using feedback to better your SaaS product

How to use feedback to better your SaaS product and GTM strategy

Adriana Rubio
Sep 10, 2021

One of the biggest mistakes pre-PMF (product-market fit) SaaS start-ups make when going to market for the first time with their MVP (minimum viable product) is trying to sell their product. 

It sounds counterintuitive, but the reality is with an MVP, your first goal should be to find the right audience and learn from their feedback. 

The value of user feedback and market networking 

An MVP is called that for a reason, it’s the most basic version of your product that you can go to market with. It’s not the final product and it’s not the best version of your product. Not that your product will ever be final or its best version, as we all know, product development is an ongoing journey. 

However, the point of an MVP is to gain insight from your customers to ensure that your product is moving in the right direction. Without their raw feedback, your product development roadmap will be your best guess, and more often than not, it won’t be the right guess. 

Which is why it’s so important not to spend time trying to perfect your MVP, but instead putting forth the most foundational pieces in order for you to go out to test quickly, get real feedback, and iterate your product and marketing strategy appropriately. 

One way to do this is through outbound marketing which is essentially cold emailing. The key here is not to sell. I like to call this messaging approach “networking sequences” because, in reality, they are just that. 

Your goal is to network with your potential users to confirm if you are targeting the right audience, your product is targeting the right pain, and how you can make your product even better. 

Outbound marketing in action: a real-life feedback example

The first hurdle is developing this messaging because naturally, you will want to talk about yourself, your product, and sell it to them. What you need to do is be more casual and even let them know in the email “this is not a sales call.”  Here is an example of a messaging template I used for one of my clients: 

Hi {firstname},

This might be an imposition, but I'd love to ask a favor of you. Is there any chance you’re up for a conversation about {insert pain you are targeting}? 

No sales pitch, just a real conversation to learn from each other. I’m trying to have meaningful conversations with experts in the space to gather insights as we build our {insert type of product}. 

I’m happy to share trends we’ve noticed from our side, as well.

Let me know if you’re up for a quick chat!

{insert signature here}

P.S. {insert personalization}

 

For this particular client, we had previously run both email and LinkedIn outreach campaigns and quickly learned that their audience was much more responsive through LinkedIn. So we narrowed our platform to LinkedIn only and once we spent all our efforts there we received a 17.21% positive response rate. 

For reference, the average LinkedIn industry response rate is 5%. Not only this, but we were targeting C-level executives at enterprise companies. We got responses from executives at companies like The New York Times, Estee Lauder, Electronic Arts, Walmart, and Lifetime Fitness just to name a few. 

There are a few details I want to highlight that I found made our campaign so successful:  

  • Honesty and casual tone. It sounds like a human speaking, not a robot. You are taking into consideration their feelings. 
  • Mentioning that this is not a sales pitch and that’s the truth. It’s a real conversation to learn from one another and if your product accurately targets their pains then it will organically turn into a sales opportunity. If not, then you learned why not and it’s important to take note of this. I don’t recommend changing your entire product direction based on one conversation—you need to find trends.  
  • Offering them something in return is always helpful. 
  • Personalization always makes outreach messaging much more effective. However, you need to ensure that your personalization is not forced or dare I say “creepy.” Only personalize it if you have relevant and recent information to utilize. If you don’t, then skip the personalization. 

It took my team several rounds of quick iterations to finally find the messaging that worked. We also narrowed down our audience. Originally we were targeting all types of C-level executives but noticed that one specific type responded more, so we focused on that title and in doing so we were able to tweak and target the messaging. This boosted our numbers even more. 

Using advice interviews to further your MVP

So, we got these amazing results. Now what? The sales team needs to deliver and it may not be easy convincing the sales team to go into these non-sales sales calls. I recently read a book called “The Innovator’s Method” by Nathan Furr and Jeff Dyer, and they had a great framework and way of navigating these types of sales calls. They call them “Advice Interviews.” They find that “advice” is the magic word to put potential customers at ease. Notice, I didn’t use the word “advice” in my messaging, but it used a similar advisory tone so it seemed to work. 

According to Furr and Dyer, once you have interviews arranged, ask three questions and then listen, listen, listen. These questions are as follows:

  1. Quickly and clearly describe the problem you see. Describing the problem will make customers confident that you know something and will serve as an anchoring point to the conversation. Don’t go to potential customers with a blank sheet and expect something to happen.
  2. Ask, “Do you face this same challenge, too, or a different challenge? Tell me about it.” This gives you a chance to find out whether customers really have the problem you hypothesized. If they don’t, you can explore what challenges they really face.
  3. Ask, “Would something like this solve that problem?” and then describe your theoretical prototype. At this stage, you shouldn’t become too solution-focused, but discussing a potential solution will help you get better feedback on the problem. Customers react to the concrete, not the abstract. So you might think about bringing a drawing, storyboard, or PowerPoint slide to help them visualize a solution. This will help them talk about why the solution might, or might not, work to solve their problem. 

Try to record these conversations if possible. They will be helpful for your marketing, product, sales, and customer success teams to learn from. Make sure to keep detailed notes as well. You’ll want to track any trends or patterns that emerge after you’ve done several of these. More importantly, take action. Even if they aren’t the right fit or don’t respond well to your product, try to understand why and evolve accordingly. 

Finding the right customers for your SaaS product

As a company with an MVP, these advice interviews are your lifeline. No, they may not give you sales overnight, but it’s the right path to nailing true PMF. Those overnight sales tend to churn quickly anyway. What you want are customers who:

  • Are invested in your product
  • Have helped you build your product
  • Believe in your product
  • Have a strong relationship with you 

Those customers are the ones who will pay and stay, become your advocates, and will be pivotal in building you a long-lasting, strong referral loop. All these are crucial elements to reach PMF. 

If you have tried this approach and are not getting the results you desire. I recommend going back to the drawing board. There are several reasons why this approach wouldn’t work:

  • Are you targeting the right pain? 
  • The right audience? 
  • Responding quickly? 
  • Really listening to them during the conversation? 

It might take a few iterations to nail this approach. But once you do, you’ll be well on your way to achieving PMF. 

To learn more about MVP and PMF check out the articles below:

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