The story of a geek turned customer support representative and salesman

When I started writing this post, I titled it as “How to market your early stage startup/product?”. And then, I realized how much I hate that kind of gyan myself! There is no one advice that applies to you or your startup. Your company and product are different than mine. Most importantly, you and me are not the same human being – we have different priorities, perspectives, skills and network. So, whatever I did to get my company to this stage doesn’t necessarily apply to you. You can do it much quicker and in a much much better way. Lemme share the latest news with you – we have moved real real fast since our public launch of WebEngage 4 months ago. We have received a whole lot of traction in such a short span of time. People think I have some kind of a magic silver bullet. This post is to tell you that I have none. We, as a team, have worked real hard to get here and this is how it has happened in our case -

The geek in us says, let’s do it
There are several school of thoughts on how to build a version 1 of your product. Some say it should be a minimum viable product others say it should be close to perfect so that early adopters don’t ditch you for lack of features or appeal. We don’t understand either. We find it hard to believe that there can ever be a perfect product or a product which knows that it is viable without being presented to the consumer. We believe in iterative development. We believe in building what our customers want or desire. It has worked for us. We are code monkeys who love to code. If you are betting your life on a technology product, you better be one like us. We did this – Build. Get Feedback. Sell. Iterate. Build. Sell. Period. Having written code for 7 years now and having actively contributed to open-source, this comes naturally to me and my team – code fast and code well.

Early adopters. Where to find them?
While you’d always be tempted to think that you have built the next game changer, the funny fact of life is that nobody cares. I have seen a lot of entrepreneurs complaining about the lack of early adopters. I chose to find a way out and not complain. How? Well, I went back to my blogger friends, friends who own websites, friends who hang out in places like HackerNews or Hackerstreet. And then, I also reached out to friends who did not fall in any of the categories above but had friends who matched the “profile” I was looking for. Bottomline? Communication, communication and communication. Tell the world that you have arrived, nobody cares otherwise. If you had a good product, everyone around the world will eventually take a note of it. Yes, its a painful thing. I write over 50 emails per day on an average (even today). You’d think it is such a waste of time. Think again. Maybe not. Those who send me love and praise emails today were the ones who didn’t even bother replying 6 months ago. Persistence. Perseverance. It pays. Of course the key is having a killer product.

Found a few early adopters. What’s next? Building nice relationships
With some efforts on our end, 100 websites were using our tool for free within 45 days of announcing our private beta. Wow! Right? Wrong. I made sure that we were grounded. We focused on building a strong feedback channel. The product we wanted to create had no equivalent predecessor. And it was important to find out if our customers really wanted it. We were proactive with emails and communication seeking feedback from customers. People started coming to us with queries. We live by the Zappos mantra of customer support. We love all our users. Emails were responded in less than 4 hours. Most of the times, almost instantaneously. I made sure that this trickles in as a culture. We worked like asses round the clock, were up until late in the night either coding or monitoring server logs. We focused on earning love from whoever was using our product. And over a period of time, we found more evangelists for the product.

Now we had a good product, ready to be sold. Who buys first?
This was a tough one. We had an awesome product ready with a few hundred websites using it already. Now, was the time to address the big question – who to sell? None of us had any prior sales experience. As I said, we are all code junkies who had no clue whatsoever on how to go about selling. So, we did it the junkie way. We created a nice online demo application in such a manner that we could bundle some use-cases for our prospects. We shared the demo URL with them. Cool, simple, realtime and contextual. If I had to pitch to Google, this is how it would have looked:

The great WebEngage sales pitch to Google:
http://demo.webengage.com/awesome-demo/list?domain=Google.com

This worked for us. People could instantly relate to what we were up to. They found WebEngage to be a superb idea. And we were in the game. The curiosity was to such an extent that we had to write an engineering post on how we built this demo app.

We kept talking
So what if a few thought you were selu (Hindi slang for a hard seller). So what if a few thought that you were a spammer for sending product updates. So what if most of your emails went unanswered. We didn’t care less about rejections. At the same time we embraced acceptance with grace and grit. We earned good karma from our customers – by offering quick assistance and being super responsive to their queries. We kept telling the world that we have arrived; on all platforms where our prospects were – email, blogs, qna forums … everywhere. Be it our engineering post highlighting a wrong-doing by Quora or our blog post announcing the partnership with BigCommerce, we tried to be heard. And people did pay heed to us, eventually. To sum it up – we closed our biggest customer this morning and received a query from one of the largest e-commerce players in India :)

We continue to find ways to market ourselves and be heard. If something works for us, I’ll come back and share those with you too. Hope all the garbage I dumped above helps you some way. To conclude, “Nobody Cares” is a recommended read.

Thanks for reading. Coming soon with another boring post.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mudit Tandon on February 9, 2012 at 10:07 PM

    I wish that I had a fraction of the energy you have. You continue to inspire me sir. Wish you all the best.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Shoonya. on February 9, 2012 at 11:24 PM

    “received a query from one of the largest e-commerce players in India” :)

    Reply

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