Brand differentiation and how we got it wrong
Hindsight is 20 / 20.
When we first released RealtimeCRM into the world we knew we were entering into a crowded and competitive market, why would anyone want to sign up?
From our point of view we thought the fact that we let you keep in control of your data with the ability to get it out whenever you wanted without a cost or hassle combined with what we thought was a more compelling offer, that we gave away one free user for life would be sure fire winners.
They weren’t, no one really cared and more importantly people struggled to comprehend and accept the one free user for life offering. Every time it was brought up customers would question it thinking there was a catch or that it was too good to be true. Even when we brought in external marketers they struggled to wrap their heads around it and how to best promote it.
I don’t know what that says about life and business but you try to be nice and people just don’t accept it. We persevered with it though keeping it as a cornerstone of our marketing, nobody else was doing anything similar but things didn’t improve.
We would get a lot of one man bands sign up but a lot of them would remain one man band customers or they’d take a very long time to grow big enough to start adding users which for us was not a great client base for user growth.
On the other hand when we did have customers with teams sign up, though the first user would be free for life they’d have to pay for the rest of the users they’d add right off the bat which was basically us shooting ourselves in the foot. As we unnecessarily created a barrier to see the value of RealtimeCRM for their team.
People don’t like spending money unless they know something is going to work for them - by putting a monetary barrier up before we’d proved the power of RealtimeCRM when used by a team of people we lost a lot of potential customers who weren’t willing to take the risk. And those that did convert required more personal effort from us to persuade them to take that “risk”.
This is a case of where ideology trumps empiricism. We were trying to be too clever and too wed to ideas that weren’t working, in the end we threw out the one free user for life offering for all new sign ups going forwards and implemented a 30 day trial.
From our onboarding to the first log in we pushed new sign ups into adding users and trying to find out how their teams work in order to see how RealtimeCRM can enhance their process.
No longer did we have that monetary barrier to overcome but instead could focus the previous effort on overcoming it onto helping them maximise their experience. This has had an immediate impact, in the first few months since moving to the 30 day free trial model our trial to paid conversion rate more than doubled.
But now we were left without a core reason to differentiate us from the crowd, except we weren’t. The perspective that matters most is that of your customers. They know why they picked RealtimeCRM over another CRM and two things kept coming up again and again:
It was the simplicity of the system. The clean and simple user interface which doesn’t take much explaining to hit the ground running and set things up, and the fact that support is provided by the people who developed the system. The fact that we go the extra mile for our users in ways which other outfits don’t.
No one cares about getting free access to something they don’t want but people love it when a product does what they want without a huge learning curve and when they need an answer to a question they get it promptly from a friendly team who know what they’re talking about. We’ve all had terrible experiences with technical or customer support and know how rage inducing it can be.
The pivot worked out great as we now had a much more compelling differentiator and a story we could tell, we were now working from positives where we could really showcase RealtimeCRM.
Plus dropping the focus on price and free stuff meant that we attracted customers who weren’t fixated on getting the lowest price but on a CRM system that really worked for them and as long as it did that they were happy to pay for that without the same level of resistance to overcome.
If you think you’ve got a brilliant idea but reality says otherwise, go with reality. Sure, give the idea a chance but after a while you have to drop stuff that doesn’t work and pivot to something else. It can be difficult because you’re really invested in it or because you don’t know where to go once you abandon it but if you don’t the only place you’ll definitely go is out of business.
Lastly, when you’re so close to a product or an endeavour you often can’t see the trees from the forest but someone with fresh eyes can offer insights that you’ll miss. In our case we were so used to the interface that we had forgotten the power of it, beyond all the powerful features RealtimeCRM offers that we love to work on and wax lyrical about our customers love the user interface above all else. It’s uncluttered, clear and intuitive. You don’t need to be a super technical person to get it and go, for example adding a new customer to the system shouldn’t be rocket science.