And if you don't know the way?
Go on a listening tour
Go talk to 100 of your customers, at least 20 in person
They always have some good ideas
Build the best one or two
— Jason ✨Be Kind✨ Lemkin 🇮🇱 (@jasonlk) January 25, 2023
There may come a time, or two, in your company when you just don’t know what to do. And for more of you than usual, that’s right now.
- You aren’t growing fast enough. and/or
- The competition seems to be getting the best of you. and/or
- You can’t raise financing. and/or
- You just lost an important deal. Or maybe more than one. and/or
- That great new initiative you were so excited about. Isn’t really working. and/or
- Well, anything like this.
These are some of the most stressful times, because it’s latent stress. You aren’t failing that day, and you may not truly be “failing” in a way most people can see or measure. But things just aren’t going the way you think they should.
My simple advice is to do two things, one internal, one external.
First, get in a Uber or on a plane and go visit a customer or two. Ideally, five. And double or triple the amount of customers you Zoom with each week. There is nothing better you can do, not just to learn, but to challenge your thinking, than talking to customers directly, one-on-one. Ideally, in person. Yes, you may think after closing 50 or 100 customers you know enough. Sometimes, after the first 50 customers or so, I see founders visiting customers less. Because they think they can dial back here a bit now that they have a sellable product. That’s backward. Customers will tell you stories and insights you don’t actually know. They’ll challenge you to double down on things that really matter. They’ll challenge you to think longer term. They’ll challenge you to figure it out.
I just wrapped up my 78th customer call since stepping back into the Flexport CEO role 6 weeks ago. I’m a fan of business in the same the way some people are fans of sports. That means I have the greatest job in the world, getting a backstage pass to see how these awesome…
— Ryan Petersen (@typesfast) October 20, 2023
Best case, you come back with 3-5 good ideas to implement. Worst case, customers help you in your process of force ranking the Fairly Important things. You already know how to force rank the handful of Must Do’s This Week. It’s harder to force rank the next level. Customer visits profoundly help here.
When in doubt, do what it takes to keep your existing customers. They’re the source of your future customers. If you are good to them, they’ll most likely stay. That’s job #1 when you don’t know what to do. Protect your base.
Second, get your NPS (“Net Promoter Score”) up. If you boil NPS down to one thing, it tells you if your customers will recommend you to others — or not. All great software companies are ultimately built on word-of-mouth. More on that here. So get your NPS up. 50+ means your word-of-mouth viral cycle is going to work well. 10 means it isn’t. But whatever your NPS is — measure it and set it as a core goal for the company to get it up 10 points, or whatever amount you think is right, by a certain date. The beauty of this goal is the whole company can rally around it. Everyone in the company can help get NPS up.
And if you do get your NPS up 10 points, if nothing else — it will work. It will get you more second-order customers. More upsell. Less churn. More upgrades. It won’t work overnight. But this is why getting your NPS up is a great thing to do when you don’t know what else to do. It won’t help you make the quarter. But it will help you get the whole team aligned on what will help you make next year’s plan.
It will help tell you what to do. When you don’t know what to do.
As Yamini Rangan of HubSpot noted at SaaStr Scale 2022, NRR is more important than sales. Make your customers even happier, even if you aren’t sure how to get more of them. They’ll at least buy more from you: