Make or Break – Establishing Product Market Fit is Crucial to Success

Episode 52 Make or Break Establishing Product Market Fit is Crucial to Success

Transcript

Hessie Jones

So product market fit is a make or break factor for startups. Even the best products can fail without market demand, while an average product can actually succeed if there is demand that exists. So what does it look like? Once companies reach this critical milestone. The product resonates with the market and that means that customers buy actively. They use the product they recommend the product to others in sufficient numbers. So there’s enough to sustain growth and profitability when there is product market fit. So welcome to tech consensus. My name is Hessie Jones. Investors often demand. Evidence of this product market that before they’re investing in a company. So it demonstrates that your product has real demand and a viable market, especially at the early stages of growth. So here’s some examples of notable companies that have pivoted and achieved this product market fit. So Apple is a big one. If everybody remembers, they initially focused on personal computers, but then they had this game changing pivot to the iPhone, which combined. And and a phone, a music player, Internet access. And they revolutionized the mobile phone industry. So Uber is another one. They actually started as a luxury black car service. But they realized the real opportunity actually resided in ride sharing. It was more accessible. It was more convenient, and it disrupted the traditional taxi industry. I don’t know if people remember Airbnb, what they actually went into the market for, but they aim to provide mattresses. For travelers during COVID. That they soon focused on vacation rentals, and they connected travelers with unique accommodations, and they tapped into a market need that disrupted the hotel industry forever. So the final one is slack. They were initially a gaming company, and they pivoted. To create a team collaborations platform and this platform, from what I read was that was something that they actually built for themselves to improve collaboration, to sync conversations among their team and to improve productivity overall. So all these companies had a couple of things in common. When they recognize market shifts, they adapted to change and they stayed tuned to many of the market needs they demonstrated. There is this flexible flexibility they demonstrated, sorry, their flexibility and strategic adjustments that were essential to actually achieving. Product market fit. So having said all that, I’d like to welcome Abhishek Mathur to the. Page he is the VP of Product Management at Pipe at which is a secure data collaboration solutions provider. He’s also one of our advisors at altitude Accelerator and he is seasoned in digital media, ICT financial services. He has experience in B2BB2C strategies. He knows he has done product development, has also done business development and he knows how to scale businesses to drive sustainable growth. That means that you’re going. To be awesome on this conversation.

Abhishek Mathur

Thanks a lot for having me here. Excited to have this conversation on honestly. One of my favorite topics of product management.

Hessie Jones

OK, awesome. So this is going to be really good. OK, so let’s start with you telling us a little bit about yourself and your entrepreneurial experience and specifically from these experiences, what were the challenges and or I’d say processes that got your companies? Or your the companies that you managed to product market fit.

Abhishek Mathur

Yeah, absolutely. So over the course of the most of the last 10 years, I’ve worked at a very small stage. Companies all venture backed startups and effectively been the product manager, lead product manager for each one of them. The startups have been anywhere from seed. Stage two series Z. So I’ve seen something very, very small as in like 7 people companies, and I’ve also seen companies as large as 300 people, essay series E and of course I’ve done some enterprise work as well, but starts like what? We’ll keep the focus for today. On and I’ve also built a couple of strips as well. Personally, I just enjoy the whole company building process, so I’ve ventured on that side as. Well, so when we talk about actually product market fit, I think it’s a a term that a lot of startups, a lot of founders. Think deeply about, but it’s one also those topics that is not as well defined. It ends up being quite nebulous in terms of what does that actually mean? How do you actually know you have achieved it? And frankly, the way to really kind of simplify the definition for founders and startups is to really build a product for the right user or company segment that really, really has like a core problem that your product can solve for in a good way or a good enough way for your target customers. To say yes, it’s solve a problem and I I wanna use it. I wanna buy it. I wanna keep coming back. Right. So that’s like in a very, very simplistic terms like talking about product market fit, what does that mean for your business? What does that mean for your customers? Customers have a problem they’re looking to solve that problem as long as your product can solve that in a good way and you can distribute that that product over to your target customers well. Then that effectively helps you say whether you’ve. Got product market fit or?

Hessie Jones

Not OK so. That that’s like. Ways into to the next question, which is you’re basically saying your customer is core to everything that you do. It helps. Do you risk a lot of the things that you end up doing or spending within your company like hiring new people in sales and marketing? It’s going to determine? Many of your cultural decisions, so it’s crucial when you you you start to really understand to your customers. So what’s steps do you take to to really understand your customer?

Abhishek Mathur

Yeah, absolutely. So effectively starts it can be in a pre product market fit stage and a post post product market fit stage. And in the pre product market fit stage, founders need to work actually quite hard. Just speaking with their customers and prospects on a regular basis to form some level of hypothesis. We’ll dive into this a little bit more as well. But effective we’re talking about like sales hiring market like all of that needs to happen, but it’s it’s good to kind of. Focus on those fronts. Once you’ve kind of figured out or have a good signal for product market fit. So once again let’s dive into pre product market fit and what can you actually do for. So customer discovery is like the core of it and customers are the center of you trying to figure out your product market. Fit journey. So how do you actually go about doing that? First thing is to really kind of identify your target customer segment. So if you’re a B2B customer or sorry a B2B company, then you want to identify within what vertical. Or within what function are you solving that? For for example, you look at any of the enterprise companies these days, a bunch of AI stores that are popping up, they know that they need to target data scientists at, say, enterprise companies, 10,000 people or larger companies, or if it’s like a mid market, then it’s like 5 to 10,000. So we’re kind of defining what is that company persona look like. That is going to have or experience that problem that your company is looking to solve. The startup is looking to solve for. And then within that company, who is that actual person who is going to experience that problem the most? Or call them the users they’re going to use your product into solving for their problem and then basically speak with them over and over and over across many, many different organizations to try to validate some of the core. Hypothesis that you have on the problem that you’re looking to sow. So if you say solve a problem in the HR space, you want to speak to as many HR managers as you can in different companies and validate that hey, if payroll is a problem that you’re going to. Solve within HR. Talk about payroll and make sure that that problem that you’re going to solve for using your product that actually exists. Once you can validate that the problem actually exists and this is like the whole point of customer discovery. That allows you to kind of move forward and figure out, hey, the problem actually exists. Then I can figure out how do I build my. Product around that.

Hessie Jones

Is there a point where when you validate the problem exists like how many? How much of the research do you need to do? I guess across how many different companies to actually say, OK, this is an overriding problem, we’re going to go after that.

Abhishek Mathur

Yeah, it’s it’s a really good question and unfortunately no simple answer towards this. If you are starting off and you are. Getting signal very quickly from people that you’re speaking with, then the discovery process could be relatively short, but from what I’ve seen it’s very in the B2B world. It’s very valuable to speak to at least 50 to 100 companies or 50 to 100 people to try to get that level of volume. If you’re saying speaking with only 5-10 people. Then there could be biases that are introduced. There could be, like overlooking. Like might you might not catch. It’s just like when you are getting to that 50 to 100 number of people that you’re speaking with, that’s when you start to get that critical mass and inform more of like a stronger signal on the problem that you’re actually solving for. And it’s so much better to actually validate this at an earlier stage before you’ve actually gone ahead. And I built out a full on product. I know we’re gonna talk about that a little bit later on as well, but doing this at the early stage at the beginning is so important because what you don’t want to do is build something for a market that doesn’t exist or for a problem that doesn’t exist.

Hessie Jones

OK, so now you’ve gotten to the point where you’ve identified this is the problem that we’re going to try to solve against this ideal customer profile. So what does that look like that I that ICP?

Abhishek Mathur

Yeah, that’s ICP is honestly one of the most important things to kind of define. And it’s not necessarily needed for founders to have that concrete like at the beginning, and make sure that kind of sticks throughout. There are basically at the beginning you are driving it or writing a hypothesis on this. You can have a hypothesis of in a. Small bank, which has less than 5000 employees with some level of assets under management. I’m going to speak with the. Tech team over there. Because they probably experience problems AB and C. Right. So you can have that as like an initial level of hypothesis you go and try to validate some of the problems around that and it could very well be true that, hey, it’s actually not a small bank. It’s actually thin text that you want to work with. So it’s completely fine to kind of modify that hypothesis that you have around the ICP. So the way you can, like modify the OR. Sorry, segment ICP or ideal customer profile, it can be around. The company size it could be around the person who’s actually working at the company and their function. It could be around how frequently they experience a particular problem, their day-to-day behavior, who they who they interact with. Geolocation regulations are subject to. There’s so many ways to kind of define that actual criteria, which is actually. Quite fun as a founder to work on on your side, to define that that ends up becoming your hypothesis. Then you go ahead and speak with folks so you can validate the hypothesis or invalidate the hypothesis, which is equally as valuable because you’re trying to figure out you’re getting to. The ground truth. And no matter if it validates or invalidates that both answers are great. You just trying to figure out what you have in mind. Is that going to work or is that not going to work? You need to get to a ground truth of an answer.

Hessie Jones

OK, so when when you’re actually in the process of getting this ground truth and you’re talking to to people to solidify that, how much and this is something that I always consider have? You read the book the mom test.

Abhishek Mathur

I have. Yeah, I would highly recommend it.

Hessie Jones

OK so. Yeah. OK. So that, that, that’s something I I look to a lot to to validate that there is really a. Problem, but especially when you try to determine I want to go after small banks that have this many employees that have this particular problem that that’s already at what point is that defined within within the ICP because now you’re you’re getting to a point where. It’s now granular and it’s very focused on a specific type of customer. What does that look like in this process?

Abhishek Mathur

Yeah, absolutely. So depending on where a founder is in their overall. Journey if they are all about kind of like discovering what kind of problem they want to solve, then it makes sense to cast a net really wide and be like hey, I just want to talk to anyone in financial services and figure out if. There’s an actual problem. And start like kind of hone in a little bit on the problem. You’re kind of validating that or creating that more refined hypothesis for yourself. That’s when you start to speak with very specific people at very specific types of company. Because it is likely that, say someone in mid sized bank a in function, HR and mid size bank B someone function, function, HR they operate in a somewhat similar way and might experience the same problem and the goal is to always kind of find that consistency. Across different customs. Because the best thing you want to do as a founder is to build something that you can sell in a repeated way over and over. Again to a large number. Of customers. And so if you are saying once again kind of if you’re starting off and you want to cast a net wide, just kind of do a lot of discovery completely fine, but once you start to kind of build on that hypothesis. That refined you want to speak to more refined people. I know, as you mentioned the mom test as well.

Hessie Jones

Yes, please if you could give a high level for everyone that that don’t know about this book please.

Abhishek Mathur

Yeah. Honestly, one of the best books on customer discovery, which I recommend founders to absolutely. Read and then use some of the principles for effectively the thesis of the book is if you were to build anything and you were to take that anything to your mother and say hey, mom, look, I built this thing. Your mom is very likely going to say it’s wonderful. So what you don’t want to do as a founder is to go to folks and lead with questions that will have them agree with you because they want to be nice. Naturally, everyone wants to be nice to people they’re speaking. And the the series of questions that you end up asking and the way you phrase it, the way you are positioning it, it needs to be in a way that you are getting the ground truth answer from the people you’re speaking with and not them just agreeing with you because they’re a nice person. You are a nice person because that doesn’t help you get to. The validation that you need for your problem and get to your hypothesis on product market fit.

Hessie Jones

OK. While other people would argue that, like mothers are more truthful than anything else, as much as they want their kids to succeed, some of them are are not necessarily that nice all the time. So OK, so let’s move to the product side. So when you’re defining your product, take me through the process that now integrates. These customer pain points that you value.

Abhishek Mathur

Absolutely. So the first thing like the way I like to kind of position this as a problem validation, which is kind of speaking with customers and getting validation on the problem that actually exists and who is that problem for. Then the next phase after that is really solution validation. That’s where the product that you’re talking about really kind of awesome, right? So within solution validation. This is where the whole concept of MVP comes in. And this is effectively defining a product and building something that you can start to get a signal from your ICP or your prospective customers that yes, I can use something like this to solve my problem so. There are a wide variety of like ways to actually go ahead and do this, like there’s many techniques around MVPS. There’s. Concepts called like a Wizard of Oz, which means you can build like a website and have everything in the back end done manually so it ends up being like a Wizard of fall. So there’s like many many techniques around building MVP’s that I think our founders should look out for. But effectively what you want to do at that point is as you’re building the product building. The VP you actually really want to build like the minimum set of features, minimum set of components that you can to get validation that the solution that you are providing actually solved for the problem that is that has been valid. Because if you are not doing that, if you’re building for much more than that, the timeline and the feedback loop is going to be much, much longer. And once again, like at this point again you are trying to maximize for learning. Just like in problem validation, you are maximizing for learning and solution validation. You are also maximizing for learning and you want to be able to run as many of these cycles you. Can to be able to validate that the solution that you’re thinking of the. Product that you’re. Building can actually solve for the problem that the ICP experiences.

Hessie Jones

OK. So that leads us to the next question, because it segues from what you just said and you have indicated that a lot of companies even during the MVP stage may over engineer their solution. So what did you mean by that?

Abhishek Mathur

Yeah. So I think a lot of people that love technology, that love products or have built products in the past, they end up wanting to become founders because they just love building. And I think that’s a that’s a fantastic thing like builders should keep building. But one thing that every founder should be careful of is not to get into that rhythm of building so much that you are not. You don’t know what the purpose of that build actually is. And in the earlier stage of the company. The purpose of building something is to actually validate that something is actually going to solve for the customer. So for example, like I’ve advised a bunch of startups, I’ve spoken with a bunch of founders and they tend to want to Polish their product, make that product feature rich, have say data or user sharing capabilities within their product, all built out, only to find out that the core problem that they wanted to solve for. At the beginning. Is actually not being solved for the for the users, so at that point you kind of go back and like re engineer a bunch of things and work on that and bring it back, which takes often months to actually come back and cycle for, but rather what I recommend to the folks that I work with, the founders that I work with is. Build something that solves for the core user problem. If say once again like going back to HR and like payroll example, if there’s a problem with payroll, don’t worry about a multi organization or like a fifty person HR organization. How will HR information be shared from one person to the other? That will all come in afterwards. Those are those. And to become table stakes at a later point. But you want to make sure is that the payroll problem that you’re focusing on that you’re solving for is that is being done really, really well such that the one or two HR people that you’re working with at the company, they love the product and they are getting value from it once you get that kind of a signal, then you can dedicate enough resources to build out the other features and functionality. These you can build for scale and you can see hey, if 1000 people are using my SAS product at one time, is this not going to break like those are absolutely things that you should be looking thinking about at a later point after you have figured out that the two HR people in that company are solving for that peer world problem that you have.

Hessie Jones

I guess I guess it’s really important at this stage to to make sure that that feedback loop is continue. This because if you, as you say, start building out features and you just say, well, a month from now we’re going to ship these features to you and you’re going to try it and then you realize that you wasted the whole month because they didn’t really care about them then that’s a problem, right?

Abhishek Mathur

Absolutely. And that that happens way too frequently in pretty much every single startup. So and that ends up being like one of the biggest time spans and engineering spends, which frankly I didn’t even have to be. So that’s why I like speaking with customers and being in a tight loop with them in that feedback cycle is just so important in every single stage problem, validation, solution validation and then scale as well.

Hessie Jones

OK, so let’s talk about building for scale. Are there specific, I say metrics or or things that you look for to determine? When is the right time to do it?

Abhishek Mathur

Yeah. So say that there’s no specific metric, but. When you think about the overall concept of like quote UN quote growth, growth can happen on the sales and marketing side when you are ready to kind of like pump fuel into fire and you wanna see that explode, there’s also growth on the engineering side and scale in terms like what you’re building, the infrastructure you’re able to kind of handle and the. Volume you’re able to handle on your side. And I think both of those should be happening after product market fit has been validated and has been achieved, which means that the startup is able to provide a core service to your ICP in a way that solves for their problem really, really well and love it, right. So after that point, you know who your ICP is, what the problem is. What’s the key functionality? You can at that point. So on the business. Side start to bring in more sales folks and more marketers to sell the same product out to more and more companies and scale revenue from there. And then on the engineering side, on the technology side, you can hire more engineers, Dev OPS and for our folks to actually scale the infrastructure because as you grow from your first five customers to 50 to 500. Your engineering is going to need to be up leveled to that point, but. The core of this is if you don’t have your first five customers, they’ll be happy. You don’t need to worry about how are you going to get to 5. 100.

Hessie Jones

OK.

Abhishek Mathur

You don’t need to worry about the sales marketing, the engineering side of getting to 500. If your first five is not.

Hessie Jones

Working OK, so talk about some of the mistakes that that founders make at the at at this stage, when they’re the rate of scale, one of them you mentioned was a feature bloat.

Abhishek Mathur

Yeah. So one of them is absolutely future blow just like kind of building for things that are not needed at that moment. And just I think the terminology that end up using is we should have this. The shirts are just like such a killer for companies. They waste so much time, energy of all the employees that are over there because it’s one of those things that, yes, like every you you can justify a should for any product or feature into any company. But you don’t know if it’s needed or it’s a must have at that moment. So I think that’s one of the biggest questions kind of asked for. It’s like when when do you actually need something versus when should or like something that should be built at some point? In the. Future. Yeah, so. Future bloat is absolutely one of those things that I love chatting with founders about as well, and it’s just that you need to be very critical. To assess every item that’s on your road map and see what is actually going to move that business metric forward. So like we’re talking about metrics now a little bit for startups, they should have that goal that they’re looking for. So if your early stage, you’re. Looking at week over. Week growth. If you’re like, growing a little bit, then you’re looking at month over month or quarter or quarter. And what does that growth metric actually need to look like? So for example, it could like consumer app and the users you’re looking at onboarding that needs to grow to a certain degree, then you effectively to build anything and everything on the engineering side and product side that supports that user growth. So if you’re going from 1000 to 10,000 users on your platform in the consumer application, then you gotta look at, hey, what does the next 9000 users? What do they need? They probably need like a better onboarding experience. They probably need a few more functionalities because they’re not the early adopters anymore. So we’re building out those features at that point. On the infra side, you’re looking at onboarding more customers so you get more volume on to your platform. So those are things that you got to end up looking at at that point. So that’s once again like if you start to think, uh if. You start to do. These things, before they need to be done, you’re going to bloat yourself and not get to the critical item that you need to. It’s just how do you do the right things at the right time to allow for all the scale to happen?

Speaker 1

So I used to work at a startup and. One of one of the engineers always told me about this issue. I think they call it squirrelling, but it’s it’s the same thing as this shiny object syndrome. Can you? Speak about that.

Abhishek Mathur

Yeah, effectively the shiny object syndrome is when you’re when you’re in the building mode, you’re looking at, hey, this is like a an awesome thing to actually build out, whether it could be a new feature functionality, it could be new technologies like everyone’s just like, hey, how do I get AI into my business now, right? That’s one of those shiny objects as well these days. A few years ago it was blockchain. And web 3. And then for the engineers, it was like, hey, I want to build for something that can handle 100 million, you know, interactions or queries, right? So this shiny object can mean different things to different functions and different teams. But I think that like you’ve as a founder, you’ve always got to drive it back down to the fundamentals of the business. What is really going to be driving that business value forward at this stage for you? And there’s going to be. Ton of distraction. You’re gonna get on a weekly basis. New tech, new products, new features. Investors will ask for something. Your customers will ask for something. But just like, how do you remain focused on solving for that core pain pain point? That core problem that your company and your product exists to solve?

Hessie Jones

I think it’s almost like every founder needs a good co-founder to bring them back to basics. Because yeah, yeah.

Abhishek Mathur

I think it’s very different for solo founders because you don’t have that other person to kind of have that conversation with ideas off of. And I think as just humans, right, you. Tend to get swayed into various areas you hear news about various like ASR, raising hundreds of $1,000,000. Say hey, I should do something as well, but having that co-founder with you, that partner in crime with you that is able to really pull you back together, keep that. Keep that right level in your head going to make sure that the business that you’re out to build out that you’re building is actually that the core focus and to keep you from getting distracted at all times.

Hessie Jones

I think the other thing to add, especially on that point, is that what tends to make founders derail from that. Focus is the business development side and then they end up talking to potential clients who think this is a great idea, but they want something built a little bit differently for themselves. And so talk about a little bit about technical debt and how how that could actually play. Into into this as you as you build and grow.

Abhishek Mathur

Yeah. Yeah. And I think technical debt ends up being actually one of the potentially nicer things I’ve seen startups where some custom. Worked at large customers have asked for has completely kind of derailed companies off their actual road map, so something that I think is quite. Fast and it’s it’s a bit of a art and a science for founders. It’s how do you balance out customer requests are actually coming in and how do you actually end up hearing them for the core problem that actually exists? Getting like feedback from customers, but also like making sure that you’re getting enough volume of signal from different. Types of customers. To make sure that that is resonating over multiple areas that will actually help you scale your product and scale your company, I’ve been at companies in the past where the biggest customer says, hey, I want to build this. And founders at that point have said, OK, cool, let’s do this, which the Rosa Road map. It is only useful for one customer and not for other customers at that point. So what you don’t want to be is like in that situation where you’re doing custom custom development work. Work because that’s not gonna help you as a tech venture backed startup to scale. Rather, what you wanna do is really kind of peel the onion a little bit more as your customers are saying, hey, I want this, you try to figure out hey, like what is the core fundamental problem? And if that problem the fundamental problem exists across many of my customers, then I should actually build it in a way. That solves for each one of those problems, not just for one customer. So quite important and how you actually do that, how much noise you should, how much of this feedback is noise versus how much of is like actual valuable signal you’re getting for your company. So yeah, you have to really kind of balance all that out. For yourself as a founder.

Hessie Jones

OK, so I want to get into this thing about pivoting because I I mentioned some really big companies that at the start of the show and there are a lot of companies that have pivoted to survive. But you know you either capture the market or you don’t, and it’s a big risk. So how do you know when it’s time to change direction? And what are the common impacts that or challenges that that companies face within their teams within their culture, you know, within their operations? When they decide to do this.

Abhishek Mathur

Yeah, I think pivot is pivoting is very difficult and it’s quite taxing on the founding team. The overall team basically companies should consider pivoting when they have tried. To work in a market that they’re not able to just get any kind of traction on, pivoting can happen on building a slightly different product to a completely different product that’s on the product side of pivoting. Pivot could also be changing the go to market focus as well. So you can initially say work in financial services, you want to move to like healthcare or government. Or telecom, like any of those or retail, right. So that’s like a go to market pivot. So people can come in like different types, different types in different. Areas, or does it completely separate different pivot as you’re talking about? For what Slack did at the beginning of conversation starting off as a gaming company, realizing that. Internal communications is broken, so building out a tool for that purpose, so when to pivot is, I think one of the hardest questions that founders have to answer for themself. If you feel like you have tried a lot to get significant or some level of traction, some level of consistent response from your ICP and you’re just not able to figure that out. And if you’re seeing something else on the side that is starting to resonate with your customers. Seems like something you can build your company off of, then that ends up being effectively a signal that you should consider pivoting. But obviously pivoting is difficult. So when you are actually going through the pivot itself, it’s quite important to kind of as a founder manage the full team around that. So communicating with the team around why this actually happening, what wasn’t working, being transparent with that and what are some of the things that you see. Potentially working in this new space, new vertical new product area that you might want to move into. The team, whether it’s like on the business side or the technical side, they’ve put their heart and soul into the company as is and they’re gonna see kind of a lot of that effort gone out the door. But like the way our position that is that effectively help the company learn, learn what is not working and. Learning what’s not working is almost as good as learning what’s working so super valuable in that sense in terms of what the company’s journey has been so. And yeah, really kind of just being transparent around experimenting on something new that they think is going to be working, making sure that team realizes they’re so kind of valued across all of that. And yeah, taking the company along with that overall journey.

Hessie Jones

Yeah, I think it, I I remember I was at one of the one start up and there was a lot of dissension when the founder came down and said I think we’re as of this date, we’re going to start doing. And he thought a lot about it and he was able to answer a lot of questions about what? What does this mean for my job? Because it it meant that there are some developers that would be that that wouldn’t be needed in this new order. He didn’t want a platform to be built. He wanted. An app to be built instead, right? So that was going to impact their operations. But also the question that when you when you try to I guess involve your staff, there’s always always going to going to be the impact on revenue and the impact on on cost and infrastructure like how much more does the company have to spend to do this and will it start to disrupt the revenue that’s already coming in? How many? Customers will I lose?

Abhishek Mathur

Yeah, I think. Once there’s some level of revenue that’s coming in, it’s very, very difficult to kind of stop that. But I have seen companies do that. It takes a lot of courage to do that, saying that, hey, we have some level of revenue kind of coming in from. I product idea, customer idea A and we want to move that into B. So shutting some of that off. I think there’s like way to kind of a ways to transition that as well. You can say that those service is going to run for X amount of time and start to like channel that revenue into the new product build not doing any more additional build into the original concept. So yeah, it’s one of those very difficult things for founders to say or a kind of pivot B. Manage their kind of company and their staff around it and see working with customers to a make sure they kind of understand what’s actually happening and why is the pivot happening. And then with that route the revenue or try to route the revenue and the new development new area as the.

Abhishek Mathur

And sometimes, sometimes it doesn’t work, and sometimes you gotta say no to that revenue as well. So yeah, it’s one of those challenging things.

Hessie Jones

One last question. So let’s assume that you’ve hit that stage, so now you you’re starting to get a lot of customers or prospective customers. In the funnel. The ones that you have, they’re very happy. And that you’ve reduced churn over time that you’re bringing in lots of revenue. So this this picture is your, I guess your panacea for product market fit. So how do you continue to maintain, I guess a delighted base of customers and and in this? In this growing revenue situation, do you have best practices?

Abhishek Mathur

Yeah. So one of the things one of my previous companies I realized and I saw was that. They’re almost any startup that you speak with any founder you speak with. They will say they’re customer obsessed and almost none of them. Actually are. So being customer obsessed is actually super valuable. Super helpful. I’ve seen that in one of the startups that I worked in the past and it works wonders. And that means making sure you are working with the customer. To make sure they are successful. And if you can make your customer successful using our product that they will continue using it and you’ll have the revenue coming in. So I think one of the most important things is just kind of being in touch with your customer base even as you are scaling yourself as a founder, the company is scaling being in touch with them. I think one of the biggest jobs. The CEO, the founding team actually has is to kind of. Be there have the relationship with customers and being able to get that feedback and signal that you wouldn’t get through your employees necessarily who are managing their relationship after a certain point. Right. So I think one of. The biggest. To maintain that delighted amount of customer base, you do need to continue having that touch point. With your customers regularly.

Hessie Jones

You know the one thing that you’ve said like over and over throughout this is, is, is this thing called signal and it would be great. Not you have to create an AI for that. But I mean a lot of what you’re saying is also intuition and just I guess your intent to to make sure that in order to succeed. You have to be always looking at for validation on the customer side and not just assume that as long as they stay as long as they keep paying that they’re actually happy.

Abhishek Mathur

I’ve been in companies where we have signed multi year contracts with the enterprise customer. They end up using the product for about four or five months and then after that, like there’s no communication from the team to the customer, the customer goes back to the team. And then after two years, we actually go back to them. Hey, let’s renew. What do you think the? Answer is going. To be at. That point it’s not going to happen, right? So it’s just like just because the initial contract sign? I absolutely urge all founders to not kind of step away from the conversation at that point and make sure that they are continually kind of happy using their product. Speak to the users, speak to the buyers in the organization and champions with the organization you want to make sure you are getting that retained use. Image if, say it’s a workplace product, you want your users to use the product almost on a daily basis. You look at slack, the frequency of slack getting used in organizations. I think it’s like it’s very rare for a company to actually leave Slack. And move elsewhere. Right. So that’s the kind of usage you’re trying to attain or strive towards? For your startup, as you’re building this out in the B2B setting or B2C. Setting and once you realize that people are using your product on a. Regular basis they. Will a give you feedback on how the product can be improved and also be like stick around and because they’re just happy using the product and the value they’re. Getting from it.

Hessie Jones

Yeah, yeah. I have a feeling like, especially you, you’re not big enough to be a Google to be basically automate. Sorry, automate your customer service. And **** *** customers in in the meantime, right?

Abhishek Mathur

Yeah. And I think that’s the whole thing, right? Like too many people, too many founders feel like, hey, the company’s scaling. So I need to, like, put some scaling mechanisms into, to speak with my customers. Like, yes, you should be thinking about that. But that that’s not end up becoming customer centricity. Yeah. And speaking with the users of the products speaking with the buyers and the Champions at the organizations, that just goes a long way and just meeting with them like face to face in person every so often is going to be adding tremendous amount of value in the overall relationship relationship, building their customers and getting feedback from them on what’s working and what’s not working. So you can.

Hessie Jones

Go ahead, go ahead.

Abhishek Mathur

Improve that yourself.

Hessie Jones

I have to say that Apple continues to be like at the forefront of customer success. I mean, regardless of their size, they always show up with someone, a human being who is willing to talk to you. And I think that that a lot of big tech companies have gotten away from that and and customer service tends to be more of a that they’re trying to remove it as a call center. When in in fact, it’s an essential cost that you need to actually maintain. OK.

Abhishek Mathur

Yeah, absolutely. And you look at some of the vertical, some of the organizations that do try to automate some of their customer service experiences, they end up being like one of the worst rated in terms of NPS or Net Promoter score. I just really just like working with them, think about when was the last good experience you had working with your telecom provider? Right. It’s like one of those industries that just. They’ll get your money in and they will let you be for two years until you have to renew and then they’ll be like, hey, time for renewal. Give me your money again.

Hessie Jones

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I I’ve gone through that and unfortunately in Canada, if you live in Canada, you know that if you want to get rid of your telecom provider, you only have two other choices. So they know that they’re going to recycle your business among the three of them. At some point, your lifetime. So.

Abhishek Mathur

Yeah, which is unfortunate. We do see more competition, but like, yeah, I think there’s an opportunity here, a massive opportunity to kind of improve the experience. And I think startups should absolutely put on that mindset. And once again, like I mentioned a couple of times already, this is exactly what customer centricity is. A lot of people talk about it. Not a lot of people show it, and when there’s an opportunity to show it, I think. Founders should actually take on that.

Hessie Jones

I like your other word customer obsession that I absolutely think that that that’s essential for startups. When they’re at the early stages and as they grow and when they’ve already gotten there because sometimes they they forget, right?

Abhishek Mathur

They forget and releases start from the top. If the founders are not doing it, it’s not going to resonate down with the. Rest of the team.

Hessie Jones

OK, I am so happy that we spoke about this. Abhishek and I believe this is going to be of real value not only to start up spot. To to a lot of emerging founders. So thank you for your time today.

Abhishek Mathur

Absolutely. Thanks a lot, Hessie.

Hessie Jones

No problem so. For our audience, if you have topics that you want us to cover, please e-mail us. The communications at altitudeaccelerator.ca Tech Tech Uncensored is powered by altitude accelerated. We are produced by Bluemix and we’re available wherever you get your podcasts. So until next time. Everyone have fun and stay safe.

Host Information

Hessie Jones is an Author, Strategist, Investor and Data Privacy Practitioner, advocating for human-centred AI, education and the ethical distribution of AI in this era of transformation.

She currently serves as the Innovations Manager at Altitude Accelerator. She provides the necessary support for Altitude Accelerator’s programs including Incubator and Investor Readiness. She will be the liaison among key stakeholders to provide operational support and ultimately drive founder success.

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