Advisor Case Study: The Literal 'Aha' Moment

Ben Foster May 17 2021

The following is adapted from Build What Matters.

Many companies struggle to connect the dots between early user behaviors in the product and later business outcomes like new logo signups, yet understanding how user engagement correlates to business results is essential for making a business case to invest in UX improvements. When I joined GoCanvas as the Chief Product Officer, this was one of my first tasks.

We had some early guesses about the engagement activities that mattered most based on our usage data. For example, we knew that the usage of certain features correlated with higher conversion rates from free trials to paid accounts, but we didn’t know how to interpret those results. Did using those features cause prospective customers to buy, or were users who were already convinced more likely to use those features? To detangle correlation and causation, we needed to do more customer discovery.

We invited people in our target market to come in for in-person studies. We watched them use the product and had them describe their thoughts out loud. Often, they would get stuck or express that they didn’t understand what they were doing as they were doing it. Then we’d see it—the same thing in study after study. At a certain point, they would lean back in their chair, their eyes would open wide, and they would exclaim something like, “Ohhh, ah, okay! Wow, that’s really cool! Yeah, I could imagine all kinds of ways to use this at my company. How much does it cost again?” We could see the wheels turning in their heads. It wasn’t the use of some specific feature but having accomplished a specific set of onboarding steps that made the value proposition come alive.

Like many companies, GoCanvas had definitions of a marketing qualified lead (MQL) and a sales qualified lead (SQL), which were used to track and manage prospects through the inbound sales funnel. We called users who completed this sequence of engagement steps “product qualified leads,” or PQLs. It was a clean way of quantifying the value of an important engagement milestone, and we learned that becoming a PQL was a critical step in the trial phase of the customer journey vision.

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Written by Ben Foster

Ben is a co-founder of Prodify and Principal Product Advisor / Coach. In his career, he has been the Chief Product Officer at WHOOP and GoCanvas, the VP of Product & Design at Opower (which went public in 2014) and previously worked for Marty Cagan at eBay.

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