1. People don’t care about features. they care about benefits.
When building a business, people often laser focus on improving the product. This frequently equals responding to customers request to building new features. As a result, companies build a lot of extra features and get excited and celebrate each newly launched product feature. Wrong idea, according to Intercom’s Co-founder & CSO Des Traynor.
He stressed companies to not worry about losing customers by not adding features. “That’s exactly how you will end up with consulting-ware: adding features one-by-one just for one customer”. Your company’s vision should be the sole motivator for building features. Meaning you should engage with your customers through benefits, not functionalities.
His advice to all of us: only add the incremental things that are truly used by a lot of people or build new-to-the-world features that go beyond their expectations. Don’t start the feature war — before you know it your business becomes exactly the same as your competitor.
2. Quit your small A/B tests right now
Growth hacking madly over a small button? If you’re a small company it might take you 2 hours to set up an experiment but it might take 70 days to verify if a green button outperforms a blue one. A/B testing seems to be a trend, but an absurd one according to Traynor (Intercom). “Buttons you can see outperform buttons you can’t see, obviously”. This is not what businesses should focus on and definitely not how you want to spend your valuable time.
Does this mean that we should we ban A/B tests now? No! Default to redesign, not optimize. Put logic and common sense over obsessively testing and start testing things that are fundamentally different.
Yes, this might take you longer to try, but the bigger the bet, the bigger the result. Traynor even put it this way: “If you’re testing the small things, you’re generally assuming you’re perfect and up to the last bit of optimization”. Well, I’m pretty sure most of us are not.
So, the next test I’m running is one radically testing the layout of the entire website, instead of a tiny experiment in my lead generation form. Big switches will give me insights to make decisions that matter. After all, “A billion dollar company isn’t built from better button colours”.
3. Real work starts after product-market fit
In my field of work — corporate innovation — we are helping businesses find product-market fit. Usually, we are very happy once we have validated this. So, having someone tell me that ‘finding the product-market fit is just a beginner’, was as a bit of a downer.
Apparently, it even gets worse as no one tells you what to do next. For starters there’s the 9x effect: you need to be that much stronger to beat the competition, overcoming your ‘founders’ ego and make the customer switch to you. But how? On top of this, new customers, current customers, returning customers, leaving customers, competitors, all need to be taken into account during the scale stage. At the same time, you need process and methods for teams to work together and find profitable ways to allocate resources and time.
That scaling is even harder than starting, is also something that Blendle’s Alexander Klöpping acknowledged. He started with the idea of the ‘the digital kiosk’, found a product-market fit but new scaling problems keep rising up. His advice to us was to stick to the bigger picture — your true vision — and focus on things that really matter. Looking back, efficiently serving their home market turned out to be way more important for Blendle than expanding to Germany and the US.
Real work starts after the product-market fit: you need to innovate and adjust your roadmap continuously.
4. Embracing Failosophy might bring you more than focusing on success
Yet another interesting focus that was emphasized during those 2 days in May was the focus on failure brought up by Gabe Zichermann. This behavioural designer and author of ‘Failosophy’ was surprised that, while working at corporates, no one taught him how to fail the right way. Hence, he decided to become an expert on embracing failure himself. At The Talent Institute, we stress this too with Embracing Uncertainty as one of our core values.
Zichermann showed various industries that got stronger through failures, rather than successes. The aviation industry stood out in particular. We have known flying to be safe since the ’90s, but did you know on average a plane crashed every single week from 1945 — 1990? By turning this into improvement opportunities and training people on how to deal with failure instead of punishing them for it, this industry sets a great example for others.
He closed with a quote that sums up my learnings from TNW 2019: ”Companies can’t be successful by coming up with strategies for avoiding failure… If you’re not on the precipice of failure right now, you’re probably not living up to your full potential.“
There you have it! My favourite learnings on growing businesses and innovation from the coolest tech festival in Europe. What was yours?