The four letters that have simplified our business

How we categorise our tasks into four letters – A, B, C and D

ABCD connected to things

Starting a business is easier than ever.

But building a business and maintaining that growth in the long-term is harder than ever.

It can feel overwhelming as a member of a young startup team – there’s always more to do in the day than you have time for.

Do you spend time working on the homepage messaging? Do you spend time on a feature that could benefit your most loyal customers? Do you spend time responding to 20 customers on support? All are important, but what is going to make the most difference?

Simplifying the way the team thinks about their work

As we’ve been developing the team and product, we’ve experienced some of these growing pains. We’ve always had an obsession with simplicity – simplicity in our product, our pricing, our messaging. But until recently we hadn’t thought much about simplicity in the way the team works.

In order to focus our efforts as a team, we wanted to make sure when an engineer was working on a feature they’d know who it was helping and how. When we’re getting back to a customer at 3am in the morning, we want to know how that impacts the bigger picture.

We’ve managed to cut through a lot of noise and define our own framework for thinking about the four core areas of the business that are critically important to us right now – we call it the ABCD framework.

ABCD stands for Acquire, Build, Close and Delight.

In this post, we’ll dive into a quick summary of what each of these means.

A – Acquire new visitors, leads and trials

Acquire more signups

We’re nothing without our users and customers – every customer we have originally came to our website and checked us out before then signing up for a trial.

When we think about acquiring new users, our approach is very focused on inbound marketing – we aim to produce truly helpful, valuable content for our audience, which attracts visitors and raises awareness about us.

It’s one thing to get visitors to our website, but unless they eventually sign up then we are nothing more than a well-read blog. Our focus moves on to converting visitors into signups – either by encouraging them to sign up for a trial, by engaging with them on live chat, or by persuading them to subscribe to our weekly newsletter for regular updates.

We measure our effectiveness at acquiring new users with a couple of key metrics: visitors to our marketing site and blog, our on-site conversion rate, the number of people who read our newsletter, and the number of trials started each week.

B – Build a damn good product

Build a better product

This is in our blood and it’s core to everything we do.

We don’t believe it’s possible to build a successful software business without a fantastic product that genuinely solves a big problem for customers.

Within our engineering team, most of our time is currently spent on building out functionality in the product based on what customers are asking for and what we believe should be on our roadmap.

Metrics we use to determine whether we’re building a great product include the number of Daily / Weekly / Monthly Active Users of the platform and specific features, and activation rates of anything new we roll out.

We also continually gather feedback from customers via email and live chat to go beyond numbers and gain qualitative feedback on what we’re building.

C – Close new customers and deals

Close more deals

Closing deals and converting trial users into customers takes hustle.

There are many ways to turn someone who’s currently not paying us into someone who is, and finding the most effective way of doing that is an ongoing experiment.

You can charge a small price and build up a large volume of customers with primarily self-service processes. Or you can charge a huge price annually and build a sales team around the process, delivering a truly personal experience to every high paying customer. Or you can tread somewhere between those.

Wherever you look, you’ll find businesses who have built billion-dollar empires from any of the above. Finding what’s right for your business requires experimentation, testing, measurement, and most of all, persistence. Successful businesses don’t get built in a day, and very few companies nail their pricing and sales process the first time round.

A few key metrics we use to measure our success at closing new customers include Net New Monthly Recurring Revenue and the total number of new customers acquired in a month.

D – Delight customers and turn them into promoters

Delight your customers

As the famous saying goes, it’s far more cost-effective to keep a customer than to acquire a new one.

In fact, as recently pointed out in a visual example by Lincoln Murphy, a huge proportion of the lifetime value of a customer can come from keeping them happy after the original sale.

We have always believed in providing the best customer service possible to every customer who chooses us. But keeping customers happy – making them delighted – requires more than just a fast response time.

Customer delight and customer success require strategy – a clear definition of what ​a​ successful customer looks like and a path of how to turn every user into a successful one.

Building a customer-base of people that love you so much they tell their friends is the dream, but it requires all of our ABCD strategy to work together in unison – a clear message on the marketing site, emails that educate the user throughout their trial, a product that delivers on the promises we make in the initial pitch, a price point that makes sense for the customer, and easy access to a helpful team when the customer has questions and issues.

Measuring customer delight isn’t easy, but a few key metrics we use to determine whether we’re doing a good job on this include NPS (Net Promoter Score – see our post on how to measure NPS), customer service response times and customer churn.

That’s it – as simple as ABCD

While this may not give you all the answers on how to grow your business, we’ve certainly found it helpful to utilise the ABCD framework when thinking about complex problems.

Hopefully next time you’re feeling overwhelmed with everything on your plate, you’ll be able to sort at least some of your problems into four boxes.

If you have ideas for taking ABCD further or have another framework you use to think about business growth then let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

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