooted in the realities of my users not the other way around.
It’s be less than a week and already I can see and hear themes that I can connect into the product ideas that show me the path forward. More than that, this has simplified and focused the world for me.
I don’t know why or when exactly I stopped doing this… but it’s inevitable. When we only had 100, or even 500 users, I knew each one – I signed them all up, I talked to all of them. But now that we’re well into the multiple thousands of users, I struggled with how to make it consistent and accessible.
One Slack channel, a couple lines of code and a daily commitment. I have my truth, my entrepreneurial muse back. I start the day on a high like after I’ve worked out. I can’t explain it. But it’s true.
Like anything, with practice it becomes second nature so that even just a couple days in I find myself asking questions of the strangers around me that I wasn’t doing a week ago.
But it’s not just for me. My team needs to share in this approach and hear the insights – they can’t just live in my head. So in the same channel, I’ve started dumping what I learned or what they wrote back. Now my team has contributing their own conversations. It’s a living breathing fountain of insight.
Of all the advice I can ever give on this journey, this will always be the most important.
Talk to your users. Never ever stop.
I don’t care if you or your team uses your product. That might have been the best reason to start the company (I know it was for me). But that can’t sustain your growth or your path forward simply on your needs alone.
Build your own Slack channel today. Keep digging for those insights from the people that are your company’s only salvation. The people you live to serve.
Once you start (again), you’ll find you can’t stop.
Best yet, you won’t want to.