I owe you an apology.
After publishing my last piece I’ve kept quiet on our blog. You could think that we’ve been inactive, distracted, or abandoned the whole idea.
Quite the opposite. Things have been absolutely crazy here at Inbill in the last months. I can’t say we landed a lot of customers, in fact they are very few, but! These are our ideal target customers, so we are happy to go to great lengths to serve them and build the product with their feedback.
In one of our beta user’s own words:
Emil it feels like we are your only customer! It’s like your team is doing everything exclusively for me and whenever we have a new request you are totally on top of it and you implement it next day!
Of course, it’s honorable to make every customer feel like they are your only one. We are putting one killer week after another, and it feels so great.
Now, do you already smell the problem?
Too often startups are desperate to just get any usage and any feedback when they are starting out. They enthusiastically jump on the opportunity to be busy. “Look, our customers tell us to do this and that!”
That’s why crossing the chasm is such a challenge. Early adopters naturally have the power to shape up your emerging product and are notorious for providing feedback and ideas. It’s so easy to get carried away with their excitement so that you lose sense of the product and end up with a convoluted monster.
How do we plan to escape this sad fate? Very easy! We were lucky enough to end up with a few beta-users that are our targeted audience and will make our long-term best type of customers. And it’s becoming easier to tell their feedback and requests from others.
There is probably only one way to not end up with a bloatware that nobody is happy with and to not hit the wall as a business. It is to always be conscious about who you build for, what your customer means (rather than says), and how it helps your product scale for targeted customers.
This is because the more your product matures, the more distinct your customers’ needs will become, and you will end up at a crossroads of equally attractive opportunities. Do not commit to several paths before you even arrive there.
There’s a subtle yet important change in feedback happening. Early feedback like “Search is slow!” or “Your Zendesk app’s performance is poor” (read: your product is broken) is gradually transitioning to “We need separate agent groups with different refund power” and “Your transaction log should show the name of the agent who did the charge” (read: ok, now bend your product towards my needs).
Since we are in beta, there are a lot of things to polish and things that simply don’t exist in the product. Knowing who we build for allows us to be very selective and stay on the assumed path to product market fit. It’s choosing the customer and committing to solve their specific pain vs building a product and seeing who might want to use it.
As soon as qualitative feedback is encouraging, I’m optimistic about our ability to cross the chasm.
As a bonus: this approach is also better for the product roadmap. We are planning to exit beta with 10 kickass features faster than we would with 50 half-assed ones. When? Read in my next post.