It turns out that CNN had run a two minute segment profiling Yipit. By Sunday, they had aired the segment four times and we easily had our best ever two-day stretch across all key metrics including user sign-ups.
Did we get it because we had raised money, crossed 100,000 users or hired an expensive PR firm? No. The following is how it happened.
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Listening to Our Customers
Yipit’s primary product is to aggregate the best daily deals in your city (Groupon, LivingSocial, BuyWithMe, Yelp, Scoop St and 160+ others) and email the best ones to you based on preferences you set.
Since launching Yipit in February, we’ve had a policy to reach out to users that unsubscribe to collect feedback. We send them an email explaining that we’re a startup and offer them a $10 amazon gift card to get on the phone with us for 10 minutes and explain what happened.
I know that sounds like a lot of work, but we actually use a virtual assistant to handle the entire process of setting up the call. We just have to do the calls and everyone on the team does the calls.
In June, we got an unsubscribe from someone with a gmail address. We reached out to him and he explained via email that he had unsubscribed because he lived in Connecticut and didn’t think he would be able to use the New York deals we were recommending. But, he also explained that he was an executive producer for CNN’s Money Unit and wanted to set up a call with us.
Customer Development Process Got Us Profiled
It turns out that he was really impressed with two aspects of how we were running Yipit:
- We were reaching out to our unsatisfied customers to get their feedback on how to make Yipit better
- We had pivoted from an overall deals and coupon aggregation service to just focusing on daily deals based in part on those user feedback calls
After the call, he said they wanted to feature us on a series called “The Turnaround” that focuses on a business that makes a change that leads to more success. As he was telling us about the series, I was thinking to myself that the series really celebrated successful pivots, a key tenet of the customer development process popularized by Steve Blank and Eric Ries. We were getting profiled because we were following the customer development process!
Were We Just Lucky?
Clearly we had been very fortunate that one of the users that unsubscribed happened to be an executive producer at CNN. But, maybe we weren’t as lucky as it seems.
Isn’t the job of journalists to try out new services and report on them to their readers? I would expect that your earliest customers consists of not only early adopters but also a handful of influential tech journalists, magazines editors and executive producers.
In other words, aside from the many benefits of getting feedback from your early customers, yet another reason to talk to customers is an opportunity to have more meaningful conversations about your startup with the journalists who are trying it out. If you have good and meaningful conversations with them, they will probably be more likely to tell their audience about you.