How do you fight churn and make sure that the platform doesn't lose too many users?
Churn has been a challenge for us; we've brought it to manageable state but there's still a lot of work to be done.
I was advised once to make it harder to churn by literally hiding the cancel button, which seems ridiculous to me. It'd be like a restaurant locking the doors so customers can't leave. It's not really going to work out in the long term if you have to force people to stay. Churn is an indicator that we’re not quite fitting into someone’s workflow, so we started asking people why they cancelled and that's been really valuable. It showed us that most people weren't leaving out of anger or out of bugginess; they liked the product but hadn’t used it in a while — it wasn’t mission-critical to their workflow.
We came to the conclusion that we were selling the wrong things to the wrong people. What we had built was very focused on single users and the initial ‘research’ phase of the project, which meant that when that was done, they could just move on and didn't need us for another six months. So people were using us for the research phase of the project and then cancelled. We’d also been targeting the web industry because that was my background, the people I knew best.
What we’ve learned is that there's a lot more value in enabling collaboration, and as we’ve started building features that are useful for teams it has become a lot more valuable and ‘sticky’ in workflows. We’ve also realised that industries like photography, fashion, interior design etc get a lot more value out of Niice than web workflows, so have started to tailor our marketing towards those creatives.
Between making our product more collaborative, and re-targeting it at different industries that find it more valuable, we’ve seen a massive reduction in our churn.
One of the reasons I'm drawn to Belfast is the tight-knit community. Why do you think Belfast has such a good scene?
I think there's two sides to it: firstly, Northern Ireland has quite a creative and artistic side, there's a great history of innovation and invention here. But we're bad at talking about ourselves, about the stuff we're doing, and we tend to be quite self-deprecating. So there's lots of really great stuff happening but you don't hear about it.
At the same time, while there's a lot of creative and talented people, turning that into a community is something that takes effort, and a lot of credit is due to the likes of Andy McMillan and Chris Murphy who have helped bring people together. Chris does a good job of introducing students into the professional community, and events like Build, Break, Refresh and more recently Hustle have helped rally people together, which is why I think it's great that Pixel Pioneers is coming to Belfast. It's another event that gives people a reason to come together and get to know each other.
What can people expect to take away from your talk?
It will be the story of Niice so far and the lessons I’ve learned from bootstrapping, and having to take a slightly different path from the norm. The main takeaway I'm hoping people to get is that—while you can get a lot of advice and a lot of benefit from other people's stories—you always need to be mindful of the context in which they learned those lessons and everyone's story is slightly different. It's not one size fits all.
Pixel Pioneers Belfast on 16 November features 8 talks, followed by a day of workshops with Harry Roberts (Building Faster Websites) and Eva-Lotta Lamm (Sketching Interfaces). Ticket bundles, group and student discounts are available.