A guest blog from Mike Hapner, President, Izon Analytics, LLC @mikehapner. Mike attended Business of Software in 2010 and was inspired to write about what he learned. Thanks Mike.
First, a big thank you to @MarkLittlewood for letting me share this story.
For several years I had heard about this conference that a lot of my online tech/marketing/business heroes were involved in. Right before the conference in 2010, I had just been asked to start a SaaS and mobile products division for a successful global mapping firm, so I figured it was time to make the investment and travel to Boston for the conference. I expected to be impressed, but did not imagine the amazing impact it would have on my life and on the way we do business.
Those luminary people are awesome, but regular people, too!
@NeilDavidson started off the conference with something to the effect that everyone that was speaking was a real person, and were honored to be there… and that rang true for the entire conference.
@dharmesh Shah really undersold himself and then totally NAILED his presentation. What a brain on that guy! He really struck a chord with me. It became crystal clear how important it is to track everything, and that it’s even more critical to use the metrics to make real decisions that drive customer satisfaction and other improvements.
@peldi Guilizzoni had already won me over as a customer of Balsamiq and had 100% impressed me with a service recovery via twitter. I couldn’t believe I was sitting 10 feet away from him, and was blown away as he shared his success story in such a humble way. Good guys DON’T finish last!
Seth Godin is probably my all time favorite marketer, and his incredible positive energy and insight did not disappoint.
Joel @Spolsky was even gracious when I stalked him on a break just to shake his hand. Side note: He doesn’t know that whenever something goes wrong in Microsoft Excel, I yell “Spolsky!!!” even though he hasn’t worked there in something like 20 years.
After getting my mind blown at the conference, I came home and immediately devoured everything I could get my hands on that had been mentioned by the speakers. This included a ton of blogs and the Inbound Marketing and The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development books. As another aside – I’ve given away about 10 copies of Inbound Marketing so far.
At the conference, Dharmesh didn’t do a real sales pitch for HubSpot, but the more I started playing with their free tools online, and understanding what I was studying in Inbound Marketing, the more I saw the benefit of signing up and using HubSpot. The thought of REAL, ALREADY-INTERESTED leads coming in on the website, and not having to cold-call and chase prospects is just so appealing!!! With Hubspot’s help, we went from zero traffic to tons of the right kind of traffic and leads in just a few months, and are continuing to optimize and test our way to even higher conversion rates.
Getting out of the building
Once I had all this knowledge implanted in my head, it was time to start using it. We had a working prototype of ourallinspections mobile and web software for home inspectors, but up until then, we had only talked to 2 or 3 real live home inspectors – shame on us. Our little business development team committed 100% to the "Lean Startup" and "Customer Development" concepts that I had taken away from the conference. Over the next few months we talked to 100s of future prospects and did no selling: we simply asked them a million questions about how they currently did their work, what the big headaches were for them, and how they thought their problems could be solved. I cannot stress enough how important it is to get out of the building and talk to real people.
Once all of those customer stories started blending into a chorus of the same problems, we were able to improve our working prototype and get it in front of real prospects that could use it to ease the pains they had explained to us. Because we had done so much Customer Development work, our prospects really saw how it helped, and how well we understood them even though we weren’t veterans of their industry. This has translated to amazing results in terms of adoption and monthly growth. We also made customer service our top priority, and really went overboard to make sure everyone was taken care of. We’ve lost count of the times when customers "ooohh" and "ahhhhh" and shower us with praises, even when we’re on a technical support call helping them with a problem!
Product sales – FINALLY!
Now that the product is stable and our customers are saying awesome things about us, we are really making the transition to a sales organization. The fruits of our early Customer Development and Inbound Marketing efforts are truly paying off. In fact, we are so busy with customer meetings, tradeshows, and the like that we’re not going to be able to attend the Business of Software conference this year. Bummer. We’re hoping to be there next year, and even do a lightning talk – hint. hint.
Go to BOS2011. Be inspired. Try what you learn. Be amazed.