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Retention and Testing – misleading signposts and deadly slow speed limits

April 9, 2013

Here’s a comment to an entrepreneur.  He was getting signups but not good retention, and was worried that the process of testing new features to fix the problem would take forever.  Thought we’d share it:

Well, retention is the right question – a lot of startups appear to go wrong by focusing on acquisition instead of retention.  That doesn’t seem to work because you can only get retention through a fit between the customer’s improvement goal and your product, while you can get acquisition a number of other ways, such as a write-up in Techcrunch, that give you misleading data about what’s working.

Re “might take a while”:  My sense is that what often takes a lot of time is serially testing ideas. When your process is:  does this work?  … test… no…does this work?… test…. no…. you’re effectively using a process of elimination against a set that might have infinite members.
What we’re trying to do at Flashpoint is to try to accelerate that process by getting startups to approach it from a theory perspective.  What is your theory about your prospective customer’s improvement goals and about the constraints that are stopping them from making those improvements?  Clarify your theory and figure out a hypothesis you can test to disconfirm it.  This approach enables you to discount whole subsets of wrong notions about their goals and their constraints, so you can hone in on the real issues quicker.  Once you’re sufficiently clear on the details of the improvement goal and constraints, the product features you have to build just emerge out of it.
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