This is a follow up story for Reflect. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published almost 3 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
I'm Fitz, a co-founder of Reflect, which is a tool that performs automated testing of a website or web application without requiring any coding. Today, software organizations test their web apps via either complex and hard-to-maintain coded scripts, or with repetitive manual testing. Reflect allows you to get the benefits of automated testing without the time investment; we record your actions as you test your site and translate those actions into repeatable tests that you can run at any time. Tests are 10x-100x faster to create in Reflect vs. coding and are much easier to maintain. And since we're no-code, anyone in your company can contribute to the testing effort.
Our customers are software organizations of all sizes and they pay us a monthly subscription fee for access to the platform.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
Our customer base has grown from roughly 10 customers to 80+ in the ten months after we shared our first Starter Story in March 2020. We recently announced our seed fundraising of $1.8M in early 2021 which obviously drove a lot of traffic to the site and has served as a good initial "carrot" for prospects.
Effectively, you need to get in front of your potential customer and talk to them to learn what they need.
We initially focused on smaller companies of 5 - 50 people where the sales process was quick and the feedback easier to obtain. As our feature set grows and the product becomes more robust, we are able to sell into larger organizations and teams. We have a few customers where 30+ employees are using Reflect.
A key driver of our growth has been outbound email campaigns. Our email campaigns focus on the customer's pain points and relate them to our direct experience as software managers who struggled with automating end-to-end tests. To start, we've automated much of the outbound email campaign but we are now experimenting with more targeted, custom emails. A second key channel for us has been word of mouth and our personal network. We've made connections in the last year to various startup communities, including YCombinator, and have been able to provide a personal touch to help close deals for those companies.
We're constantly experimenting with changes to our marketing site and sign-up flow. One key change we made was adding Google Sign-In. That alone nearly doubled our sign-up rate overnight. We also realize we need to invest in content. Writing articles to position ourselves as thought leaders have become a key goal for us in the next 3 months. And, of course, we're still adding features every day!
Lastly, our churn has remained low and we attribute that in part to timely and accurate customer service. When customers reach out about an issue, we are upfront about whether it's a bug and then we work quickly to fix it. Customers don't seem to demand perfection but they do expect our best effort to resolve the issue. We just hired our first full-time engineers and that will increase our capacity to resolve issues faster.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
There is no substitute for actually talking to prospects and customers. Whether it's communicating by email, telephone, video chat, or in person, the single best way to learn what customers will pay for is to talk to them. As engineers, my co-founder and I have a natural inclination to just build stuff rather than talking and listening. But so much of what we have built in the last year (i.e., beyond the initial prototype) has come directly from talking to customers and prospects. So, we had to learn to be committed to collecting and understanding customer feedback.
When thinking about how to structure the conversation with customers, I've learned these questions are helpful:
- What are your needs?
- How are you meeting those needs today?
- What do you like about your current process? What do you dislike?
- Would you pay for a better way to meet your needs?
- Who is the decision-maker?
- What is your timeline for implementing a better way to achieve your goals?
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
In terms of our product goals for the immediate and near term, we plan to continue to collect and filter feedback from customers and prospects to inform our product roadmap. We feel the current product roadmap is both clear and natural given the product we have today. In this way, we feel we're growing our product to fit into the market need, rather than replicating any of our competitors' features. Here's an example: our Test Run view aims to give the user everything they need to understand how their site behaves during a particular interaction. We are constantly refining this page---adding and removing information---to communicate the optimal level of detail:
On the financial side, we have a concrete goal to grow our MRR each month for the rest of the year. This will put us in a great position financially but also demonstrates a clear growth trajectory which unlocks opportunities for hiring, capital and product experimentation.
The 5-year horizon is more abstract and probably not worth sharing right now.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
If you're struggling to grow your business, I think it makes sense to distinguish between poor marketing (ie., "my customer doesn't know I exist"), and poor sales (i.e., "my customer won't pay for this"). Obviously, there is no silver bullet to solve either of them, but if the issue is that your customer doesn't know you exist, then you need to ask yourself: where does my customer hang out? Then, "go" there and talk to them. Ask them where their peers (i.e., other customers just like them) hang out. And then go there. Effectively, you need to get in front of your potential customer and talk to them to learn what they need.
If it's a lack of sales, then the issue might be that you're solving for the wrong problem or you're not clearly demonstrating how your product solves their problem. If the latter that can usually be resolved by letting them use the product for some time (e.g., freemium model). If you're building the wrong solution, then again, that can be resolved by talking to the customer and listening closely.
And in both cases, when you're talking to customers, focus on what they need and what they like/dislike about their current process. That gives you the ingredients of something they will pay for.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We just recently hired a few software engineers and an account executive---our first employees! Our goal is to find our "new normal" with this team in the near term. After that, we'll hire wherever we need to, but the focus will likely continue to be in sales and engineering.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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