I worked with Socialsuite to understand user desires and market requirements, support the implementation of new features into a complex platform and develop an extensive new product strategy and plan of implementation based on customer insights and a sustainable business model.
I began my time here as a launch was about to happen, so as the new platform went live I was able to immediately work with the team on analyzing the data and find where things were falling down from signup through to paid conversion. I firstly gathered ten key questions we needed to answer about the product. From there, I analyzed all the data coming into various applications, implemented exit responses and put a plan in place for outreach.
This allowed me to setup the first processes to formalize user research at the company and conduct numerous interviews to overlay the qualitative insights with quantitative flow numbers. I determined that the initial signup conversion was good but the login conversion was suffering greatly at 27% and there was a significant onboarding drop-off from Linkedin leads (the primary marketing channel). I drilled down further into roles and business types which proved particularly helpful with reducing onboarding issues. Using these insights we were able to better direct marketing spend and focus, and I worked with marketing to create a content strategy to have more incoming leads with higher intent. With a niche product like this and more effective organic and targeted marketing I would expect to have a signup → login conversion of >90% into the application which would ultimately increase the paid conversion if value was found and pricing was aligned.
Finally, I outlined the current flow and what we would reasonably expect from this application as a goal to work toward and change the onboarding process for.
It took approximately 10 minutes to commission a new Salesforce account. When I chatted to potential users that had dropped out of the flow I found that our key target users had many demands on their time. They had taken the time to signup to have a quick scan at a new solution but not being able to login for ten minutes? Like most of us they were distracted with other priorities, missed or didn't care about the email coming in that their account had been provisioned, and never logged in.
We had numerous chats with Salesforces and the Engineering team did incredible work to add workarounds to reduce the time to 2 minutes. This wouldn't fix everything though with standard software expectations. We tested three different ideas (email confirmations to success & hold, a "while you wait" resources page, SMS outreach for bringing back to platform) but ultimately they didn't hit our goal of 80% conversion.
To counter this I suggested we direct users to a faux platform page for an onboarding step. We would use this to customize some of the settings after the provision and ascertain key company data. Importantly though, this was a more expected user process and allowed the account to be provisioned in the background. Combined with a loading progress indicator, we hit the solution for now.
Additional fun: we also had confusion with the Salesforce messaging and lack of mobile support (a big issue when people on-the-go see an a recommendation for a new platform and attempt to signup via their phone) but that's an extra story!
While the Sales Page hadn't been designed in a particularly modern style, it was working quite well for those coming in and signing up. Further analysis showed a significant problem with logging in to the platform however and we needed to resolve this quickly. I contacted everyone that had signed-up in order to talk to them, and the wonderful product team quickly added a phone box to the signup process so I could more effectively reach people.
Having such a wide spread and vast array of feedback, I also suggested we add a field to the signup in order to determine what that person was hoping for with the platform in order to understand their primary need and how the marketing efforts and key messages were landing. Was it more important for them to collect survey data (my hypothesis was that this was not a key factor as they were already doing this using a multitude of other tools including good free ones), to produce impact reports, share dashboards, report outputs, measure the impact of programs, support grant applications or or create custom frameworks?This is the default text value for a symbol field
Once we'd fixed everything in onboarding and marketing we needed to ensure that users actually found true value in the product and would be willing to pay for it. Did the product truly solve a need?
The platform had originally launched in a tight time frame with an initial understanding of the audience based on one-to-one work with them. In its initial state I found the product was not solving a market need. Impact measurement is incredibly complicated so shifting into a self serve model requires a different approach and much more handholding in the platform in comparison to standard applications due to the nature of education required. I undertook a deep dive into current users, potential users and the industry in order to determine the market segments and their needs. Alongside running many interviews, I pulled feedback from customer success from current and past service-led customers, and sales insights on deal losses and churned accounts. Next I completed a brief sweep of the company history to understand the evolution of the services and platform over seven years to see what useful learnings existed and poured through the last two years of survey results to guide the next stage. I summarized all this and fed in industry analysis to create a list of the gaps in the market, solutions that needed to exist, what was working for charities and wouldn't be a desired paid product and what these charities and social enterprises desperately wanted support with. I then took these details and translated these into possible product directions.
The company had helped a lot of organizations but the platform was still largely gathering survey data at this stage. I created a plan for the development of the product in order to catalyze it beyond this place and position the product well within the market. At this time there was no compelling reason to move to the new Socialsuite offering so the value proposition made it clear why a user would select this specialized platform over a suite of well-known survey tools and made product direction and sales clearer to advance beyond surveys which was required for customers to increase their investment (time and money) and find true value. There were numerous unknowns however that still needed to be uncovered so I also outlined these and how we could measure them.
Additionally, we really needed to address pricing. While trial plans often work and are commonly successful my research showed that this niche required a different strategy. It is a considerable effort to ask someone to trial a platform for 2 - 3 weeks that requires significant inputting of data, customizing settings and creating surveys. Beyond that all customers then wanted to be able to test these but as there was no data export available their data would then be stuck within the platform. And they never reached the reporting stage which you needed data for in order to visualize. It therefore simply didn't work to have a trial structured like this and it wasn't translating to upgrades for understandable reasons.
I worked with the Head of Product & Engineering and the Senior Product Manager to devise a more appropriate pricing model to test. We developed a plan to shift to a module based setup where all organizations would have access to a free version of the platform and were able to create surveys and report on data at a level required for small organizations to trust the system and receive true value from it. We then focused on each additional module being part of a three-tier paid upgrade. This aligned with what we had uncovered of the journey customers move through as they increase their impact reporting complexities. And of course adding in export functionality (faux at first, manually done) instilled the trust required.
In order to know if we were building the right features I developed a set of product principles the application needed to journey with in order to be successful in the first couple of years. This delivered 4 key themes the platform would build for and 8 principles which were agreed on by the company creating a consistent internal goal, and also served to highlight the unique value proposition. Alongside this I set two core commandments based on all my research interviews and industry studies that would determine how much value we were actually providing a customer to ask each time we did something to the journey or with a feature.
The newly launched product had also been built on Salesforce and the company had agreed that their own solution would likely be required over the coming years. Rather than making an immediate shift off the platform, we devised a plan to move the application off-platform for each major module. This was complex but was agreed to by executives and necessary in order to proceed. We thus began with data collection given that this was the easiest component that could first be houses to create the new architecture and because a new application was required in order to better collect data by each organization. With feedback given on this and previous experience in collecting beneficiary and field staff data across a number of roles I was able to quickly scope out the application to allow for offline collection (with online syncing), and the various methods of collection accounted for (in person, phone, kiosk applications, in the field app). I wireframed each stage of the application so we could review the processes with the company, test a prototype and the development team could go ahead and proceed with the structure.
I then brought these into a cool little application to create an updatable pathway through the app to quickly prototype, test and update journeys as we went so the whole team could jump onboard.
Having collected hundreds of insights and conducted a marketing analysis - with a fundraising round on the horizon and the need to implement a marketing strategy - it was clear a brand refresh needed to take place. The existing brand was outdated and not building confidence with potential organizations. This was also happening at a time when numerous other application were going to market with slick brands and appeal attracting the same customers for different use cases. Within a few weeks I created a new brand that reached consensus and enthusiasm within the company and developed the first brand library in order to create consistency across departments and agree on fundamental approaches. I added a status approach to each area so that this could be built out as things were prioritized over the coming year. Working with the non profit sector I also placed a significant focus on increasing the level of diversity and representation and ran a presentation with a guide on the words and phrases that needed to change in order to speak well and appropriately within a variety of sectors.
The company website was aging rapidly and in conjunction with the rebrand the CEO requested a new website. We wanted to have as many leads as possible feel welcomed here, comfortable, and educated from outcomes through to impact. We wanted to position the brand as a leader in the field with the extraordinary knowledge the team had. This formed part of the new content market strategy in order to create a Resource Centre that housed numerous lead magnets the Co-Founder had developed, would become a key home for Customer Support including regular live events that research and initial test events had highlighted would be very useful, and show off the numerous case studies of successfully using the application. This work also allowed us to consolidate the Help Centre into one place with easy updating. With the teams I broke the work down into three phases so Phase 1 could be implemented within two weeks and the remaining stages were implemented over the next month.
A key factor was also that qual and quant data showed many of our key target buyers and lead users were accessing the site from mobile often doing this on the go and catching up on industry product updates while catching a bus or waiting for a client to show up or opening up documents when conducting field surveys. I therefore spent extra time on ensuring navigation on mobile was far more friendly particularly for the Resource Centre and given the breadth of information that would be available, a defined way to find your resources, move through categories and created a scrollable download and contents box within articles. I also added feedback controls so we could start learning what to concentrate more on.
From an investment point of view, the externals needed to represent the company more accurately and increase desirability and the new brand needed to exist so executives and the board could more effectively position the company in their meetings.
Fun side effect: there were no longer any people expecting a social media platform when signing up!
Cherry on top: I worked with the CEO to secure a full grant for all this work in new markets and changes.
I set up all the operations and undertook significant research during my time. This generally tends to take some upward convincing, but I always want to understand more than only current users. I want to speak to and know what value the happiest customers receive out of the product, what expectations that unhappiest customers had and why they weren't met, why customers have churned and what they moved to, what users who aren't a customer are doing instead, why people who should have found the application haven't, and why people who have seen it haven't joined. This ended up being a treasure trove for what to focus on and what to prioritize.
In impact measurement at this time there was virtually no self serve tool; everything required some degree of intervention or manual support by the company. Given our research into the market we wanted to create a tool that started with your foundational needs (meeting 80% of the market) and then progressed with features as the audience progressed so the application would reach the complexity required for the other 20% of the market while educating up the majority of the market to true impact measurement rather than outputs and outcomes. We combined the company's history of knowledge with the current data and interview insights and then undertook industry research to understand the end to end features available on the market.
Outside of the wonderful User Interface freelancer, I was the only woman working directly in the team of nearly entirely white men from a similar background and social status. It is always complex to be the sole woman working inside an environment like this but it was highlighted further when customers noted it. Ecosystems are more resilient and clever with diversity and that's no different in teams. In a sector such as this it was even more important given that over 70% of the managers and users were women and that an understanding of how the beneficiaries of charities live in their daily lives, interact with platforms and desire to provide feedback is exceptionally important to empathize with. Though burdensome on those who must carry this perspective within an organization, even just a fraction of representation of this diversity can be useful in voicing experiences, needs and complexities.
With Series A funding the team would be recruiting so I gathered insight into how the company previously recruited, pulled together a first strategy for diverse recruiting and cultural changes required, created a company page so that potential candidates could get to know the company and a central area could exist for the first time, and wrote each new job role the Product team would be recruiting for creating a template for all the departments. Initially recruitment that increased the diversity of the team would be exceptionally difficult even if the candidate application pool more accurately reflected society; it is not easy for example to accept a position onto a team with one or no women or no other person with a disability. To address this, I wrote a list of guidelines for each person recruiting, provided explanations on the disadvantages of the "meritocracy hiring" that existed and addressed the issue directly in job descriptions so candidates knew the company was serious and they could safely apply (given that the website and Linkedin made the current status obvious too). Additionally I chatted with the Heads of each department to talk about upcoming recruiting; this was exceptionally difficult in some circumstances and I reflected a lot on how we can improve this as a society. Ultimately as new members began to be hired the team saw an increase of diversity in each department, at every level below management.
While I am proud of these first steps and the support and initiatives of many, I'm hopeful more is done so that women can be found at a management level and diversity across all planes is embraced. This goes for every company I work with of course. I hope we all do - and advocate for - better wherever possible.
I took on additional work to fill some gaps for product operations. One of these items included implementing a better release process. Releases were happening adhoc without rigorous testing which resulted in numerous issues in the live environment that were only discovered by customers or during UX reviews. Due to resourcing constraints there was also little communication internally, to customers or for marketing to use for new leads. I outlined a new release process that incorporated a new deployment process, training and education where necessary, product updates, app notifications and how support guides needed to be updated. Each step outlined what was required, who was responsible and how it was done. I added a bonus for personal thank-you notes for releases that included items that came up during research or were logged by customers; something that closes a feedback loop and generates goodwill, word of mouth and customer satisfaction.
The voice of customer was extremely important in order to build a tool that they could use themselves and with their teams. With so many parts of the business constantly receiving feedback and requirements in a complex field I wanted to ensure we were capturing all of this in a central area that was easy to digest. I created a quick resource so we could understand our maturity and pulled together a team health monitor we all agreed to to measure our progress each month. I outlined a plan for Sales, Marketing, Customer Success and Support on where to save their feedback within their own systems and how Product would access it. I worked with Customer Support to ensure we were developing toward a single customer view in the support software that tracked key metrics and I developed a team feedback monitor so the company could assess the status of the feedback processes and loops each month and pick up areas that needed work or celebrate what went well. Super grateful for the support team doing an amazing job with this.
My final major piece for the company was to take everything we had learned over the course of a year and turn this into a new business model. The company was ready to embrace the pivot to meet the majority of the market, build a platform that didn't require the manual scaling of humans alongside them which was ultimately outstripping profits, and position themselves as their leader in the non-profit and "do good" spaces. There was a quickly surfacing limit to how many customers could be onboarded on the current model of platform+services at a high cost, with high complexity particularly within a license model.
I distinguished two clear groups that could instead be better served, more profitably. The Dippers (where the majority of the market was currently positioned and often measuring outputs, needing reporting and sharing stories) and the Divers (where the upper 20% sat that are resourced to measure true impact). I outlined the key problems and then pulled together the product principles that the company needed to stick to to meet needs along with 8 themes that were core to success. Each module and feature needed to fall within these themes (initially). I listed how they were solving the key problems and this also formed a unique and compelling selling position. With the business canvas, customer journeys, customer benefits, key measurements Socialsuite would take the temperature of to know things were progressing well (and support to help them understand what market pull and product market fit feels like), the company now had a very clear understanding of where and how to play in order to win. Because it was tangible positioning, I worked with the Head of Engineering and Product to outline the next steps and what action needed to be undertaken for the coming 6 - 12 months. This would also pave the way for the envisioned benchmarking of data that the industry desperately needed and the previous incredible Head of Engineering had modelled.
Finally I did a little education on the cost of features and how to reign this in to focus on delivering an excellent experience, that was profitable and solved customer needs, effectively and without overburdening on features which was hampering company goals, resource constraints and overwhelming customers who often valued different improvements and had different priorities on their journey.
While the marketing team was only a team of one, I worked with the lead to find some more effective marketing options. Firstly we tested how receptive the email list actually was to emails and a new product given that they had not been communicated with much outside of sales speak. While the open rate was not high, it provided us enough insight with engagement inside the content to know the list (community) required much more nurturing and to develop a sequence and engagement strategy for this. While I designed the Resource Centre and the excellent marketing lead implemented a new nurturing sequence, the co-founder developed new guides so we could have new warm opt-ins and useful information regularly going out to position the brand as an authority within the field. When a fuller team was established I handed everything over so they could run with the work we'd completed and implement more effectively across channels.
While the framework of the new application was being built to add additional features over time until it cannabilized the current product, it was expected the existing platform would need to exist for another couple of years and continue to grow users. The existing platform was built as a custom solution on top of Salesforce which constrained the design and functionality significantly but between the UI designer and myself we made numerous improvements and implemented multiple new features onto the two platforms (self serve and enterprise).
While the non profit sector has traditionally been behind in modern expectations of software, with their expectations outside of work, the consumerization of technology and new market entrants they were using to solve other problems, Socialsuite was suffering greatly when it came to user experience. A quote from one of the interviews summed this up well: "I have a love hate relationship with Socialsuite". This captured their frustration with using the product but the appreciation of the support team and the value that could ultimately be delivered. We wanted to start making numerous quality of life upgrades to the platforms where we could and needed new designs to implement new features for the existing enterprise managed solution. We also implemented complex features such as custom questions of various styles into templates.
With Series A successfully raised, the company began to pivot away from not for profits and toward mining companies and industrial enterprises to provide them with ESG reports. As this accelerated, non-profit resources were no longer able to be separated from this. I don't work with fossil fuel and mining companies so my time to wrap up had arrived. With a clear direction on market needs and the next steps required to evolve into a deeply necessary and useful product for the non-profit market, it was in hopeful hands to guide charities, local governments and social enterprises through an incredibly important and complex field.
To aid the final steps, I created a board presentation that the Head of Engineering and CEO needed in order to educate the board on the current position and necessary direction for the NFP sector. Signing off from the impact world!