Monthly Archives: July 2013

Find new markets by analyzing your existing customers.

A lot of times, I’ve wondered how to get more customers for the apps that I run. I’ve done a few different things to solve that particular problem, but one of the simplest has been to take a close look at my current customers. These are people who see enough of a need for my product that they are already paying me. That’s a great indicator of who I should be focusing my sales/marketing on, because a lot of times when I’ve built something for one type of customer another customer in a different industry discovers my app and sees a use for it. Going through your list of paying customers, then identifying their industries and how they are using your product to solve their needs can give you valuable insight on how to expand your market.

For instance, we built Dispatch to pull information out of emails and send that information either directly to other systems where it’s needed, or to perform different actions using that information. One of our customers is using it in a completely different way than we imagined. They have a copy machine in their office that can send image attachments via email, so they added their Dispatch email address to their copy machine, and now every time they scan something in a specific way, the copy machine emails Dispatch, Dispatch processes the email, pulls off the image and adds it to their Zendesk account. I never imagined that sort of use for Dispatch when we built it, but it’s solving a real business need.

Are My Sites Up White Label was built for web agencies who want an easy way to make recurring revenue from their existing customers. Recently I’ve found that other tech-related business types that have an existing base of customers, such as computer repair companies also see a need for that sort of service. So now we are working on targeting/better serving those types of customers.

Let your current paying customers inform your marketing decisions when you’re looking to expand your market. It’ll give you a head start!

I’m working on a new product called Retained. I’m taking what I’ve learned from years of running successful web apps, and using it to build an app that will help you be more effective at running your own web apps, communicating with your customers, retaining existing customers, and attracting more.
I’ll also be sending out free information from time to time about the things that we do to retain our customers at Sense Labs.
If you’d like to keep more of your web app’s users, sign up here!



The best ways to retain your customers: Part 1: Let them know that you’re always adding value.

In the old days (haha), and even now, when software is delivered to an end user directly for them to run on their own devices, they can clearly see version numbers and a list of what’s been changed/added in each version. This allows them to not only see what’s changing in the app, it allows them to clearly tell when the app has changed, and decide if the features are worth paying for.

With web applications, the lines are a lot more fuzzy. Some web apps try to go with version numbers for new releases (Mailchimp, I’m looking at you), but that doesn’t really work out in the fast-paced world of today’s web apps, where you might deploy new code several times per day. I’ve also seen web apps that send out whole emails with multiple links pointing to multiple blog posts about all of the new things that have been added. There are 2 problems with those: Firstly, you probably won’t reach your customers at the right time/in the right context, and secondly, if the email is too long, it’ll probably get ignored or deleted.

What your customers really need to see… what will help to keep them around as happy users, is for them to be told at the right time, in plain English: what has been added/changed, and how it can help them.

So what’s the right place/context to let your users know that your app has gotten some cool new features? While they’re using the app, of course. The best example of something like this that I’ve seen has been Wufoo’s Since You’ve Been Gone feature. It shows users who log in a list of features/enhancements that have been added since their last visit. This keeps users informed at the point when they care most about your app, because they’ve just logged in. They’re much more likely to read and engage with your new features, just because you picked a great place/time to inform them.

At Sense Labs/Shiftedfrequency, we wanted something like this that we can use across all of our apps, so we’re making a version of this feature that any web developer can use for free, and making it one of the first features of our customer retention app: Retained. Over time, we’ll be developing more and more features that use what we’ve learned over our years of making successful web apps with thousands of happy customers to help other web app owners to do the same. Interested in being one of the first people to use Retained?

I’m working on a new product called Retained. I’m taking what I’ve learned from years of running successful web apps, and using it to build an app that will help you be more effective at running your own web apps, communicating with your customers, retaining existing customers, and attracting more.
I’ll also be sending out free information from time to time about the things that we do to retain our customers at Sense Labs.
If you’d like to keep more of your web app’s users, sign up here!



Quick Coding Tip

When I’m winding down on coding for the day, it helps me greatly if I take a minute (or even a few seconds) to write out exactly what I’m going to do when I pick things up the next time. It saves me a ton of time by letting me not have to figure out where I left off. I can just jump in with a pretty good idea of where to go and what to write.

Thank your customers.

Awhile back, before the Internet was a glimmer in anyone’s eye, if you ran a business, chances are pretty good that you knew your best customers well. When you saw them, you might ask if they wanted the usual, and you’d get to know them on a more personal level because you saw them in real life and had real conversations. You’d know the names of their children, what their preferences were, and more. These relationships, paired with a good product are things that kept your customers coming back. It also made them more understanding if/when you had inventory issues, when service wasn’t up to the usual standards, or when someone else came along who did the same thing, perhaps even for a cheaper price. You said “thank you” face-to-face when they made a purchase.

The Internet has made a world where anyone with the skills and the ambition to start a web business can easily start one in a short period of time and make money from customers all around the world. It’s revolutionary, and it’s an awesome world to live in.

However, as people who run web apps, we haven’t had the same sort of connection to our customers. We see hundreds, maybe thousands of people signing up for our apps, but other than responding to support requests and making announcements, we don’t really interact with them much. And some of that is a good thing, because you can be available only when someone really needs you, and be out of the way at other times. However, after years of running successful web apps, I’ve learned that the people who I personally connect with are some of my best customers: the ones that are happy to pay me for my app… the ones who tell their friends about it… the ones who stick around for the long haul.

These days, customers are quick to press the delete button on their account if they have any issue at all, because they don’t know you. From bad experiences with customs support in the past, they assume that there isn’t a human who cares on the other end. What if they knew that you cared before they ran into issues? What if you both knew each other better?

As we build apps, it’s important to realize that we are building them for people. We’re trying to make their lives better, or their jobs easier. At the end of the day, we’re trying to improve people’s lives. And our customers are giving us money in exchange for our product, so let’s try to be more thankful and tell our customers that we appreciate them. Reach out to them when they sign up for your product with a personal email that thanks them for giving your product a shot. Give your best customers an unexpected discount, with no strings attached. Send out handwritten Thank You cards to people who have been with you for years. Whatever you do, just tell your customers Thank You somehow, on a regular basis. You won’t regret it.

When Sense first launched Dispatch, to show our first customers that we really appreciated them taking a chance on our app, we sent out handwritten Thank You cards. We still do.