This is a guest post from Eric Boggs, CEO of Argyle Social.
Argyle Social is a venture-backed social media marketing software provider based in Durham, NC. Argyle specializes in helping mid-size online retailers, marketing departments, and agencies manage social media marketing campaigns and track outcomes all the way through to on-site conversions.
Alpha = Customers Are All We Had
Argyle launched to a handful of alpha users in April 2010. Those were some raw days. At the time, the 10 or so users we had browbeat into using Argyle were all that we had going for us – so the level of service that we provided bordered on smothering.
Most of the users were located within driving distance from Argyle’s office (read: my house) – so I would make regular visits not just to discuss the product, but also simply to watch our customers use it. I found it amazingly insightful to not just talk to our users about Argyle – but to watch how they used it and to see the other applications they were using alongside it. It was also helpful to develop those early customer relationships face-to-face.
Beta = Lots of Email, Lots of Questions
Collecting feedback during beta was key for us, so we used a few tactics. We set up a feedback form in the our application that not only emailed us the user’s feedback, but also relayed information about the page they were on, their recent usage, etc. This context often yielded some eye-opening insights.
We created buttons for features that didn’t exist. For example, we had quite a few “download this report” buttons that – when clicked – dropped the user on a page that effectively said “we haven’t built this feature yet…but thank you for voting with your feet!”. It was a clever ruse that helped us prioritize features!
As the company grew and the product became more useful, customers began to have much more frequent – and more complex – feedback.
The email model quickly became problematic for us because most of the customer inquires usually ended up as longer ‘what are you trying to do with this feature?’ discussions. So I tended to just pick up the phone in order to make sure that I was getting to the core product issues. Much of the nuance often gets lost in email, especially when you’re trying to dig into a use case.
Beyond = Process, Metrics, Goals
For Argyle, the move from “beta” to “launch” wasn’t a “flip the switch” proposition, but more of a process. We got our first paying customer in July 2010, but we didn’t launch the Argyle Social product as it exists today until January 2011. We spent those 6 months raising a $325k seed financing, building a team, and rapidly iterating the product according to customer feedback.
We effectively launched a brand new application in January 2011. And the differences between the beta and production applications were deeply rooted in customer feedback.
For example – during the seed fundraising process, we said very clearly that we would never build social media engagement into the product. Once customers started using Argyle, it became pretty obvious that we were way off the mark – so we built an entirely new functional area of the product based on their feedback. Turns out that our customers knew MUCH more about their day-to-day needs than we did!
Now we’ve raised an additional round of funding, built a full-time support team, and landed a bevy of happy customers.
The game is a bit different for me now that I’m not directly involved in as many customer interactions. So we’ve built a number of feedback mechanisms to make sure that the user voice makes its way from the front lines and up to the management team – surveys for customers, feature wish lists for the team, and so on. And – of course – I still drive around town to hang out with as many customers as possible.
I’ve never been more proud of our Client Services team than when I saw a customer reply to a recent survey with “Holy crap – your customer service is amazing.”
Interested in getting some Argyle lovin’ of your own? You can request a trial account at http://argylesocial.com.