Soft Pivot, Hard Decisions.
“Saved me weeks of work…”, “When are you gonna have this feature?”, “We’ll pay for it!”. This is what we’ve heard from our users since we launched Xtensio’s Public Beta recently. But 4 months ago, it was crickets. Nearly zerouser activity. Zero feedback. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
“Saved me weeks of work…”
“When are you gonna have this feature?”
“We’ll pay for it!”
This is what we’ve heard from our users since we launched Xtensio’s Public Beta recently. But 4 months ago, it was crickets. Nearly zero user activity. Zero feedback. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
What happened between then and now? What did we do to turn it around? First, here’s what we didn’t do:
1. We didn’t throw in the towel and say, we’re done, we failed, we built something no one wants to use, let’s go home.
2. We didn’t start breaking apart the product or doing major reconstruction with the brand.
3. We didn’t try to add a whole new set of features that would require hours of time to design and engineer.
4. We definitely did not throw the little money we had at the problem and buy loads of ads and run an extravagant marketing campaign to attract people to a product that wasn’t ready.
Here’s what we did do: first, we worked to identify flaws in our product. Next, we decided on low-cost, low-energy methods of confirming and resolving our problems. Below is an overview of our path:
Putting it in front of the users
About 4 months ago, we started reaching out to our beta signups in batches and invited them to try Xtensio. Sure, like every other MVP it had its glitches, but overall we felt good about it.
We launched our private beta sign-up page, which converted at a decent rate– around 20%. Beta signups kept coming, based on the promise of a simple product offering solutions to complicated tasks. We brought in 600 users to test out our private beta.
We expected this:
But in reality, it was this:
Over the course of 3 months (1/3 of the original beta signups came back to try). We had one user actually doing something with the product. We were definitely not getting the traction we’d hoped for. Contrary to our predictions, the users were not jumping on Xtensio left and right. So we took a closer look at the little feedback we had.
Soon enough, we realized we didn’t just have one problem. We had three:
1. Once users signed up, they were not creating as many folios as we had hoped.
2. Once they tried Xtensio, users rarely came back.
3. And most importantly, users didn’t understand why and how they should use Xtensio.
Had we done anything right? What did we have that we could work with?
Making the experience better
We always imagined Xtensio as a flexible, moldable tool. The basic building blocks of the product are simple and can be adapted to completely new positionings.
At the beginning, Xtensio only had one tool: a one-pager builder. Our original positioning was this:
But the one template that we put in front of the users– the startup One-Pager– wasn’t something that they were ready to complete. Either the timing wasn’t right–they didn’t need to present anything to investors–or they essentially hadn’t gone through the proper exercises to develop the information needed to populate their company’s one-pager.
So we Bob Ross’ed it.
We didn’t throw away our canvas and start from scratch. We took the same basic building blocks and without much effort created new templates. We added a Fundraising Summary, a Lean Canvas, and a SWOT Analysis template — all documents a startup company would need to create at some point of their journey.
The icing on the cake ended up being our User Persona Creator. Last year at Fake Crow (our founding creative agency), we produced a persona template (Illustrator and PDF versions) and shared it through our networks. Since then, the template has been downloaded more than 20,000 times. We knew there was some interest around a persona creator so we turned it into an interactive tool and added it to Xtensio. It’s our most popular addition by far.
With the addition of more tools and templates, we had to make sure current folios and the new tools were clearly organized on the Xtensio site. We introduced a dashboard that would house the folios. Beneath each template, we included a description emphasizing its varied functions, encouraging users to play around with the tools in creative ways, time and time again.
Telling the story right
We tested different headline and tagline language and made note of the reactions from different social media platforms. The response from Reddit was especially clear. We shared Xtensio.com with the headline: “6 must-have startup tools, for free.” The post received about 100 upvotes and brought about 2000 visitors to our website.
We also looked into trending keywords on search engines. “Startup tools,” “help startup,” and others were top searches. It was clear — startups needed help.
We decided to position ourselves as “a toolbox for your startup.” We came up with supporting copy and began updating our social profiles and the main website with new content. To make the landing page clean, comprehensive, and minimal we stripped off most of the UI elements from the website (no UI is the new UI).
Keeping the interest
Aside from an automated welcome message sent to all new users, we aim and devote time to sending personalized messages to specific users. Through careful planning and implementation, we can shoot an email to users who are “slipping away.” For example, we can follow up with users who signed up at two weeks prior, but only had one session in app.xtensio.com. Additionally, we can release feature updates and other announcements whenever we want.
And finally we fixed all of our messaging. From our welcome messages (automated via Intercom) to our placeholder text in the templates/tools, we tried to make them clear, friendly, and as helpful as possible.
Tackling our 3 problems
Before going live, we had to make sure that we were addressing the problems we faced with our early beta users. These were our central concerns:
Users didn’t realize they could make multiple folios. We introduced 6 tools and a dashboard view that displays the various folios they can create (and have created).
Users weren’t coming back. By automating reminder and update messages to users, we’re able to invite our single-session users back in to check out new features and changes.
Users didn’t understand why they should use Xtensio. With updated language optimized for search and social media, users are able to see Xtensio’s unique value proposition.
With our refined app experience and focused value proposition, we were ready for a public beta launch.
We made Xtensio open for public beta on April 29th.
In a few hours, we started to see traffic increase on the site. As we get new signups, Intercom pushes a message to our Slack channel. It started ringing frequently in the studio. After a couple of more Reddit posts (by others) and Twitter traffic, Xtensio saw another five thousand new users.
With what we call “soft pivots” or BobRossing, increments of fixes and iterations, we were able to get closer to a product that fit our target market, solely by changing company focus and fine-tuning our site and our services. What Xtensio does and for whom it is for is now clearer both for the users and for us, the product leaders. We were able to turn a product that people didn’t quite want to use into a something they were eager to try.
We are putting together a post about the Product Hunt effect next, stay tuned.
Until then, take a look at our Mentions page to see what our users have been saying.