We thought we were solving a real pain. We proved it with a survey! Turns out we were treating a symptom without a real understanding of the disease.
Our startup, Pintics, was focused on the needs of businesses who interact with Pinterest. Our initial hypothesis (proven, if nothing else, by the sheer amount of competitors that followed) was that businesses wanted analytics to manage their Pinterest activity in order to improve traffic and sales generated. Since Pinterest had not yet provided any analytics, it seemed to be a ‘good idea’ in a ‘hot market’.
Survey all the users!
Our first instinct was to add a survey to our sign-up page, and lo-and-behold, potential users seem to like our proposal. Within a few weeks, we put together a working MVP and 45 days later our stats showed great growth, but engagement was two or three visits a month, where we expected daily usage. In the meantime, we had slowed down our customer development and feedback process, thought about adding more features, and we scratched our heads and wondered why our traction was slower than what our surveys would indicate.
60 days later, after receiving rather blunt mentor feedback to get real and pick up the damned phone and call users and talk to them, especially those with issues, we discovered why people wanted ‘Pinterest Analytics’ – They simply wanted to sell more via Pinterest. Plain and simple.When we stopped doing customer development, we stopped learning.
Talk to the Humans
After a few calls directly with our users, we realized that a lot of users who signed up, didn’t even have their own websites yet. Instead, they were selling via ebay and etsy. Unfortunately, our assumption was that they would link their Pinterest board data to Google Analytics on their site and be able to directly see how Pinterest traffic converted to sales. Without a site, it didn’t help them too much.
Because of this, our analytics just confirmed what our users already expected to see in their Pins. Sometimes there were a few surprises, but our MVP was not generating new ‘knowledge’ just yet.’ Therefore daily usage of Pintics wasn’t necessarily what they needed.
This insight happened after only a dozen user calls, when we were told that our MVP was doing very well on only 2 of our 5 features (ouch), but their main concern was selling more, and analytics was just a tool they picked to be ready later.
But much more importantly, we were able to understand the root cause of our users’ pain just by asking, “Have you learned anything new using Pintics?”
We finally understood that their main everyday pain was the difficulty in selling their goods and services. They spent most of their time setting up their sales. They hated Ebay’s design and wanted a better design for an online store. Analytics-time was less important. Only a few power users would use our analytics daily, instead of a few times a month.
Customer Need Pivot
As Tristan Kromer mentioned on his blog about pivoting, this is called a “customer need pivot”, where you solve a different need of your targeted market. Doing this, in my mind, is very similar to what a good doctor should do, which is to discover the real root cause of your pain and to cure you of it, instead of giving you more aspirin. (Someone in pain would gladly take both, but one is more valuable than the other in the long term.)
In this case, the real pain was a lack of sales due to the difficulty of selling online. Plus, design-wise, a better solution was requested time and time again. We had users, a place where they congregate (Pinterest) with similar needs and willing to pay. While giving them analytics was a way to make them ‘feel better’ it really didn’t alleviate their pain and main need.
The moral of the story – Ask your users to walk you through their daily routine, understand where and if your service fits and understand the cause of the pain. Then, create a cure, not aspirins.
In response, we are about to launch an e-commerce service – shopinterest.co, that allows our users to sell easy, fast and create a well designed e-store in minutes, while we plan to integrate the analytics later on. Plus, with this approach we can monetize faster than on analytics alone. We hope to stay closer to our users and do more customer feedback along the lines in person, via calls, and rely less in online surveys.
Wish us luck!