Being naturally a bit of a maven, and also a closet gamer, I tend to fall into the camp of a super user or early adopter of technology. When I like a product, I dig in and figure out how it works. I tend to use features regular people wouldn’t consider. Like the database functions in excel , or yes, even pivot tables! What normal person would use those features on a regular basis? It’s the same drive that made me perfect my tennis swing, or has me now to taking piano lessons. But I wander…
I think a lot of technologists are similar. It’s part of their DNA to figure out how things work. Product people are naturally driven to want to continue perfecting things, adding in new features, and growing the utility of the product. So it’s also natural for product-centric Startups to initially reach out to like-minded people who will play along with this adventure; encouraging new features, providing feedback, digging in and getting really into the product.
In the Lean Startup world, these are called early adopters. They are really necessary as part of the early growth of a product, in that they validate your initial assumptions and are usually open and friendly with providing feedback. However, for real staying power a Startup needs to get past these devoted users and attract a wider base of regular steady customers.
It’s normal in technology that leading edge products tend to be highly specialized. Not only are products sometimes cheaper when they get beyond the technology curve, they are sometimes simpler to get started with and easier to use. Wider adoption requires getting passed the Mr. Gadget stage. Where a product stops trying to be the next big thing and becomes a steady reliable utility item.
Focusing beyond the early adopter to people who will use the product consistently, though not always daily or fully, is a big stepping stone for Startups. Not acknowledging this sector and not building with them in mind can be a death knoll. Although early adopters are critical to get initially moving, they can also be fickle and get distracted when the next big thing comes along.
You’re likely to see more long-term traction from the steady sometimes User. As well, they are probably better advocates in the long run. We tend to pay attention when the everyday user adopts a new product. If you don’t try to engage these these Users, then you may lose them as customers. So you need to make it easy for them to use the product and sometimes show them the value because they won’t necessarily go hunting for it.
It takes finding that balance between trying to promote new feature enhancement and servicing a segment.
When analyzing usage statistics for information to help with retention, I believe you need to look at usage by segment. Identify your Super Users as outliers – and segment them accordingly. You do want to keep them – they help you innovate, but look at them separately so that their behavior doesn’t impact thinking about the other segment of users.
Then look at what the majority of the people are doing on the system. Try to make what they are doing as easy as possible. Though either the product or service solutions.
Look at what they are not doing, and try to find out why.
Is it simply that they are unaware of the feature. Having a “new features” mailing or landing page on log in is a good way to keep people informed. Thought he trick is to present this in a way that is not overwhelming. The last thing a regular user wants when logging on after a time is to be hit with a huge laundry list of changes.
It might be that they don’t know the value. Again, finding a way either by email distribution, easy-start wizards or hints and recommendations can be a way to coax users into trying new features. Remember these are people that won’t necessarily go hunting for the feature, so you have to find a way to serve it up to them.
Treat this segment well. They are likely your bread and butter.
Photo credit: Microsoft Clipart