6 things we do that don’t scale but help us succeed

by Steli Efti
thingsdontscale

Inspired by the latest essays from Paul Graham urging startups to Do Things That Don’t Scale and followed up by 37Signal’s Jason Fried’s excellent post about why their newest product is launched using lots of strategies that don’t seem to scale, the Close.io Team wanted to share some of our most successful hard-to-scale tactics we are using to connect with our users and turn them into raving fans.

1. Calling all new signups

If you sign up for our 14-day free trial and you don’t call us using our software, we surely will call you to say “hi” :)

Benefits: Talking personally to our users is one of the most powerful things we do. It allows us to learn more about them, how they found out about us, what they are looking for in our software, what they like/dislike so far and what it will take to make them succeed with Close.io.

It’s not rare that people will tell us that that initial call was the one little difference that gave them the last bit of confidence to upgrade and become a customer.

They love to buy sales software developed by a company that knows a lot about sales and practices what it preaches. Go figure :)

Pro tip: If you call someone within 5 minutes of them signing up for your service, your reach rates will typically go up from 25% to 75% so it’s worth trying to strive for the 5 minute mark! This is easy to accomplish in Close.io by integrating our API in your signup flow.

2. Leaving voicemails after 7 days of trial

When we don’t get a chance to connect with a new user within the first day of their 14-day trial, we make sure we follow up with a call on day 7. If we still can’t reach them, we leave a voicemail telling them we’d love to chat and see if there is anything we can do to help them succeed with their trial.

One distinct advantage we have is that Close.io is a product that has VoIP integrated so we assign new users with a Close.io phone number. When we can’t reach them, we actually call their Close.io number and leave the voicemail there.

The reason? If you get a voicemail in Close.io, the system sends you an automated email with a link to the call recording on the Close.io lead page. Since we’re a lead in Close.io, you get to experience the power of the product, get re-engaged, and hear our personal message.

3. Emailing all users from personal accounts

We send all our users 3–4 emails during their trial. None of our emails come from a "donotreply@" email address. All of them come from a real human being that you can reply to and get in touch with if you have questions. It’s obviously tough to scale this as we continue to grow and it takes a lot of time to respond to all the emails we’re getting.

There are plenty of benefits:

  • It helps us help our users succeed with Close.io.
  • It helps us understand what problems/challenges/questions our users have.
  • It helps us prioritize product development and come up with new solutions to our customers problems.
  • And more!

4. Giving free hour-long trainings

Something we just recently decided to do is to offer free limitless 1-on-1 training to our customers. What that means is that if you are a customer of Close.io, we will take the time to do a live online demo and training session with you, answer all your questions and help you setup your entire system and customize it to perfection. There is no time limit to this. We will take as much time as it takes to set you and your team up for success.

Benefits: This has already paid massive dividends. In the last 5 months since our launch, we’ve spend most of our time trying to understand non-Close.io customers and what they need to become customers.

We’ve always given our customers great support (more on that later) but we didn’t proactively spend a lot of time training them on the product.

Now that we do, we have learned a huge amount from our customers and seen where we can improve the product to make them more successful and our customers loves us more for it (who are a lot less likely to churn as a side-effect).

5. Giving free sales consulting

A new thing we’re just testing is to actually offer our customers free sales consulting. Inspired by HubSpot’s mantra of making marketing superstars, we want to help everyone become a sales superstar.

So we are taking time out of our days to help new startups setup the correct sales workflows, give them feedback on their pitch, their emails, their scripts, their lead generation efforts.

Anything sales related, even though this has nothing directly to do with our product other than the belief that better sales organizations will become better Close.io customers and make the world a better place at the same time.

6. Offering engineer support (almost) 24/7

We give all our users (trial and paying) support via email, phone and live chat. We don’t have a dedicated support team because everyone at Close.io—especially our engineering team—does support, inspired by Stripe and others.

This means taking a hit when it comes to engineering productivity for the benefit of our customers and our understanding of their problems and real-life use cases of our software. It also means that when our customers are in most need of help, they can talk to the smartest people in the company to fix their problems and help them out.

This produces happier customers and more empathetic and knowledgeable engineers. Win-win.

What things are your startup doing that don’t scale well but help at being awesome? We want to learn from, and with, you so please share!

Update 6 Dec 2014: We're writing a book titled "The Unscalable Startup". Get notified once it goes life and get a free sample chapter.