October 18, 2017

Anand Sanwal Shares Some Insights

Anand SanwalAnand Sanwal

Video: Anand Sanwal, CB Insights: Don’t Do These 68 Things in Your SaaS Company - YouTube

I came across an interesting talk given by Anand Sanwal of CB Insights. I wanted to add my comments to the content of the talk. Give it a listen, you are going to get something out of it.

Don’t take advice from non-customers

I am noticing this in the case of Bear - Notes for iPhone, iPad and Mac. Bear is a note-taking application which has a subscription model. If you pay $14.99/year you get syncing, themes and exporting options. The non-subscription version is perfectly usable if you don’t care for the added benefits from subscription. It is a well-designed application which can fulfill the note-taking needs of most users.

I am following the Twitter hashtag #Bearnotesapp. There is a continuous stream of people asking for features from Bear as a condition for subscribing. It takes the form of “I would subscribe if you added the feature…” The developers of Bear should ignore these folks. They have developed a basic application with a well defined niche. Note-taking. Bear is well thought out and well designed for the category Bear is playing in.

Unfortunately for Bear, Casey Newton wrote an article in The Verge, Why I finally replaced Evernote with Bear - The Verge. The exposure was welcome but the direction was not. Evernote is a different beast than Bear. If someone wants to replace Evernote with Bear, have at it, but Bear should resist the temptation to try to become Evernote. That is not the core competency of Bear. Specifically, Bear does not have to edit images, does not have to display PDF files, does not have to support Excel pivot tables, does not have to be collaboration friendly. And please, Bear does not need to have an Android version.

Bear is primarily a markup based note-taking app. Evernote is at its base an information dump. Those are not the same thing.

My advice to Bear: Talk to existing customers. In the current dynamics of the App Store, isolating the paying user from the non-paying one is a difficult task. But that is the audience which needs to be listened to. They are the people who bought into your initial offering. They are sold. Keep them happy. Churn for them. Ignore the people who are holding back their money to see how far they can make you jump. They are going to lead you astray.

Learn from HappenApps. Quiver, initially designed as a programmer’s notebook was talked up as another Evernote replacement. It is for all intents and purposes, dead. Having lost its way along with a few other problems, Quiver is sadly on maintenance mode at this point.

Don’t fall in love with pedigree

Work with people who are hungry. They work harder.

Ignore their background. Focus on their skills.

Don’t think you know your end market from day one

Sometimes the market is so new that it is not possible to know exactly where it is going. iA Writer is a good example of this. Started out as a single window application where the focus was on minimalism. Single window. No settings. Follow the blue cursor. Very soon, it became clear that the writers were looking for more than that. They loved the minimalism but also needed to manage their files, they needed to access folders, they needed to be able to produce content for different blogging systems. The product grew. It evolved into a fight between complexity and simplicity and iA Writer has done a great job of straddling that fine line. They have managed to enhance their product while still maintaining the focus on providing a minimalist environment for the writer to do what she was most interested in doing, writing.

Don’t price based on competition

If your product is unique, the pricing should also be unique. If your product is not unique and it is a “me-too” product, don’t waste my time. Go back to the drawing board and come back with an unique product.

Your price should be based on the unique set of attributes that you bring to the table. It has nothing to do with the competition.

Don’t dominate conversations with customers


Don’t forget to ask for the sale

In my previous work as a political consultant, I always had to remind candidates to explicitly ask for votes. “Please vote for me.” Similarly in a conversation about your product, when you are looking for a sale, be explicit. Ask for the sale.

Don’t worry about competition

Worry about your product. Worry about your customers. Worry about your revenue stream. Worry about your positioning strategy. Worry about your growth. Worry about things you can control. Your competition? Don’t worry about them. Be aware of them. Monitor them. But don’t worry about them.

Don’t try to please everyone

Please the people who pay the bills and are easy to maintain as customers. If you have high-maintenance customers who cost more money to service than they generate, send them to the competition.

I liked the talk. There are several gems you can learn from. These are the ones which stood out for me.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

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