Traction, meet user research!

Jon Marshall
Jon Marshall
5 min read

I joined the team at rebank last year and was presented with a challenge by the founders. Here’s what we learned!

The challenge

We needed to conduct plenty of research, but we didn’t want to ask existing customers to commit to multiple research sessions (as we hated the idea of taking up lots of their valuable time). This is how we continued to gain momentum by talking to non-customers…

Selective research recruitment

We originally recruited research participants by casting a wide net: attending meetups, joining communities, partnering with other startups, or knocking on doors at co-working spaces. This wasn’t a bad approach in terms of the volume of participants we could talk to. However, we soon realised that our ideal participants had a few key attributes:

Instead of talking with everyone, we decided we would focus on our ideal customer’s specific problems. We tweaked our recruitment process with a simple screener survey and made sure that we weren’t being pulled in different directions.

It sounds simple, but when trying to gain momentum it’s critical to have a specific audience in mind and some well-documented problems to solve.

Well-documented research

When conducting research, it can be difficult to find value in the insights long-term and it can be difficult to prioritise your findings to gain traction.

At rebank, we’re using atomic research to group different insights (via tagging) to give an unbiased ranking of our findings. We take thorough notes and then use linked tables to ensure atomic insights are associated with a persona/company/date. We started this process in Notion, but are now moving everything to AirTable.

The benefit of using AirTable was that we could associate our atomic research table with our CRM. This meant we duplicated less data, but it also enabled us to have the best possible context when customers gave us product feedback.

Using an atomic database for research gave us the flexibility to tweak the ranking of different personas to highlight the motivation of our core decision-makers (founders), or we could apply a ranking based on the most recent findings to cater for a dynamic turn-of-events (Coronavirus), or we could ensure we adhered to a cut-off date for actioning research (6 months).

Knowing which problems to solve and being able to quickly follow-up with research participants once we’d solved their problem was an ideal way to gain traction.

Atomic research principles also give you the ability to re-prioritise your findings in case you need to pivot.

Research as an extension of the sales cycle

The journey to using our product is deliberately hands-on/high-touch. We consider research to be an extension of the sales cycle in the following ways:

Thinking of research as the first touchpoint in the sales cycle reminds us to treat participants with respect. It also means we have smaller steps towards product adoption which is great for traction (plus we get additional context if the response to our product is a little cold).

Hybrid research sessions

Finding your first 100 customers can be challenging, but can the same thing be said of finding your first 100 research participants? At rebank, we found it easier to do the latter, but we had to be mindful that a research session didn’t become a sales call.

To achieve this we think of user testing sessions as something of a hybrid: We use the first 15 minutes for a mini discovery session to get a feel for product-fit (if this isn’t already known). We then share a non-linear prototype and give control to the participant. The prototype validates the value (or not) of a potential feature for the next dev cycle which normally takes 15 minutes. That usually leaves 10–20 minutes for the participant to further explore our product more freely. The rest of the session develops into a product demo due to the non-linear nature of our prototypes.

We conclude these hybrid sessions with two key questions:’ Who do you think rebank is for?’ and ‘What would be your reservations about using a product like rebank?’

If the participant answers ‘Me!’ to question one and has no reservations about using a product like rebank, then we invite them to try the real thing!

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