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One of the best quotes I have heard recently was from Sam Altman’s ‘How to Start a Startup’ series. Sam said:

“Very few startups die because of competition. They fail because they don’t make a product that users love.”

This is so very true, and can certainly be applied to mobile app startups too.

The problem that many experience, myself included, is that it is so easy to become emotionally attached to the product you are building. Whilst passion is a vital part of growing a successful startup, you need to be wary that you don’t confuse your needs with your customers’ needs.

The Importance of Knowing Your Users

To improve your product’s chances of success, it is essential that you know and understand your users. Learning about your target market is no easy task, especially when many startups (Tapdaq included) only have a limited number of users during their early growth stages.

So how do you discover what your users (both current and future) think of the problem you are trying to solve? And what do they want from the product you are building?

Here are 3 processes that we have implemented at Tapdaq that are helping us to learn more about our current and potential users:

1. Social Testing – You get what you put in.

We have discovered and contributed to a number of online communities where we know our target market exists. Our approach on these platforms, be it questions on Quora or groups on Facebook, is to provide as much value as possible to the users that are present there.

The biggest community we engage with is on Facebook, where we regularly write content and articles for over 16,000 awesome app developers. Naturally, if you give your time and contribute enough value to a group of people, they will give something back. That is why customer care in your product is so important.

tapdaqFB
As you can see, the engagement is not huge here, but over the last 6 months we have become friends with over 25 talented app developers who regularly provide feedback on our latest thoughts, designs and updates. They tell us which new features would be of most value to them, which blog post ideas they want us to write, and which design versions they prefer the look of. For us, this is invaluable.

2. User Interviews

We started speaking to potential users long before Tapdaq was actually a product. When we had no user base at all, we looked to validate our assumptions with people who we thought were our target market. This is an essential part of product development. For instance, mobile developers look to Helpshift for an intuitive user feedback platform.

When it comes to gaining feedback on product updates and understanding pain points within our current product, we conduct customer interviews. Questions are open ended, with the aim here being to spot trends in the feedback we receive. This allows us to make informed decisions on our product development.

We always try to link our users’ responses to our data, in order to better understand the scale of the issue at hand. One tool which we have found to be particularly useful when visualizing user feedback is Inspectlet.

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3. CRM Analysis

This arguably is part of step 2, but these two questions are so important that I think they deserve their own section. Knowing who is signing up to your product, and why, is a huge part of understanding your user base.

The two questions that I think every startup should ask itself are:

  • Who are the people that are signing up to/downloading our product?
  • Why did they sign up/download our product?

If you don’t know the answers to these 2 questions, then you can’t be sure that the product you have been building is reaching your intended market, or if they are actually joining you because they get value from your product in the way you intended.

4. Your Users Don’t Always Know Best

From the above, it’s clear you can learn a lot from your users. However, this doesn’t mean that their words alone should dictate the direction your product takes.

In the words of Steve Jobs himself…

stevej

“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

Summary:

I hope the above gives you a brief insight into the types of questions that you need to be asking your users, and how their answers can have an impact on your product development cycles. Coming back to our opening quote, if you don’t make a product your users love, you will most likely fail. The only way you can discover if users truly love your product is by talking to them.

For me, this is where Helpshift is such a vital part of any mobile application’s growth. Developers can now communicate with their users directly through their application, allowing them to build conversation and gain invaluable data on how they can build a better application.

About the Author: Dom Bracher enjoys skiing, rugby and marketing. He is Co-Founder and CMO at Tapdaq, a marketplace where indie app developers can trade installs and ideas, for no cost.

Published November 20, 2014
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